Salvation Army suspends in-person volunteering during coronavirus pandemic

The Salvation Army normally depends on hundreds of volunteers every week to serve those in need in the D.C. region, but the coronavirus has forced it to suspend all in-person volunteering at a time when more people are turning to the organization for help.

Despite the pandemic, the Salvation Army is continuing its programs and services, which include serving meals to those experiencing homelessness in D.C. every night. The organization is doing it from a van through a program called Grate Patrol.

Maj. Mark Woodcock, the Salvation Army’s national capital area commander, said paid employees are now helping with that program, completing the work that had been done by unpaid volunteers.

“We’re doing it with staff, which ultimately means it’s costing us more money, but ultimately it’s too important of a program to stop,” Woodcock said.

There are a lot of staff who are serving right on the front lines, and Woodcock said it is emotionally draining. “They’re concerned about their families at home. They’re concerned about their own well being.”

In the last week or so, the Grate Patrol program has seen an increase in demand.

“We’ve seen an uptick … of 10 to 15% of people coming to us, and I’m assuming that’s really because of other services that maybe have closed down,” Woodcock said.

The Salvation Army is still accepting donations for items, such as nonperishable food, diapers, toiletries, grocery store gift cards and sanitizing supplies.

They have eight no-contact drop-off locations around the region that are open Mondays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

In the D.C.:

  • 3335 Sherman Ave. NW
  • 2300 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE

In Maryland:

  • 20021 Aircraft Drive, Germantown
  • 4825 Edmonston Ave., Hyattsville

In Virginia:

  • 1804 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
  • 518 South Glebe Road, Arlington
  • 4915 Ox Road, Fairfax
  • 1483 Old Bridge Road, Suite 102, Woodbridge

You can also make a drop off appointment by emailing, or by texting or calling 202-345-2238.

You can also donate money by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or visiting the organization’s website.

The Salvation Army is still looking for volunteers willing to put together care packages, called Red Shield Boxes, for senior citizens and others considered vulnerable.

You can make the packages at home and leave them at the drop-off centers.

Learn more about the process on the Salvation Army’s website.

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