The Salvation Army in Pottstown Seeking Staff to 'Make a Difference' in the Community

Mar 24, 2022

Like so many who seek refuge there, Major Jeny Shurtleff of The Salvation Army in Pottstown’s family shelter doesn’t know where else to turn these days. 

"We’re having trouble keeping employees,’’ she says.

There are many reasons, Major Jeny says. At or near the top of that list is funding. The shelter is run through donations, fund-raising, a Montgomery County contribution that shrunk by $30,000 several years ago. That already made staffing the facility challenging. Then COVID-19 hit.

Like many stores and services, the shelter, which can accommodate up to 11 families, faced the prospect of either raising wages paid to staff, or losing them to higher-paying jobs. That exacerbated the impact of the diminished funding, says Major Lawrence Shurtleff, Major Jeny’s husband, especially since the county – which distributes the money through its "Your Way Home’’ agency – earmarks specifically how the money must be spent. ``We didn’t need more money for paper towels,’’ he says. "We needed more money to pay our staff.’’

"We have to apply for this funding every year,’’ he says. "As you can imagine, when we have cuts, it’s hard to give employees a raise.’’

Recently, The Salvation Army raised the minimum it pays to Shelter staff, from $9 to $10.15 an hour. While that is higher than the $7.25 minimum wage that Pennsylvania has been stuck at since 2009, it is well short of the $15 to $20 wages their workers can earn at places like Walmart, WaWa and Target. ``We can’t compete with that, given our current funding,’’ he says.

The ever-increasing demands of the job add another layer of difficulty in finding staff.

“COVID has contributed to a lot more trauma for people who are homeless,” says Major Jeny Shurtleff. “Some have never experienced homelessness before the pandemic. It causes higher emotional issues, leading to behavior problems from residents in the shelter. And that causes a whole lot of stress for our workers.”

But those who work at the shelter soon realize how rewarding it can be and the impact they can make on the lives of others.

“You have to have a positive frame of mind to work here,” says Lillian Schadler, 71, a monitor for the shelter. “You have to have a certain type of personality, a level of calmness. I feel like I’m a good match for this environment.”

Schadler’s duties as a monitor range from preparing and serving meals to the 11 families living there, to cleaning up after the meals, answering questions from residents and providing a smooth and safe living experience for them. When asked what keeps her going after six years of working for the shelter, Lillian says it’s the children.

“The children who are here are precious,” she says. “We get to see them at a time of their lives when they’ve been uprooted. I want to plan a seed to show them there is kindness, that there are people here that are willing to make their world better.

“For the older children, we can be a very positive person in their lives to show them how to treat others with respect – show them that we care. I gain satisfaction from that.”

The shelter is looking to recruit four more monitors so that there is at least one dedicated monitor around the clock providing assistance to residents. The shifts are 7 a.m.-3 p.m., 3-11 p.m. and 11p.m.-7 a.m.

“Whether you’re retired and are looking to pick up some extra money, need a part time job, or you need help with Christmas expenses – look no further than here at The Salvation Army,” says Wendy Egoff, Director of Housing Programs for The Salvation Army in Pottstown.

An employee of more than 16 years for The Salvation Army, Egoff liaises with key players in Montgomery County to ensure The Salvation Army’s family shelter in Pottstown receives adequate support. She also directs the Pottstown location’s permanent supportive housing program, as well as its Pottstown Works job readiness program for those looking for employment.

For Egoff, it’s not just about the employee experience. It’s also about knowing that your work makes a difference for the larger community.

“For me this is a calling. I can’t go to sleep at night knowing that my brother or sister is out there and needs some sort of help. And it’s not just a quick fix – it’s more than that. For me it’s about a whole lifestyle change. That’s what inspires me about The Salvation Army … we look deeper at deeper root causes, in shelter, in permanent supportive housing, etc., to serve people who need us.”

Above all, the work all ties back to The Salvation Army’s mission – which is to serve those in need in His name without discrimination.

“Jesus showed care and compassion to the poor and marginalized,” says Major Jeny Shurtleff. “We see that need, to reach the people that are being overlooked. And we have that opportunity to help them.”

You can give to The Salvation Army’s family shelter in Pottstown by sending a check to PO Box 378, Pottstown, PA 19484. To learn more about The Salvation Army in Pottstown, visit its website.

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