Topeka Salvation Army drastically short on funds, struggling to make payroll

Maj. Brian Burkett said Tuesday the Topeka Salvation Army is drastically behind on its donations, putting the organization’s financial health at risk. (Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal)

The Topeka Salvation Army is struggling to make its payroll expenses this month and is in dire need of financial donations, its leader said Tuesday.

 

“Our finances have gotten very, very tight for us to continue to serve people. We’re at a point where it’s tough to make payroll. We’re really getting to crunch time,” said Major Brian Burkett.

“We every year come into this summer slump where donations tail off, people are busy doing their summer thing, and we don’t tend to get the same level of financial support that we’re used to.”

But this year is tougher than usual, and the organization is about $45,000 behind its budget period, and looking closely at revenue to make sure they can make payroll in October, he said.

“Our numbers in our meal program have been considerably higher than normal,” Burkett said. “We’re averaging about 100 folks every day at dinnertime consistently. We had been around 50 to 60. This middle summer, it really started to spike.”

Assistance through the organization’s pantry program, which supplies grocery items to people in need, also has been up.

Maj. Timothy Parker, Kansas and Western Missouri divisional secretary of business, said the regional Salvation Army office is aware of the challenges the Topeka location faces.

“We’re working on it here. We’re going to be making arrangements. Of course, we’re going to fulfill our responsibilities to our employees. Payroll will be met,” he said. “We have a number of different possibilities that can be put into place to support them through this difficult time.”

Salvation Army will support any obligations the Topeka location has and there are options for that support. Parker said they’ve already discussed a short-term loan to help them through this tough time.

So far, Burkett said the Salvation Army hasn’t had to lay off any personnel or stop any services, but if help doesn’t come in they will have to consider one of those alternatives.

“We help people and we do it with a minimal amount of staff, so either we lay people off or we help less people,” he said. “There’s going to come a time when we may have to look at that. We’re hoping pre-Christmas season to get some of those donations coming in where we can get ourselves back where we need to be moving into Christmas.”

Burkett said he’s unsure on why this year has been tougher than those in the past. The organization made it’s red kettle goal during the holiday season.

“We continue to look at our finances with our advisory board, which meets monthly,” he said. “We’re certainly always looking at what we can do to bring the awareness to people in our community. Quite often people know that Salvation Army does good work. They don’t always know exactly what we do. I think we need to do a better job telling our story.”

Parker, who has been an officer with the Salvation Army for 33 years, said it’s not unusual for specific locations to see shortfalls in donations or struggle for short periods of time.

“Typically the fall is a very difficult time for the Salvation Army, and then also we’ve had the disasters that have happened,” Parker said.

Although the Kansas and Missouri areas haven’t seen the disasters in other parts of the country, sometimes people shift their donations to those affected areas, which can shift the revenue for local chapters.

“Topeka has over the past couple of years has done a very good job in managing things, and they’ve just hit a rough spot,” Parker said. “We’ll be there to assist them through that and make sure those employees get paid.”

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