In October of 1886, just twenty one years after its establishment in England, The Salvation Army arrived in Lawrence, Kansas. Two young lassies, Captain Susie Van Meter and Cadet Anne Morris immediately began the mission that has continued until today without interruption. Although primarily an evangelic church, The Salvation Army was the first social services organization to begin the tireless work of serving the needy of Douglas County, Kansas.
The help was appreciated by the community which had overcome the violent conflicts of the 1850s and 1860s, arising out of Lawrence’s strong support of abolition. With the end of the American Civil War, and the Northern victory, the town slowly returned as citizen fears had subsided.
In 1903, a devastating flood hit North Lawrence when the Kansas River overflowed. Flood water reached as high as 27 feet and caused significant damage. The Kansas River Bridge was destroyed and many people lost their homes, finding themselves in great need of help. The Salvation Army was there to serve the community and meet the needs of the people. In 1903 the Lawrence World Newspaper, later to become the Lawrence Journal World, published an article of the great work of The Salvation Army and included a group picture of 22 women and 14 men.
In 1914 The Red Cross began its work in Kansas and immediately began a partnership with The Salvation Army. Working hand in hand, The Red Cross trained the Home League (Women’s Ministry) techniques of first aid.
Both World War I and II brought great stress and need for a united community. Many of the brave men of Lawrence left to answer the call of fighting for freedom and liberty across the globe. The Salvation Army was an integral part of the war efforts, not only serving soldiers on the front lines in Europe, but ministering to the courageous individuals who remained to work, serve, and care for the Lawrence community.
After 70 years of service in Lawrence, Kansas The Salvation Army broke ground on a new building at 946 New Hampshire. The building was dedicated to the glory of God in 1958 and remains the center of operations today.
During the years that followed Salvation Army programs were carried out to offer aid, support, recreational opportunities, and spiritual guidance to the people of Douglas County, Kansas. In 1966 the Lawrence Daily Journal World help the community celebrate The Salvation Army’s presence in Lawrence for 80 years with a full-size newspaper insert.
In 1982, a gymnasium was added to the existing building to allow The Salvation Army to add many new programs to its existing services it provided. The Salvation Army Biddy Basketball League was begun shortly after the gym’s opening with the help of The University of Kansas Athletic Department. Legendary K.U. Basketball head coach Larry Brown voiced his support saying, “Hey Kids! It’s time to get excited about your very own basketball league. Learning how to play basketball at an early age is important as well as lots of fun. As we start to get ready for our season, you should be getting excited about your own team in the Lawrence Biddy Basketball League.” Just a few years later the league grew to hundreds of participants each year.
The additional gymnasium space allowed The Salvation Army in Lawrence to open a shelter for the homeless in 1986. This shelter was in operation until 2009, when there was a desire in the community to consolidate efforts to a single homeless facility.
The Salvation Army’s programs and services are not limited to one area of need. Instead, the approach is holistic, ministering to the complicated needs of individuals and families. Through collaborations and partnerships with other organizations in the community, The Salvation Army is constantly evaluating and improving the services it provides. Where there is need, the Salvation Army always strives to meet those needs.
Beginning in 2004, The Salvation Army purchased a plot of land near the intersection of 19th and Haskell streets. A capital campaign, and the generous support the community, helped raise funds to purchase and develop the land. The second stage of the capital project is set to begin in the next few years to accomplish the building of a new facility. This new facility will allow The Salvation Army to expand its current programs and services to meet the increasing needs of the community.
The Salvation Army of Douglas County has been in Lawrence for 127 years and anticipates the wonderful things God will do through its ministry in the next hundred years.