IN RECENT years the Salvation Army in Maryborough has seen an overwhelming increase in demand for its services.
WENDY WILLIAMS pays a visit to the new Maryborough Salvation Army church and community centre.
With the aim of creating a socially inclusive community as well as providing assistance to people experiencing crisis and need, the Salvation Army has forged itself a place in the heart of the community.
They have seen an increase in numbers for their church services and their youth program in particular has gained in popularity.
However due to inadequate facilities some programs had to be cancelled or altered.
That was, until now.
After waiting 10 long years their prayers have finally been answered.
Earlier this month the Salvation Army in Maryborough officially cut the ribbon on a new church and community centre.
In a happy coincidence the opening coincided with the 130th anniversary of the Salvation Army in Maryborough.
In fact the Maryborough Corps is one of the oldest Corps in the country, having been established only a few years after the Salvation Army commenced in Australia.
In testament to its success in the community and as a clear sign of the growing numbers, more than 200 people turned out for the opening.
It was clearly a cause for celebration; the new church was filled with rousing music from the brass band accompanied by singing, clapping, flag waving and performances from the timbrel brigade.
The new $2.8 million complex, located on Wills Street, will allow for the continued growth of the church and associated programs such as their youth program as well as being a base for outreach into Avoca and St Arnaud.
By 2016 they aim to see two per cent of the community "saved" and 100 per cent of the community touched by the love of Jesus.
Captain Andrew Walker said the new building gave the Salvation Army more scope to serve the community in bigger and better ways.
“Often people who are weaker or disadvantaged get the scraps but now they have a new place to come and feel they can be a part of something,” he said.
“We will continue to offer the services that a few years ago had to stop.
“Ten years ago we had outgrown where we were and the facilities couldn’t cope with our expansion. We bought a house for administration and services but it was getting unworkable. We needed room.
“There were lots of different options thrown around and they all fell through.
“We thought we had run out of options and then the council phoned us and told us about this land.
“Construction started at the end of last year and finished the day before the opening at 7pm.
“In total we have 150 members and we now have the room to keep growing.”
Mr Walker said he believed the Salvos filled a need when it came to social isolation.
“We accept people for who they are,” he said.
“We don’t just provide programs; we create a community so people who are on the fringes of society can belong.
We don’t just provide programs; we create a community so people on the fringes of society can belong.
“We offer friendship so they can grow within themselves in a non-judgemental environment.
“On the youth side of things, it is about having somewhere they can go and something to do, as there is not much to do around here.”
Some of the programs the Salvos have on offer include Emergency Relief (Welfare), a vibrant youth program, Friday fellowship for the over 50s, indoor bias bowls, playgroup and Salvos caring.
At 73, Graham Milne is the oldest member of the Maryborough Salvation Army and was invited to cut the ribbon.
“I am the number one soldier on the roll,” he said.
“I was born in 1940 and became a soldier in the Salvation Army when I was 13.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sitting in a new hall in Maryborough in my lifetime. It is brilliant.
“Before we were cramped for room for a lot of services, this means we will be able to produce better service.
“It is a good organisation to be in.
“I like its principles of good strong worship.”
John Smith from Ballarat, who was instrumental in coining the slogan “Thank God for the Salvos,” said the message still rings true.
“It still says what a lot of people say when they have been helped or guided or comforted, ‘Thank God for the Salvos’,” he said.
“I came to the opening because I had friends here and because anything that extends the mission is a good thing to be a part of.”
Territorial Commander Floyd Tidd said it was a great day.
“It is important because it represents the ongoing commitment of the Salvation Army to the community in making Maryborough all it can be.
“What makes the Salvation Army significant and special is the combination of faith and hope it offers, the willingness to help people in a place of despair to find their hope again.”
Captain Kelly Walker said their prayers had been answered.
“God has truly blessed us with this new building and we have so much to thank Him for,” she said,
“We needed to expand so we could reach more people. The facility we had was cramping our style.
“We have been in Maryborough for 130 years and had been in the same building the entire time.
“It was pretty hard for some people to leave.
“The Salvation Army literally stood on that spot 130 years ago and had the building up a year later; it didn’t take them as long as it took us.
“There is a lot of history and there have been a few tears but if we weren’t meant to have this new centre it wouldn’t have happened
“God has opened doors we never expected.
“We prayed for a million dollars and it came from the Salvation Army and from the sale of our existing property.
“It might seem silly but these are absolutely miracles.”