Salvation Army finds some space to call home Building is the first owned by organization in Carroll

April 22, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The Salvation Army has been moving office to office around Westminster for 10 years, running social services and religious programs, but never having enough space for baseball games or summer day camps.

Now the international Christian evangelical and social services organization has solved its local space needs by buying a closed miniature golf course.

The newly renovated former Sunshine Recreation clubhouse at 300 Hahn Road was dedicated yesterday with a brass band and soldiers for the Lord outfitted in traditional navy-blue uniforms with white "S" insignia.

The building is the first the Salvation Army has owned in Carroll County.

"I can't remember how many times I've stood out here praying over this land," said Maj. William C. Meeks, administrator of the Carroll County services center.

The Salvation Army is famous for the uniformed bell ringers who stand by kettles at Christmastime. Salvation Army officers (clergy), soldiers and adherents (lay workers who belong to the Salvation Army church) and volunteers also provide shelter, food and clothing for the homeless; sponsor youth and adult recreation programs; visit nursing home residents; and proselytize.

The army was founded in 1865 by William Booth, an evangelist who preached in the slums of London.

Major Meeks and his wife, Maj. Darlene Meeks, spotted the vacant miniature golf site in 1992 when they were looking for housing after being assigned to Westminster.

Although they are of equal rank, Mr. Meeks explained that when a married couple works together in the Salvation Army, "The husband is in command and she is assistant to him."

When he saw the 3-acre Sunshine Recreation site, he said, "I said to my wife, 'This is where the Lord wants us to be.' "

It took several years to get there. The couple's task in Westminster was to expand the Carroll County service unit into a full Salvation Army corps. When they arrived, the army had 1,500 square feet of rented space in the Beacon Industries complex at 100 Railroad Ave.

The office was adequate for social services and religious work, but lacked ball fields for recreation and wasn't visible from Railroad Avenue, Mrs. Meeks said.

A slope hides the Beacon Industries buildings.

The Salvation Army tried to lease the Hahn Road building, but the owners were interested only in selling, Mr. Meeks said. After several years of negotiations, the army bought the property in March 1995 for $250,000.

A chapel, a meeting room that can be converted into a dining area, a kitchen and offices for three staff members occupy the 3,000-square-foot building. It has a deck where Mr. Meeks hopes to have outdoor meetings and picnics.

He is seeking a service club to convert part of the miniature golf course into a tot lot.

The local corps will be able to run a summer day camp for children on Hahn Road this year, Mr. Meeks said.

The Carroll corps sponsors about 30 children yearly for a week at camp in West Virginia. All the camps have a religious component.

In local social services work, many of the referrals from other agencies are for people who face evictions, Mrs. Meeks said. Others can't stretch their money to cover groceries but have incomes too high to qualify for food stamps.

"Most of the people we help are not on public assistance," Mr. Meeks said.

Pub Date: 4/22/96

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