One recent morning I was walking in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, setting out to get my steps in before the heat of the day took hold. As usual, I enjoyed looking at the historic homes and noted the architecture and the style expressed in the landscape design. As I entered the commerce part of town, I noticed a brick building and I stopped to read the historical plaque declaring its history. It stated that the building was once the headquarters for the Salvation Army. It caused me to make some observations about the current state of my town and perhaps the town where you live.
In 1887 the Wilmington chapter of the Salvation Army was incorporated. The plaque reads that this building was the first constructed for the organization. I read that to mean the Salvation Army as an organization, not necessarily the Wilmington chapter. If that was the case, this is quite a landmark!
The first cornerstone for the new building was laid in 1924, amid local fanfare. The building was directly in town, which is noteworthy, but it was on the margin of town, which perhaps is also noteworthy. It appeared to have a certain presence and a definite purpose which included a children’s home. Yet, I wonder if the placement of the building on the border of the town was intentional or just the right sized building to support the needs of the community of that era. From 1924 to 1963 the Salvation Army operated at this site on Front Street, equivalent to Main Street, USA.
The Salvation Army is still an intricate part of our community but is no longer located in the downtown area. I’m sure there were many reasons as to why this was the case. For instance, shifts in community, space, and cost. But I wondered if there were other reasons why the Salvation Army was removed from historical Wilmington?
If I were to speculate, the Salvation Army played a very significant role in the lives of Wilmington residents, as briefly described on the plaque. Perhaps there wasn’t a stigma attached to those less fortunate, which may be the case today. The more I pondered where the Salvation Army was located, I came to the conclusion that my original thought might be totally inaccurate.
In the late 1800s, residential suburbs were forming. Wilmington was growing and expanding down Market Street and new neighborhoods were being developed. However, the downtown area was still the main hub of activity and commerce which is not necessarily the case today.
Most towns and cities expanded outward as the population increased and modernization of transportation developed. So the fact that we now have several Salvation Army locations distributed throughout the greater Wilmington area is not due to my original thought. It is more likely the result of action needed to spread services to a more accessible area.
I have never been part of a more involved community that really does lend itself to charitable causes. I wonder what it was like back in the day when the Salvation Army was on Front Street. I bet it was much like it is today-people helping people. Unfortunately, there always are those that have and those that have not. Living on the margins is still prevalent in many towns.
This post has been a lesson for me. I jumped to the assumption that we, as a community, deliberately removed those less fortunate from a historical area to a location outside of town. However, the more I thought about it, the more I considered the other possibilities. Our downtown is not what it once was. It has morphed into something else over the last 100 years. It no longer is the hub of businesses and commerce.
I wonder if non-profit organizations were more incorporated into daily life, would citizens be more inclined to participate and connect with those in need? What if we shed the not in my backyard mentality, would those that are on the margins of society receive better services and feel more valued?
Whatever the questions or answers are, it remains true that there is a great need in our community. Fortunately, many worthwhile organizations lend their support. I have been able to volunteer at some local organizations. I can personally attest to the charitable efforts of the Good Shepherd Center and Nourish North Carolina. Samaritan’s Purse is another organization I volunteered with post-Hurricane Florence. They partnered with Port City Community Church and offered tremendous support for our city and the surrounding area.
Maybe if we stop labeling people, we would be more apt to donate a bit of ourselves and turn our focus outward instead of inward?
Perhaps a thought worth considering?
I included a few links to some local non-profits in the Wilmington, NC area that I really love. I hope more of you support local charities, either your time or other resources and help move people away from the margins.
Just an FYI, the building is now a lovely inn. I was able to tour the residence during a holiday tour.