Warwick Rotary Club recently hosted Lieutenant-Colonel Brenda Oakley from the Salvation Army in Leamington to hear about its work locally.
Brenda has been a member of the Army since joining up as a teenager in 1959.
President Keith Talbot selected the Salvation Army as one of his charities this year, and the club has been raising money with bucket collections in stores, raffles, and last week at Warwick Racecourse’s Ladies Day.
Brenda told Rotarians that after a shaky start in Leamington in 1879 when the Army was fined for holding an open- air meeting, town folk soon recognised the vital role they played helping the homeless and destitute – a role they continue to fulfill to this day.
The Salvation Army is known for its aid to the most vulnerable, for it’s night shelters and “Lifehouses” where people can find refuge, and its mothers homes where single women could have their babies.
Many recall being met by a friendly cup of tea off a train returning from wars overseas, or in case of a disaster at home, and they can be found in Ukraine today, offering help to people fleeing conflict.
In 1999 The Way Ahead Project was set up in Chapel Street, Leamington with a small staff and volunteers.
It provided a drop in centre for street homeless in the town and with coffee, snacks, housing advice and access to computers to help with benefit claims and job searches.
People could also receive help with their problems such as social isolation, poverty and addiction, to leave abusive situations, regain their self- respect and put their lives back on track.
During Covid-19, the council moved the street homeless into accommodation. The corps continued it’s support by giving out hundreds of hot breakfasts and lacked lunches.
But since then, the main funder has withdrawn it’s support and the Way Ahead Project closed last month.
The Salvation Army is considering how to continue it’s work and is reviewing its Outreach provision with the elderly and children.
At the meeting, Rotarians shared their memories of the Salvation Army and promised a donation at the end of the Presidents year in July, which could be used to support their work in Leamington.