Boxes filled with the iconic red kettles and other items line the hallways and fill a warehouse.
A Baptist disaster relief team has set up a temporary mobile feeding kitchen.
The back of the chapel altar has been turned into a temporary social service office.
The signs are all there: The Salvation Army is on the move.
Leaders with the faith-based nonprofit, 311 SW 5, have been dreaming of this moment for years. A $15 million capital campaign to build new headquarters for the organization is coming to fruition with the planned September opening of the Salvation Army Chesapeake Energy Center of Hope.
All that’s left is a relocation effort that has involved multiple strategy sessions, an extensive, ever evolving “to do” list, help from social service partners and lots of prayer.
Essentially it’s moving day on steroids.
“We’re moving a whole city block,” said Capt. Carlyle Gargis, commander of The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command.
“I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s exciting, but it’s also kind of scary at the same time.”
Services to continue
Moving typically brings with it a set of basics: You box up your entire house, you move it to a new location or you hire someone to do it for you. Then, you congratulate yourself on the whole effort with a couple of boxes of pizza.
For Gargis and other leaders with the local Salvation Army, moving isn’t quite so simple — although it does involve food in a way.
First, 100 plastic totes (for starters) were given to the organization by a relocation company to be joined with a multitude of boxes already filled with items.
Jeff Lara, the nonprofit’s director of operations, said each department head has been tasked with making sure their department is packed and ready to go in August when the current headquarters are to be moved to the new Center of Hope.
As Gargis said, the current headquarters take up a city block, with offices, a food pantry, homeless shelter and a warehouse all in an assortment of buildings generally bounded by Hudson and Harvey avenues and SW 4 and SW 5 in downtown Oklahoma City.
Gargis said they are moving from about 50,000 square feet of building space to a headquarters with the same amount of space.
The difference is: All of the agency’s services will be housed under one roof, and the new center will offer a “better management of space.”
Lara said they must relocate the organization’s kitchen, shelter, administrative offices, warehouse and computer services.
“We offer programs for youths to senior citizens,” he said.
“And everything in between,” Gargis added.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, The Salvation Army’s Client Choice Pantry, a much-utilized food pantry, closed for the next several weeks until it reopens in the new headquarters.
Then Friday, crews worked to dismantle the kitchen equipment in the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Kitchen, which provides food for shelter guests, The Salvation Army’s public feeding program and several senior centers.
Gargis said the kitchen equipment will be refurbished and sent to the new headquarters, but without it, the kitchen is inoperable until the Center of Hope opens.
Gargis said he called upon his friends with Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief to help with this situation, and they responded with enthusiasm. Gargis said they are well-equipped to feed many people on a daily basis.
“We keep going because there’s a lot of people that depend on us,” he said.
Lara agreed. He said the shelter feeds about 100 people each night, and between 400 and 500 people are fed lunch each day as part of the organization’s public meals program and meal distribution at five senior centers.
Sam Porter, director of Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, said the Baptists set up a temporary feeding site with one of their mobile kitchens Friday.
In this way, homeless shelter guests, Salvation Army senior center sites and those who depend on The Salvation Army for a free daily meal will still be fed.
“We’re just giving them a break as they move into their new home, so to speak,” Porter said.
Gargis and Lara said the move also has resulted in changes to the organization’s Christmas program.
Yes, it’s Christmas in July, in a manner of speaking.
Lara said the agency typically begins taking applications for its Christmas programs in August at its current headquarters and the Christmas distribution takes place at Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads, formerly Crossroads Mall, in south Oklahoma City.
He said the application process has been pushed back to September and will take place at Plaza Mayor, along with the distribution.
Lara said playground equipment also will have to be dismantled and moved to the new headquarters, but there’s a plan for that, too.
He said all of the coordinated efforts and strategy sessions have been helpful because he and Gargis still are overseeing the final stages of construction of the new headquarters.
Lara said Salvation Army social service staff members have been telling the agency’s clients about all of the changes as moving plans are finalized.
Gargis said he and Lara have made it their mission to keep the disruption of services to a minimum.
“This plan’s been well thought out,” Gargis said. “We go over it constantly and try to think about how to make sure it goes smooth.”
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Leaders with The Salvation