Majors Thomas and Kimberly Stambaugh currently lead the Salvation Army in Boise, with its new location and modern facility. The Stambaughs faithfully served the Army overseas; and in Guam, Thomas Stambaugh received a Certificate of Appreciation for outstanding leadership from the island’s governor. (Courtesy photo)
By Gaye Bunderson
While society’s problems seem to be growing, numerous non-profits in the area are also growing to meet the needs of many in the Treasure Valley. The Salvation Army is one of those non-profits.
The Army – as it is frequently known – boasts an interesting history of saving souls and aiding the needful, as follows:
“William Booth began the Salvation Army in 1865 as a means to help the suffering souls throughout London who were not willing to attend – or even welcomed into – a traditional church,” according to information at salvationarmyusa.org.
Booth’s daughter, Evangeline, was sent to North America by her father and became national commander in the U.S. “In 1934,” according to the website, “Evangeline became the Army’s fourth general. She left America on the highest crest of love and popularity, and retained her American citizenship until her death in 1950.”
The Army came to the Treasure Valley also in the 1800s. Information provided by the Salvation Army reads: “In 1887, two Salvation Army officers, Captain Lizzie Kiefret and Lt. Ella Hollcraft, stepped off of a train in Boise and immediately began the work of the Salvation Army – and 135 years later, the Salvation Army is still providing services in Ada County.”
Its work extended over time to other counties in the region, and it is a long-established and well-recognized area institution, providing assistance to thousands of Idaho’s citizens.
Today, the organization in the City of Trees is overseen by Majors Thomas and Kimberly Stambaugh, who stepped into that leadership position in 2020 after a notable Salvation Army career overseas. Thomas’s full title is Boise Corps Officer, Southern Idaho Coordinator, and Idaho State Liaison. Kimberly’s title is Boise Corps Officer and Treasure Valley Coordinator.
Both Stambaughs witnessed an expansion of the Army’s local facilities that began a year prior to their arrival. A new building went up in 2019 at 9492 W. Emerald St. in Boise. At that location, there is a 45,000-square-foot community center offering classes, child care, a food pantry, recreational opportunities in the form of a full regulation-size gym, and a chapel for church services.
During the same year, when the expansion opened to the public, the Salvation Army welcomed 20,277 pantry recipients, paid $49,285 in utility bills for those requesting financial assistance, and helped more than 5,000 residents with various seasonal support needs – and that was just in Boise alone.
In Nampa, Caldwell, and other area communities, the Army extended a helping hand there as well.
Regarding the Boise facility, Thomas (Tom) Stambaugh said, “There is still new construction on the property on another phase that will serve as a warehouse and the site for more social services.”
Many know the Army through its annual holiday kettle bells campaign. A brief history of that program, taken again from the website salvationarmyusa.org, states: “In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken.”
McFee just needed to overcome the problem of paying for the food.
On the website, under the heading Red Kettle History, the story continues: “McFee lay awake nights, worrying, thinking, praying about how he could find the funds to fulfill his commitment of feeding 1,000 of the city’s poorest individuals on Christmas Day. As he pondered the issue, his thoughts drifted back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. He remembered how at Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large, iron kettle called ‘Simpson’s Pot’ into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.
“The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, ‘Keep the Pot Boiling’. He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.”
As holiday shoppers know, the program continues on in the 21st century.
“With the kettles, it’s a direct fundraiser,” Tom said. “We give back to the community whatever we get.”
One of the biggest programs to benefit from the fundraiser is the Booth Program.
“The Booth Program is our signature program,” Tom said. In its entirety, the Booth program provides: education for teen moms (in conjunction with the Cardinal Academy); on-site child care; life and parenting skills classes for both moms and dads; and an Incentive Store. The store provides young parents with items they need for themselves and their babies – but, they must earn them. They are rewarded with Booth Bucks. It’s a real-life experience in what it takes to provide for oneself and one’s child.
To earn a Booth Buck, the young parent must attend classes, participate in social services, and learn financial responsibility.
“The Booth Program is a ‘one-stop shop’ for the parents’ and babies’ needs,” Tom stated.
Though the Booth Program is a pivotal one at the Army’s new campus, it is not the only program that is helping meet community needs.
Tom explained that, “Our services programs have changed. We’re seeing more working class families. They come for food and power assistance – and they’re all working families: nurses, EMTs, other occupations. They fall between the cracks; they’re not poor enough for some programs but don’t make enough money to be self-supporting.
“These are local Idaho families. They’ve built their lives here, their careers. The price of groceries, gas and rent keep going up. These are working people with a budget, and their budget comes up short. They’re living paycheck to paycheck and are turning to the Salvation Army for assistance. Many are one to two paychecks away from being homeless.
“About 1,500 – 1,900 a month come to the Army’s food bank, just for food and nothing else.”
Stating that this is “a new demographic and a big shift,” Tom told the story of woman who, in the past, would regularly pull a tag from an Angel Tree during the Christmas holiday to fill a need for someone else; but, she now finds herself putting her own unmet necessities on a tree tag in hopes someone will generously help her.
Asked if there are any common misconceptions about the Salvation Army, Kimberly said, “We’re more than a thrift store.” Thrift stores are a thing of the past for the Salvation Army in favor of newer benefits to its visitors, including the new gymnasium and other health-related amenities.
She also wanted people to know that, “We are the Church, and we are ministers. We help spiritually elevate people. We understand family values. There’s nothing better than breaking bread around a table with others. It’s a blessing. We want people to come to church and receive Jesus.”
Anyone is welcomed at the chapel, at any stage of spirituality or need of healing.
“A lot of our people are unchurched; they come from broken families,” Tom said. “They may have faced many challenges from eviction to drug use. We want to give them the gift of Jesus.”
And therein lies perhaps another misconception about the Army. “It’s not always just a food box that we give them,” Tom stated. It’s fully about people hearing the gospel’s good news.
The Stambaughs stay very active with their Army commitments.
“We’re busy all the time – midnight calls even, from families and individuals in great need,” Kimberly said, “and we answer those calls and are out the door when and if it’s necessary.”
The couple encouraged others to volunteer with the Army, and to volunteer where they think they might serve best. “If you like sports, you may want to be a coach,” Tom said. “Or if you were once an unwed teen, come help today’s young expectant moms.”
In other words, anyone who has experience and a passion for something may use it to the benefit of others. That kind of service has been the backbone of the Salvation Army for more than 100 years, with plans for at least 100 more. In the Treasure Valley and around the globe.
For more information, go to https://boise.salvationarmy.org.