Salvation Army marks 125 years of meeting the needs of First Coast residents


Special to the Recorder

In 1891 – 125 years ago – The Salvation Army arrived in Jacksonville, when Adj. and Mrs. J.C. Smith were sent from Philadelphia to minister to the needs of this community. They set up day care centers to help working mothers, an anti-suicide bureau, summer camp outings for children, gave out free ice water in the summer and wood for fuel in the winter, and held an annual Christmas program.

The goal then was the same as the goal now: to meet human needs in the name of Christ without discrimination; to meet people where they are – in crisis or in their darkest hours – and give them help and hope.

Today, The Salvation Army in Jacksonville is still working hard to help people when they find themselves in a tough place, including serving a hot dinner every night of the year to anyone who is hungry; offering supplemental groceries to 250 families every week though the food pantry; providing a safe place to stay for women and families at the Red Shield Lodge; and offering affordable, supportive housing for men coming out of homelessness or addiction at the Towers Center of Hope.

The Salvation Army’s Child Development Center, a five-star rated child care center in downtown Jacksonville, provides high quality care to children age 6 weeks through pre-k. While the center serves families from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, scholarships are available for homeless children.

The Adult Rehabilitation Center on Beach Blvd is a 125-bed facility where men break the chains of addiction and find hope as they mend their broken lives – at no financial cost to them.

The Salvation Army’s work in Northeast Florida spreads beyond Jacksonville as well, with corps in Saint Augustine and Clay County, the Hope House in Nassau County, and operations in Baker and Putnam Counties.

Throughout its history, The Salvation Army has been able to minister to the needs of the hurting every day because of the generosity of those who believe in the work it is doing. When you put your change in a red kettle during the holiday season, or when you give at any time of year, those funds stay in the community where they were given, and 82 cents of every dollar goes directly to help people in need.

One hundred twenty-five years after arriving in Jacksonville The Salvation Army is still here, and will still be here 125 years from now, pursuing its mission to meet human needs in the name of Christ without discrimination.

To learn more, give, or volunteer go to

Kelly Belich is the special events and community relations coordinator for the Salvation Army of Northeast Florida.