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Vancouver Salvation Army expansion begins

The Salvation Army is confident more clients will visit its expanded campus in east Vancouver that’s set to open in October. As construction takes place on the $5.7 million expansion of the campus on Northeast 112th Avenue, neighboring apartments are being built at the same time.

“All this side of town has been developed so much. We think that there’s going to be a lot more people over here who are going to need services,” said Major Michael Nute, officer in charge at the faith-based nonprofit.

Increased capacity is the main goal of expanding the campus — more classroom space, more room for after-school programs and a revamped food pantry. The project, which Robertson & Olson began building in February, also consolidates two campuses into one. When complete, programs currently operating out of a leased building on Northeast 47th Avenue in the St. Johns area will move to the new facility in the Fircrest neighborhood.

Steve Rusk, community relations and development director, said The Salvation Army in Vancouver primarily serves people who reside in the 98661, 98664 and 98665 ZIP codes. When surveyed, many clients said they would visit the east-side facility, located in the 98684 ZIP code.

This Salvation Army branch serves about 16,000 people annually. Services include a food pantry, job training, utility assistance, eviction prevention, after-school care, back-to-school preparedness, food and toys for children during the holidays.

Nute said the nonprofit is keeping these services but changing the way they’re distributed.

The new building, for instance, will feature a larger food warehouse and a shopping-style pantry, meaning people can select the food items they want in a setting similar to a grocery store rather than being handed a pre-selected box of food.

Rusk said this is the way of the future. In many cases, it has become a requirement of food program supporters. For clients, it’s a more dignified way of accessing emergency food.

“It also reduces waste. When you’re pre-bagging items and giving it to them, you may or may not hit on what that family can use,” Rusk said. “This way they’re only taking what they can use, and you give them a experience of shopping like everybody else would in a store had they enough money to go do that.”

Facing funding gap

The new building will also house a clothing closet, offices, a children’s play area, a break room for staff and volunteers and a conference room that connects to an outdoor breezeway. Some space has been left flexible to address whatever the needs may be in the future. There will be computers for people to use and a community garden.

The existing chapel and building will be reconfigured to connect it to the new building, accommodate more classrooms and double the capacity of the SAY Klub after-school program from 30 children to 60. The existing commercial kitchen will be replaced to better meet the needs of nutrition and food preparation classes. Remodeling work on the existing building begins in July.

However, the nonprofit still has money left to raise to fully fund the expansion project.

“There’s a bit of a moving target as there are costs adjustments along the way,” Rusk said.

He said the gap is somewhere between $350,000 and $500,000. The lobby in the new building will feature plaques naming those who give $1,000 or more toward the project.

So far, major gifts include $1.2 million from the state of Washington, a $332,000 Community Development Block Grant, $525,000 from Steve and Jan Oliva, $350,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, $250,000 from The Firstenburg Foundation and nearly $1 million in estate gifts.

Rusk said the project has been a dream for about 25 years and has been made a reality over the last five years.



Interested in donating to The Salvation Army’s new campus? Or the SAY Klub after-school program? Contact Steve Rusk at 360-448-2875 or

Did You Know?

The Salvation Army in Vancouver started in 1890 primarily serving soldiers and their families in the downtown area.


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