“How can you be a good leader if you don’t know what your troops are doing?” This is Beth Zelazo’s perspective as she works hard to fill the roles of Service Unit Chairperson, (Acting) Outreach Coordinator and Kettle Coordinator in Palmer, MA. Beth does all this in addition to her full time job as a paraprofessional with the local schools. Volunteering for all three roles allows her, as she puts it, “to truly understand the need in her community.”
Beth wasn’t exactly recruited by The Salvation Army. She kind of recruited herself. She rang the bell in Ware for a couple years. Then, back in 2012, she thought, “Wait a minute, why am I ringing the bell here if I live in Palmer?” From there, she initiated the Palmer Unit, recruiting her cousin, Virginia Dumont, to help her in the role of Treasurer and her longtime friend, Robin Warner, to be Special Program Coordinator. She also made a solid connection with the Unitarian/Universalist Church, which has generously donated office space. It was also there that she found an additional volunteer, Sue King, to assist with special projects.
Over the past two years, the Palmer Salvation Army Unit has received continued support from the Community as well – due to the dedication of its members. Connecting through special Salvation Army events and supporting residents in need, Beth, Virginia, Robin and Sue have partnered with the Rotary Club, WARE 1250 AM Radio, Second Congregational Church, Sherman & Frydryk Land Surveyors, Capital Cleaners, Kmart, Family First Bank, Crimmins-Graveline Insurance, Apollo Restaurant. Rondeau’s Dairy Bar and Turley Publications.
“Of course, without these partnerships, and without all the folks who come out to ring the bell at Red Kettle at Christmas time, the Unit would not be nearly as successful,” says Beth. This past year, they had 75 volunteer ringers and raised nearly $5,000.
Zelazo has a lot of support and a great team behind her, but Beth is truly the heart and soul of The Salvation Army in Palmer. She meets with local families in their own homes to see what they are up against. She persistently devises new initiatives with her members in order to more successfully meet community needs.
In addition to the programs they have already done including Collections Days, Coat drives, Camp outreach, Zelazo hopes to initiate a Toy for Joy program, a Donut Day Fundraiser and maybe some healthy food workshops.
The Community has obviously been very receptive to The Salvation Army, but Beth’s hope is that rather than people responding, “Oh! The Salvation Army is in Palmer?” she wants them to say “Yeah! We’ve got The Salvation Army in Palmer!”