I was at The Salvation Army last week talking to Capt. Nydia Martinez. She and her husband, Luis, also a captain, have been in the area for five years. They love it here. They have two children, with the youngest still in high school.
Chances are when the son graduates, it’s likely the Nydia and Luis will be called to duty somewhere else. That’s just the way it works with this particular organization. It can happen in a moment’s notice, in fact.
In the case of this couple, “It will hurt,” Nydia says. “Geneva has been a blessing. People here go all out when the word gets out that someone is in need.”
Ultimately, though, The Salvation Army is a calling for them, and being bilingual makes them valuable to many other cities.
Most people think of The Salvation Army as bell ringers during the holidays or the secondhand stores that exist like the one in Geneva, but it is also a religious organization — and for this couple, that aspect is a very important part of what they do. Founded by the Methodists, it is now generally a Protestant Christian organization. In Geneva, there is a bilingual Sunday service for about 50 congregants.
“We love what we do … doing it for the Lord,” Nydia says.
I got a firsthand experience of their success.
While talking to Nydia I heard a woman at a desk across the room say quietly, “They saved my life.” That voice came from Bonita Wright.
It has been a extremely tough two years for Bonita. Financial, physical and emotional issues had beaten her down. She was feeling very lost.
For this granddaughter of a Baptist preacher, she told me it felt like “the devil had come at me.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back for this 53-year-old was the death of her mom less than two years ago. Christmastime is now difficult for her. Mother and daughter were close.
Bonita, who has lived in and out of Geneva during her lifetime, remembers occasionally having contact with The Salvation Army in her youth, even volunteering at one point. While only able to work modified duty right now, she nonetheless reached out to see if The Salvation Army needed help.
Without hesitation, Nydia offered her paid part-time desk/phone work. Nydia also gave her a book to read during her down time: “Helps to Holiness.”
The main lesson she has learned is though she may be suffering, do not give up and have faith.
She went on to tell me that as a result of Nydia, the day before I spoke to her was the first day she has felt some sort of peace within for a long time.
The Salvation Army and many other nonprofits and charities were part of a nationwide “Giving Tuesday” last week. Many, like me, got bombarded with e-mail requests for donations.
This column’s purpose is not to endorse one way or another. I expect people have various personal reasons to who and why they donate. Just two days ago I got Facebook messaged from the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva telling of an expected $30,000 food budget shortage. I even snuck a subtle reverence to another charity (Goodwill) in the headline. The point is all nonprofits need money.
Rather, this column is an extension of what I regularly do, present a forum for stories about people living, working or visiting the area.
There are many locals who silently do their part for The Salvation Army. One is Joe Fragnoli, who co-owns Super Casuals in downtown Geneva with his brother, Steve. Joe has a been on The Salvation Army board, off and on, for two decades, including a stint as past president. His involvement began for the simple reason he was asked. Clearly, his continued work for the organization is a result of finding it a good cause.
“It is a place that takes care of a lot of people after others might not,” Joe said.
His business is not the only local one lending support. Others provide volunteer bell ringers. Close to 15 businesses have signed up to do that this year.
On a side note, all local Salvation Army Store proceeds go to a drug and rehabilitation center in Rochester, not locally. However, that rehab center is available for men and women from our area.
Samantha Mancini is a sophomore at William Smith College. She and her roommate, Sofia Schuller, are part of the “volunteer Army.” Both are serving as unpaid interns.
Samantha says she received a communication from career services about the internship. It involved improving the digital presence of the organization. She is working on a double major — Media & Society and Economics — and felt it would be a worthwhile endeavor to broaden her marketing skill set.
Samantha says Facebook has been the main focus, along with the Twitter account.
She doesn’t get any class credit, nor does it count toward the Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ community service obligations. Rather, Samantha’s commitment fits the motto of another nonprofit, the Rotary Club: “service above self.” It’s a notion all should consider.