Nicole Antonucci/Recorder staff The Salvation Army Church and Community Center on Market Street in Amsterdam is scheduled to close June 26.
By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
After 10 years of serving the Amsterdam community, the Salvation Army facility on Market Street is scheduled to close its doors to the public June 26.
The closing is a result of a lack of funding, and a change in how the Salvation Army will provide services to residents in Montgomery County.
Christine Gray, spokeswoman for the Empire State Division of the Salvation Army, said a study of the area, and discussions with county officials, have revealed there is a need in the village of Fort Plain that is not being addressed.
"It's not really a closing. We are looking at a reallocation of services of where we can do the most good," Gray said Tuesday. "Amsterdam has an availability of other services that provide support for those in need."
A neon green sign announcing the closure is posted on the door of the Market Street facility, which consists of the Salvation Army Church and Community Center.
The center hosts a soup kitchen every Thursday, and a food pantry Monday through Wednesday for more than 300 people every month.
Salvation Army volunteers said they were saddened by the news of the closing and expressed concerns for the community they serve.
Tuesday's food pantry was not busy, with only a handful of people stopping by for groceries.
However, volunteer Mirta Vazquez of Amsterdam said it was a slow day. Some days, Vazquez said, she sees up to 16 families in need of groceries, and most of those families include children.
The soup kitchen, on the other hand, is much busier. Vazquez said in the past week, she served 58 people, and in the summer it usually gets busier, with as many as 94 people coming to eat.
"I have seen the need," Vazquez said. "It is sad. You get to know the people and they tell you their problems. Many are sad that we are closing."
Volunteer Loues Madera does not understand why the facility has to close, and expressed frustration with the organization.
"People really need this place," he said. "Where are they going to go? It's a shame."
Envoy Amaury Ortiz said the food pantry serves approximately 100 families a month, with the soup kitchen averaging approximately 200 individuals.
Part of the reason it is closing is insufficient funding.
"This area is not supported much by finances," he said. "It takes $80,000 a year to run the facility with electricity, gas, water, and the food pantry and soup kitchen."
Gray said that is why the Salvation Army has started to change its business plan. Currently, the organization operates under a building model, which includes a Salvation Army church and community center to provide religious and social services. That is how the Amsterdam site operates.
However, the organization is beginning to downsize its operations to smaller facilities called "service centers," which only provide the food pantry and the soup kitchen.
"This is the best way of providing services in a less expensive model, because you won't be in a structure," Gray said.
The Salvation Army does not yet know where in Fort Plain the new facility will be located, but anticipates opening later this summer. Gray said the goal is to make the area's service unit, and volunteers active in the community, more permanent.
In the meantime, residents in the city of Amsterdam must find a new food pantry before June 20, but Ortiz said it should not be a problem, and doesn't anticipate a significant impact on the community.
He said the city is host to several resources, including several food pantries at local churches, Catholic Charities and the Masonic Temple.
"They will be all right, because they have so many outlets they can plug into," Ortiz said, adding he hopes residents don't feel slighted. "The Salvation Army cares about Amsterdam, as well as Montgomery County. It wants to have the maximum impact, and has to go where the need is."
The last days for the food pantry are June 16 through 18, from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The last day of the soup kitchen is Thursday, June 19, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.