As back-to-school season commences, The Salvation Army’s Santa Clarita Valley Corps is in need of school supplies donations for its annual “Stuff the Bus” campaign.
Each year, the nationwide event is conducted in partnership with Walmart, though COVID-19 restrictions threw a wrench into this year’s collection efforts.
“Whether kids are at school in the building or at home, they’re going to need supplies,” Corps Officer Laura Bloom said. “In the past, we’ve done it where we go in with volunteers and hand out fliers. This time, we were allowed to have a display, but that’s it.”
After collecting less than anticipated over the weekend, Bloom received a couple of generous donations Monday, still leaving them short before kids arrive to collect donations Thursday.
Like other local organizations, the Salvation Army has seen an uptick through the pandemic.
“Last month, we served over 1,208 individuals, which encompasses 371 families, and our numbers keep going up,” Bloom said. “We’re seeing a lot of new clients. It’s a very humbling experience because a lot of people are just out of work.”
While most think of the Salvation Army as a thrift store, Bloom says in this community, it tries to meet all the needs it can, whether that’s alcohol and drug addiction, religion or food pantry.
“If they really want to change their life, there’s an opportunity,” Bloom added. “We try to make ourselves available to let people know (about these services).”
Pre-COVID, the Salvation Army’s food pantry and clothes closet would be open to the community numerous times per week, so those in need could come in and shop for themselves.
“All that has been stopped because of the virus,” Bloom said. “People can’t come in the building, so instead, they come to the door and we hand them pre-made food boxes.”
Food boxes are now available for pickup once a week, while perishables are still offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, along with necessary hygiene products, such as masks, hand sanitizer, and diapers and wipes for those with children.
“We do the best we can, and they’re very thankful,” Bloom said, adding that it’s the volunteers who’ve made it all possible. “We are run strictly by volunteers. A lot of them are typically seniors … but we’ve had a lot of young, college-aged volunteers step up. The volunteers are incredible and that’s what makes stuff happen.”
For Bloom and her husband Jerry, who died in April of cancer, they’ve invested their hearts into the Salvation Army.
“We love this community,” Bloom said. “My husband grew up in Newhall, graduated from Hart High. I just feel this is just what we really truly care about, and I want to continue to be a part of this community and do whatever I can. … He was everything in this place, so now I am.”
After taking a leave to be with Jerry, Bloom came back to the Salvation Army mid-pandemic, and, since then, has done what she can to serve the community.
“We’ve got an awesome community, our community cares,” Bloom added. “It’s wonderful to have the privilege to be here, and we’re thankful. We just wish we could help more.”
Those interested in donating can drop off donations to the Salvation Army SCV Corps, located at 22935 Lyons Ave. in Newhall, while Stuff the Bus is scheduled Thursday at the office, where participants are asked to wear a mask and bring proof they live in the SCV, either through an ID or bill with address.