Captains Patricia and Juan Torres of the Salvation Army Ventura Corps in the facility’s food pantry.
by Amy Brown
When Captains Patricia and Juan Torres came to lead the Ventura Salvation Army Corp, the married couple had their work cut out for them. It was July of 2020, and the pandemic was in full swing, and like most things in this crisis, established programs and the development of any new ones required some new strategies. The Torres’s had been involved with Salvation Army for more than 15 years, having previously served in downtown Los Angeles working with the homeless and youth efforts, so they were no strangers to developing creative solutions for challenging issues. However, joining a new community during a pandemic did not make transitioning to the new roles easy. “We are very happy here, it’s such a wonderful community and we’ve been welcomed very lovingly, but it’s been very difficult to get to know the community in general, since a lot of meetings and groups that the Ventura Corp is part of is all now done by Zoom,” said Captain Patricia Torres. “That being said, it was an opportunity for us to think outside the box.”
Torres shared that during the holidays, the well-known donation kettles usually seen and heard outside local establishments had to be shifted to operating about 95% online. “It really took an army (no pun intended) to get that accomplished,” she said. “We can’t thank our advisory board and donors enough, they really stepped in at a time when we were new, and they got the online program going.” Since then, the Torres’s have being overseeing the food pantry, and facilitated opening that service two extra days a week to support the community in need; it is now available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They continue to provide rental assistance support and have launched a new utility program with Southern California Edison’s Energy Assistance Fund (EAF), offering support of $100, or $200 for all electric accounts, verified by Edison, with applicants eligible for assistance once every 12 months. There is also a program available for any household affected by Covid-19, with the option to apply for assistance up to $200, with EAF households eligible for up to $300.
Torres reports that the Ventura Salvation Army is now also receiving donations of new clothing for the community, which is a new offering. “We are in the works of trying to get a temporary building to have a clothes closet,” says Torres. “In the meantime, if someone needs clothing, men, women and children, we have many donations.”
Asked how local community members can best contribute and make a difference in the Salvation Army’s current efforts, Captain Juan Torres replied, “We will accept non-perishable food, and hygiene kits (toothbrush, toothpaste, trial-size soap, shampoo, condition, lotion). These items are so important and inexpensive. It can make a huge difference in the lives of those we serve.”