SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



The Salvation Army in Darkest Ketchikan
By Richard Zellmer


May 31, 2006

One hundred thousand excursionists give a place value. And it's obvious why. The beauty of God's creation, the civic monuments to past civilizations, the excitement of an adventurous journey to the last frontier- these attractions have called visitors to Alaska through-out this last age. And yet these qualities are not what define all that is well with the First City. What defines what is light here in our town can best be seen when contrasted with what is hidden in the dark. Unfortunately, disparity is not a welcome topic at most dinner tables. I'll try not to go overboard with this story, yet here is a simple two line analogy. Two individuals walk into opposite dockside buildings with ten thousand dollars in crisp bills. One purchaser spends his pocket money on a quality diamond investment, while the other buys one year's worth of untempered entertainment, tipsy company, and bad breath. "Whoa, you said this story was going to stay amidship!" And that would be a common response if it didn't follow that shockingly different outcomes can lead to the same level of depravity. Not that I want to negatively reflect on any local business owners, I just wish some of the similarities between our jewelry palaces and our bars wasn't worn at the tip of the sleeve.

Sad I say. Yet, not as sad as darkest Ketchikan. While lesser levels of depravity are sold storefront in broad daylight, there are some places where it's served by the bucket loads under the secret cover of night. But don't take my word for it. Just come for social hour at the soup kitchen to research the fact. Or better yet, look at our local stats on such topics as domestic violence, high school drug use, or unreported sexual assault. Still, don't be too upset. The Salvation Army does have an interest in the salvation of every soul that is ignored as just another insignificant number on a survey. The Salvation Army is a true agent of change, willing to be associated with the beguiled of society: the transients, the addicts, the sex sells, the affluent politicians.

"O.K," you sleuth, "Let's just move on now. Try to smooth over that sad $10,000 story's punch line a little." Fine. Your right. Let's reconsider how the story would have ended if the currency were brought into a nonprofit establishment. Would the same cash buy an equal measure of return? I think not. I mean, how can you honor volunteer hours or account for the rubber usage pulled from every counted penny stretched from donated pocket change with the same measuring cup as other pursuits. I mean, think about where the money at these organizations is going. To the incorrigible residents who wouldn't stick to another life if served to them on a silver platter? And if that wasn't enough, these people can never get enough money. Why? Because it's all about the heart, inner motives, and the deeper meanings of life; intangible assets that can't sold or paid for at any cost. Is this why The Salvation Army is not a humanitarian effort singularly interested at lowering the poverty level? Yes. We Army members and the adherent battalion that co-serves with us understand that the human heart can't be bought off no matter how wealthy or destitute a person may be. That is why the mission is to "undertake the spiritual and moral regeneration and physical rehabilitation of all persons in need who come within our sphere of influence" and not "Steal from the rich and give to the poor." Although, sometimes I feel the latter might be more fun.

Confused? Don't be. These issues are true for any public institution or church that truly follows the social gospel. The divine call to serve others must be concise and realistic or no real change will be affected. So. If more finances won't help, you ask, then what will? Let me ask a question in answer. What causes a man or woman to give up their time, possessions, and lifestyle to serve others?

I am Salvation Army. My name's Richard Zellmer, and I am a soldier at the Gateway Corps, Ketchikan. There is a darkest Ketchikan. Will you see the light?

Richard Zellmer
Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: Richard Zellmer is a soldier with the Salvation Army, Gateway Corps, Ketchikan.



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