SOUTH HAVEN | The Salvation Army of Porter County is bursting at the seams.
That's not necessarily a good thing. While it means the organization is helping more people throughout the county, it also means there are more people in need of help.
In the last 10 years, the number of people the agency has served has risen by more than 60 percent, from 6,222 in 2003 to 10,849 in 2013. First time assists have increased from 1,949 to 4,608 in the same decade and the agency has increased meals served from 200 per year in 2003 to 3,937 this year.
Major Jon Welch said the agency is utilizing every nook and cranny of its building on U.S. 6 and Capitol Road here and sometimes must rent other buildings for programs.
There is also an issue of not having sufficient space to provide programs or to simply give clients the need when coming in for assistance.
For example, Welch said, the organization has a nutritionist providing various programs. However, not only is there little space for the programming, but there is no nursery available for parents who want to take part in programs and need to have someone watch their children.
Demand for the food pantry has grown 500 percent, he said, adding that because of demand people may visit the pantry every 30 days instead of the previous 90-day requirement.
The space constraints have led to the need to possibly add on to the facility, said Welch.
The first step to making that happen is the completion of a needs study, which is being conducted by Coles and Associates. Members of the public, particularly community leaders, are being asked to participate in an online survey. The survey can be found at www.salvationarmysurvey.com and is available through the end of September.
After the survey is complete, Welch said, they will conduct a feasibility study to determine the need for expansion and if a capitol campaign to finance that expansion is possible.
Welch said it could take up to five years from the needs to study to completion of an expansion project.
The Salvation Army moved into the building in the 1990s. It was had been a church and was built in the 1960s, Welch said.