David MacBain wants to ensure the bond between the community and the Salvation Army continues even after he walks out the door.
Community ministries director since 1999, MacBain will depart May 29 as the agency restructures its Vernon food bank, social programs and two thrift stores.
“I want this to be a hopeful message,” said MacBain.
“I want to encourage people to continue to support the Salvation Army’s work. They are putting a lot of energy into moving forward.”
MacBain and his wife Carol, who is also impacted by restructuring, plan to remain in Vernon.
“We love Vernon, the Salvation Army and the work we’ve done. We have a heart for those hurting and we’ve done our best to help,” he said.
Operational changes became known in February but details are just being provided now as notifying staff required confidentiality and sensitivity.
“It’s never pleasant to let people go, especially people who are hard workers,” said Capt. Jean-Curtis Plante, who runs the local Salvation Army.
“But the system wasn’t sustainable. Demand for services is growing but the revenue stream is declining.”
It costs about $500,000 a year to operate the food bank but community donations average about $355,000 a year. On top of this, the profit margin at the thrift stores, which are the food bank’s financial backbone, dropped 80 per cent over 10 years.
Influencing factors range from increased utility bills to higher staffing costs.
“The community is giving us enough food but we don’t have enough warehouse space to store the food,” said Plante, adding that there’s been a deficit since 2008.
“We’ve been using our savings to remain open.”
With a growing monetary crunch, the Salvation Army enlisted a consultant (for free) to determine if structural changes could occur.
The first step was closing the Talkin’ Donkey coffee house last year, and that has resulted in the Salvation Army being in the black for 2015.
“We’ve turned the corner but we need to complete the restructuring,” said Plante of trying to balance expenses with revenue.
As a result, some staff are being laid off although firm figures are still being determined.
“We hope they find good jobs in the community,” said Plante, adding that a decision has also been made to reduce the number of part-time staff and bump the full-time employees at the stores to nine.
“We are keeping both stores open and meeting the needs of the community.”
Ways to reduce utility costs will be sought and switching from beef to chicken in food hampers will save $24,000 a year.
A council of community volunteers has also been established to provide formal advice.
“They will actively help us make sure we’re on track,” said Plante.
In the future, steps will also be taken to let residents know the role they play in assisting the Salvation Army help those in need.
“If we better communicate, people will want to shop at our stores. The money they spend there stays right in Vernon,” said Plante, adding that receiving public donations requires fiscal prudence.
“We want to be far more transparent about where the funds go. We are here for the community and we are taking our responsibilities seriously. We’re not just demanding more money from the community.”
MacBain and his wife could have left the Salvation Army earlier but decided to remain until the end of May to assist with the transition.
“They are great people. Their heart is with the community,” said Plante.