It wasn’t long after the City of Penticton incorporated in 1908 that the Salvation Army decided to set up shop.
That was in 1921, and after 95 years of helping the less fortunate of the community in myriad ways, the church celebrated their commitment last week with a community barbecue in front of their Thrift Store and Family Service location on South Main, feeding about 200 community members.
For 95 years the Salvation Army has been assisting people in need in Penticton,” said Rene van der Meijden Community Ministries director. “This day was a good reminder that it takes many community volunteers for the The Salvation Army to do their work.”
It was a pleasant Sunday on Sept. 4, 1921 — the high that day was about 21 C, according to Environment Canada — as two Salvation Army officers, Eva Garnet and Lily Lawson, set up for their first service in Penticton.
According to information compiled by church member John Pettifer, a music festival began that day, let by the Vancouver Citadel Band, which arrived on the SS Sicamous earlier that morning. Their performance was followed by an open air meeting, and another service that evening.
By 1930, the Salvation Army built their first permanent hall — after a succession of rentals — at 456 Main St., purchasing the Central Hotel in Keremeos, dismantling it and rebuilding it on site. After moving to Ellis Street in 1975, the church moved to its current location on South Main in 1991.
Pettifer, who has been with the Penticton Salvation Army for 16 years, said that as Penticton has grown over the years, so have the services they offer. From the day after the first service, Salvation Army members visited the hospital on Haven Hill, and continue to do the same for the seniors living in the care home that now stands on the same spot.
The first thrift store was opened on Ellis Street, next to the church’s current location, and later a second store was opened, and still operates at 1550 Main Street. Food support to those in need began in 1995 when the Salvation Army was engaged to run the community food bank.
Pettifer said the food bank originally provided 200 to 300 Christmas hampers, but in 2015, close to 800 were handed out.
“People know us more for the social work, I think, than they do as a church,” said Pettifer. “It is meeting a need in the community and we have been fortunate enough to help in that way.
“Our help is provided without consideration for creed or class. We do not discriminate when it comes to providing help, in any way.”