Fort Smith, Arkansas (April 17, 2020) At the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercy Hospital, Baptist Health Hospital, and Sebastian County collaborated to create a call center to screen questions, as well as to set up a testing site. With the hospital staff working tirelessly throughout the day, both at the call center and testing sites, there was no time to leave for meals. The Fort Smith Salvation Army stepped up services to help first responders and volunteers who are putting themselves at risk during this COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fort Smith Salvation Army is currently feeding the hospital staff and volunteers while the call center site is manned in 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Meal service at the call center and the testing site began on March 24 and is ongoing, seven days a week including lunch, dinner, snacks, and hydration. Since the beginning of service, 591 meals, 856 snacks, and 672 bottles of water have been provided to first responders.
Mardi Taylor, Senior Media Relations and Communications Specialist, Mercy Hospital of Fort Smith, says, “We have come to rely on their (The Salvation Army) assistance during this time to help our staff members get proper meals while they serve the community in this capacity. The Salvation Army has led the way with this service, and we are appreciative of their efforts.”
Sebastian County Department of Emergency Management and Public Safety’s Deputy Director, Travis Cooper, mentioned that the partnership with the Fort Smith Salvation Army began with tornado disasters, continued with last year’s historic flooding, and is still ongoing. He went on to say, “Know that we are grateful.”
In addition to new ways to serve Fort Smith during this time of crisis, The Salvation Army continues its service to the homeless and vulnerable in the community. A to-go meal is served to the public every night at the Salvation Army Red Shield Diner all while observing current CDC guidelines and social distancing procedures. Additionally, they continue to provide food and other emergency assistance. Recently, they have begun opening their doors on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the homeless, who need hygiene facilities. And, as always, the Salvation Army’s shelter in Fort Smith, continues to stay open to men and women and has a capacity of 50.
The Fort Smith Salvation Army is blessed to be a part of a giving community. When the call goes out for help, community volunteers, families and businesses are quick to respond and are helping to prepare and serve meals at The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Diner. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Fort Smith Salvation Army will continue to find ways to strengthen and give back to the community.
Captain Jonathan Gainey stated, “We are honored to continue serving the people in our community who are in need, as well as the staff and volunteers who work on the frontlines during this uncertain time.”