July 23--TUPELO -- With a new shelter at Salvation Army coming to fruition, Atmos Energy pushed the vision further by donating $25,000 to the only homeless shelter within a 190-mile radius.
Jeff Daniel, Salvation Army commanding officer, and Susan Gilbert, social services program coordinator, gave a tour of the facility and the location for the new shelter to Atmos employees to show where its money will be going.
The donation went toward the Salvation Army's "Hope and a Future" campaign, a $2.25 million project to renovate and expand the northeast Mississippi campus.
The Salvation Army surpassed its original goal by raising $2.4 million.
Built in the mid-1980s, the shelter is too small for community needs and has never been updated since it was first constructed, Daniel said.
Plans include a new Red Shield Lodge, computer lab, playground equipment, kitchen equipment and physical renovations to roofs and flooring.
Daniel looks forward to installing new HVAC units, some which have been in the facility since it was built.
"The units built 20 to 40 years ago weren't nearly as energy efficient," he said. "That's going to make a big impact on our operating expenses."
The residents have been asking Gilbert when construction will start.
"The residents are very excited to hear we are going to have a new shelter," Gilbert said. "They like what they have, but they are very excited there will be more room and more bathrooms."
Currently, there are no family rooms at the existing shelter, causing homeless families to sleep in the women's dormitory.
"We hope to have construction beginning by December," Daniel said. "The new facility should be finished by August this time next year, and the rest of the project will be finished by the end of that year."
David Gates, president of Atmos Energy Mississippi, said the donation is one of the largest Atmos has given in its history of philanthropic efforts in Mississippi.
"I can count on one hand the times we made donations of this size," he said.
He said Atmos has a "rigorous" process to find an organization it wants to give to, but after seeing the Salvation Army's impact, it was an "easy" decision.
Being able to explore the facility gave Gates a taste of how the Salvation Army operates while he learned of their plan and strategies to bettering the facility.
"I hope this donation meets people's individual needs initially, and then, I hope beyond that -- because of the way Salvation Army approaches not just physical needs -- they are able to better help people beyond the core issues driving those things and give people a hand up and not a hand out."
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