VIENNA - The Salvation Army of Parkersburg Corps celebrated its volunteers and supporters Tuesday evening during the organization's first fundraising dinner to benefit area homeless youth at Grand Pointe Conference Center.
"As I look around this room, I am reminded how full it is of people who are always willing to help those in need," said Lt. Erik Henry, officer with the corps. "You have helped us in so many ways; on behalf of the Salvation Army and the people we serve, thank you."
Lt. Mechelle Henry, wife of Erik Henry and co-officer of the local corps, thanked individuals, groups and churches that raised money and volunteered their time to the Salvation Army in the past year.
Lts. Mechelle and Erik Henry, commanding officers with the Salvation Army of Parkersburg Corps, speak together on stage Tuesday during the organization’s first fundraising dinner to benefit area homeless youth at Grand Pointe Conference Center in Vienna. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
"Let this be an encouragement for next year," she joked about recognition.
The Henrys joined the Parkersburg Corps last June and in October 2012 opened the doors of the 534 Fifth St. facility to an after-school program.
"Since we opened, over 5,000 youth have come through our doors," said Mechelle Henry.
Many of those children, who are younger than 18 years old, are from low-income families or are residents of the Salvation Army's homeless shelter or transitional housing.
"When we came to Parkersburg we wanted to step up our youth programs and this dinner is to help fund the programs we provide," Mechelle Henry said.
Those offerings include a reading program, summer camps, computer lab and musical instrument lessons. There are feeding programs and a supper club that provide nutritious meals for children from low-income families.
"These programs allow kids to be a part of a Christian group and stay off the streets after school," said participant Shamaya Thomas, 10, of Parkersburg.
Mechelle Henry said not only does Thomas participate in the after-school programs, but also gives homework assistance to younger children receiving similar aid.
"She is a wonderful gift to us to not only have her after school but to have such a young volunteer who is learning to give back," Mechelle Henry said.
George Pete Bailey was recognized as Volunteer of the Year for his 27 years of service to the local corps.
"He began volunteering in 1986 and has continued with the Meals 4-1 program ever since," said Mechelle Henry. "In those 27 years, Mr. Bailey has given more than 4,000 hours to those in need."
The guest speaker for the evening was MetroNews founder Hoppy Kercheval, who pointed out the room was filled with people who represented not only what volunteers should be, but how to live a Christian life.
"I am honored to be here tonight with people who not only inspire those around them to volunteer, but to lead a Christian life," Kercheval said.
Through the money raised during the dinner, the Salvation Army hopes to support more families in need.
"The goal of the Salvation Army is to provide people, from all walks of life, the opportunities to grow physically, mentally and spiritually and we hope we can do more of this after tonight," Mechelle Henry said.