Battling to provide social services, The Salvation Army is more than 4 million strong -- including some 3.4 million registered volunteers. Its Christian faith-based programs assist alcoholics, drug addicts, the homeless, the elderly, prison inmates, people in crisis, and the unemployed through offerings such as community centers, housing facilities, and rehabilitation centers. The organization also provides disaster-relief services and operates some 1,400 thrift stores. Overall, it serves about 30 million people a year and provides in excess of 64 million meals. The US organization is a unit of the London-based Salvation Army, which oversees activities in more than 100 countries. US operations began in 1880.
The organization's structure incorporates both church and military themes. In the US, it is organized into four regional commands. Its 3,560 US officers, who are also ordained ministers, are expected to wear their uniforms at all times, work full-time for The Salvation Army, and marry only other officers. They receive no salary; instead, they are provided with room and board and given a limited stipend. Reporting to the officers of the US organization are about 107,400 soldiers, or lay members. Before joining the organization as a soldier, one must agree to avoid gambling, debt, and profanity, as well as alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs. In addition, The Salvation Army counts about 400,000 US members, or adherents -- people who consider the organization to be their church.
Ringing bells at Christmas is just one of the ways The Salvation Army raises money. Besides cash dropped into red kettles and cash registers at its thrift stores (Family Stores), the group receives donations in response to direct mail campaigns; gifts from companies, foundations, and individuals; and fees from government agencies for providing social services under contract. Eighty-two cents of every dollar spent by the Salvation Army goes to support its various missions across the US. – less