WHEELING - This year alone, the Salvation Army on 16th Street in Wheeling has helped 283 families in need through programs like its Thanksgiving bagged food giveaway.
However, for some families, the organization has given more than just a turkey and trimmings for their tables. For one particular family new to Wheeling, the organization made their transition a little less difficult.
The Leach family, consisting of James Sr., Marcy, James, Alyssa and Angelina, as well as Marcy's mother, Vicky Matthews, recently decided to relocate from Philadelphia to Wheeling for a better life. After staying with friends who invited them to Wheeling, the family found a temporary home at the Salvation Army.
Photo by Rebecca Olsavsky
At the Wheeling Salvation Army on 16th Street, social worker Janine Pietras, left, and volunteer Jackie McLaughlin prepare Thanksgiving bags containing food and gift cards.
"They've helped us find housing," Marcy Leach said. "Everyone here is caring and nice. They welcomed us and have been so great to the kids."
According to Mary Leach, the atmosphere of drugs and violence prevalent in Philadelphia contributed to their desire to relocate. She hopes that, as her family settles into their new home, they become more involved with the Salvation Army Church.
"We plan to stay involved with the Salvation Army because they gave so much to us," Leach said.
Salvation Army Maj. John Blevins said members of the Leach family have also been generous in volunteering their time in return, whether through wrapping gifts or filling bags. He added that helping people is what the organization is about.
"We're happy to have the family," Blevins said. "We try to do what we can. We do what we've been called by God to do."
The Salvation Army provides a 35-bed homeless shelter that welcomes men, women and children alike. It is the only shelter in Wheeling that accepts all three.
Matthews emphasized that Blevins and his wife are "such sweet, lovely people." As the Leach family prepares to move into their house, they are thankful to the couple for their "amazing dedication."
"We've become their extended family, and they've become our extended family," Matthews said. "They've given us a new life. We got our Christmas wish: a house."