Grace Gokey spent 10 years in the financial world before realizing she wanted to pursue a path that was more philanthropic and meaningful to the community. Her new position as Alexander City Salvation Army’s director of service center is a good fit.

“I’ve really hit the ground running since Aug. 19. I want to be able to make a difference in people’s lives, and this is so much more rewarding,” said Gokey, who is originally from upstate New York.

Gokey and her family have been in Tallapoosa County for two years, and she said it’s been eye-opening to see the hardship in this area firsthand. 

“Before I came into this position, I had an idea of what Salvation Army did, but it’s amazing just how much this organization really does for the community,” said Gokey.

Most people know Salvation Army for its family stores where they can donate goods or buy gently used items. About 80 percent of that funding goes back into the community, so these stores play a huge role in the organization’s mission.

Donations are always welcome, as long as items are re-sellable. If they are not, the cost falls on Salvation Army to get rid of them, so it’s not helpful to drop off something that has no use, said Suzzette McMillan Bogan, divisional service extension director for Salvation Army.

“Thankfully, we get a lot of good donations here,” she added.

The rest of the funding comes mainly from United Way and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. The Alexander City center serves Coosa, Chambers, Randolph and Tallapoosa counties.

Other services provided by the Salvation Army include helping people with unforeseen emergencies and reviewing cases to assist with utility bills, food, shelter, etc.

“Last fiscal year, the number of people served in Alexander City was 763, which is about 64 cases per month,” said Bogan. “And that was without a director for 10 months, so imagine what we can do now that Grace is in this position.”

People with a need can come by the office at 1725 state Route 22; call 256-215-3730; or can be referred for case evaluation. Gokey then acts as a social worker to review the circumstances. 

“The need is prominent in this area, and I’m glad to be able to help and make a difference,” said Gokey.

While she juggles multiple job responsibilities in her position, Gokey has four staff members on site to assist with intake of donations, setting out items to the floor and whatever other jobs are needed.

“It speaks a lot to the mission that the staff here has been around for a long time. Verna has been here I think 17 years; Ruth’s been here close to 20; and Lisa has been here for 12,” said Gokey. “We have one new guy, James Harris, who goes by Rex, and he will be responsible for driving the truck for donation pickups at off-site locations.”

This time of year, Salvation Army is looking for an extended number of helpers for its kettle campaign, which is run solely by volunteers to save on overhead and keep more money flowing back into its programs. From the day after Thanksgiving until Dec. 24, the organization requests support raising funds for the holidays.

Salvation Army distributes Thanksgiving boxes to elderly who are referred by the housing authority. The nonprofit also maintains an Angle Tree program and currently is looking for donors, as well as applicants.

“This community has been very giving and helped out a lot with volunteering,” said Bogan, who has served in her position for 13 years.

“This job has certainly humbled me a lot, and you realize how much less you need and are more grateful for what you have,” she added.

Gokey wants to be more involved in the community and has future plans to expand the food pantry, grow the store and increase the aid available for the disadvantaged.

“We hope people will welcome Grace and embrace her in this new position,” said Bogan.

Stop in and meet Gokey at Alexander City’s Salvation Army location. She is currently looking for volunteers and her door is always open to those in need.

For more information about Salvation Army, visit salvationarmyusa.org. To volunteer as a holiday bell ringer, call Gokey at 256-215-3730.