WACO, TX — If you're looking for an example of what kind of community Waco is, look no further than the Salvation Army Social Services office.
"The outpouring of love that is here and graciousness is amazing," McLennan County resident Kelly Norris said.
Sitting in the office lobby, Norris awaits her case manager, whom she plans to surprise when she walks through the door. Norris said after problems with her health and losing her job; she found herself looking for help. Despite some trepidation, Norris sought help from Salvation Army Waco. It was there she was able to begin the process of getting back on her feet.
"I was aware of the toys for tots, the red kettles, but I wasn't really aware of all the things they did," Norris said.
Today, the Social Services office is helping McLennan County residents affected by the pandemic. Jermaine Edwards is one of the COVID case managers at Salvation Army Waco.
"I help people with rent assistance, with utility assistance, people affected by the pandemic," Edwards said. "Right now I have about 400 people on my caseload."
The need for their services is apparent in the number of people who come seeking help, said Director of Social Services Ykenya Robertson.
"The setback from the pandemic, some of us are struggling," she said.
The help does not stop there either. The social services location also provides those in need of dry or canned goods groceries from their food pantry.
"Our pantry is one of the smallest," Director of Social Services Ykenya Robertson said. "It is hard, like right now our pantry is running thin."
The food insecurity rate for the overall population in McLennan County is 18.3 percent, according to FeedingAmerica.org. The food insecurity for children in McLennan County is even higher at 23.7 percent.
"It's shocking when you think about it, that in McLennan County, one out of every four families you meet might not be able to feed their children," Grant Manager Meredith Donovan said.
While Salvation Army Waco is primarily known for working with the Central Texas Food Bank at their Community Kitchen, volunteer manager Diana Barrett said the food pantry does get used a good amount.
"This is kind of that time of year when we've drained through our supplies and we're looking for more donations," Volunteer Manager Diana Barrett said.
For Norris, who happened to be in the lobby at the same moment, a woman brought a grocery cart of canned goods. She said it is vital that McLennan County residents know the Salvation Army truly helps those in the community.
"What everybody needs to know is there is truly support here for everyone that needs it," she said.
Barrett said you could bring dry or canned goods to the station to donate food items to their pantry and also that it's better if you call ahead first.
From Nov. 26 through Dec. 25, you can register or donate to the Salvation Army's Rescue Christmas Virtual Run.
The bell ringing at Salvation Army kettles will now be available online. According to Barrett, you can set up and collect donations for the Salvation Army at your virtual kettle.
For a complete list of events and information on volunteering with the Salvation Army in McLennan County, visit here.