The Kemptville Salvation Army Thrift store has been around for many years. It has provided our community with many wonderful programs and services to people and families in need. The Salvation Army is an organization that attracts great clients and volunteers alike. Volunteers are often the lifeblood of an organization.
We believe that it is important to inform people of the situation that has led to staff leaving and volunteers not returning. We would like to express our concern for the lack of respect and support shown to the volunteers. It appears that the Pastors are not upholding one of the core values of the Salvation Army – Dignity: To respect and value each other, recognizing everyone’s worth.
Volunteers are giving generously of their time and, in turn, they want to feel appreciated. Volunteers and employees should not be ignored, disrespected, or dismissed for asking questions or providing constructive criticism. This organization appears to be dismissing volunteers far easier than dealing with a concern or complaint.
In the years we served our community through volunteering our time at the thrift store, we, and many other volunteers, each contributed numerous hours to help run the store while open to the public. Some volunteers ran local errands for the store. Additionally, some spent many hours at home sorting, cleaning, and pricing jewelry, sorting greeting cards, or mending, washing, steaming, and ironing clothes. These tasks were all at our own expense. Some volunteers also spent some Sundays, when the store was closed, cleaning the back work area, as at times it became dirty and unsafe. For some reason, the cleaning staff hired did not clean this area.
In March, 2020, the Covid 19 pandemic necessitated the closure of the store. In June, some restrictions were lifted and the store re-opened for donations only. Some volunteers (mostly women) who were asked to return were responsible for moving, lifting, sorting, stacking, and organizing donations. We were vocal in raising our concerns about the condition of the store. The Manager was sent pictures of the working conditions, as he was rarely on site. He was working at the Food Bank and the new store. Seldom was anything done to remedy the situation.
There was very poor communication from the Pastors and the Manager. We relied on a long-term employee for guidance and instruction. This person has since left their employ because of an unacceptable work environment.
Prior to returning in the summer of 2020, staff and volunteers had to undergo Health and Safety training and strict Covid 19 protocols. This included sanitation and cleaning schedules, lunchroom restrictions, and safety shoes for sorters, temperature checks, and daily Covid questionnaires. Unfortunately, most of this was not in place when the new store opened.
The store on Asa Street was closed in September and the new location was being set up at 200 Sanders Street. Management had asked us all for ideas for the set up of the new location. We visited the construction site, made suggestions, and were looking forward to working there. We were not informed when the new store was opening, nor were we asked to help and prepare for opening day.
Text messages and phone calls from eager volunteers to the Manager were never returned. We heard through Thrift Store clientele and other volunteers that volunteers would have to reapply if they wanted to continue to volunteer there. Apparently, this was not the case with all. Additionally, volunteers and staff would have to attend a meeting with the Pastors, as they wanted to ensure a happy workplace. Obviously, not having spent much time at the Asa Street store, the Pastors were not aware that it was a happy workplace.
We were looking forward to working as a team to bring the new store to fruition, but by bringing concerns to the table, we have been ignored and dismissed. The Pastors and Manager have taken away our sense of community, belonging, and helping others.
We urge them to take responsibility and uphold their core values. We hope that by bringing this behaviour to light, it will prevent similar incidences in the future and cause the organization to become a more equitable and respectful environment.
Names withheld by request