'National Salvation Army Week' story series, Part I: History

May 10, 2024

National Salvation Army Week is May 13–19. To celebrate, The Salvation Army Northern Division is publishing stories about some of our most important services to illustrate how your donations and volunteer work are helping us Do the Most Good for people and families in Minnesota and North Dakota.

The Salvation Army is one of the oldest charities in America, founded nearly 100 years before President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the first National Salvation Army Week in 1954. 

The Salvation Army first organized in 1865, when a 36-year-old Methodist minister named William Booth (pictured above) and his wife, Catherine, began reaching out to drunkards, prostitutes, and thieves in the slums of London, England. The Booths offered food, shelter, clothing, and the message of Christ. (Listen to William Booth preach.)

Thirteen years later, in 1878, The Salvation Army brand was born when William Booth and his son, Bramwell, stumbled upon the name by accident. (Watch what happened.)

The Salvation Army came to America in 1880, eventually opening its first operation centers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 1886 and 1896, respectively. By 1900, The Salvation Army had opened 21 facilities in most of the largest cities of both states. Today, most of these same operation centers remain open, along with dozens of shelters, housing facilities, and other service centers.   

William Booth died in 1912 (watch video of his funeral), yet his legacy and vision remain alive and well. Across America and in 133 countries around the world, The Salvation Army – the sixth largest charity in America – continues to fight for millions of souls by demonstrating the love of Christ through food and shelter programs, rehabilitation services, disaster relief, and so much more.

Last year in Minnesota and North Dakota, The Salvation Army Northern Division provided food, shelter and care for about 250,000 people. Thanks to your gifts, we serve about 6,900 meals every day while providing shelter and housing for about 900 people every night. 

Our commitment to serving those in need, without discrimination, is what led President Eisenhower (pictured) to speak the following words when he declared the first National Salvation Army Week 70 years ago: “Among Americans, The Salvation Army has long been a symbol of wholehearted dedication to the cause of brotherhood.”

Help us Celebrate National Salvation Army Week by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer

Recent Stories

Get Involved
Share Your Story

We would love to hear about your experience with The Salvation Army.

Share My Story


A gift to The Salvation Army helps someone in your community.

Give Now



Do Good in your community

Find Worship

Join us throughout the week for worship, fellowship, Bible study, meals, community service and fun.