The Salvation Army in Kearny has new officers running the joint, and they make sure they can help the community with anything it needs.
David and Emily Kumar have just launched the group’s monthly food pantry, which is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“The Kearny community has made us feel very welcome,” they say. “We enjoy our time here and it’s such an ideal location geographically. It’s also nice to see a lot of promising young professionals in the area.
David Kumar is from Brooklyn and Emily is from Ohio. They arrived in Kearny in June 2021 and have been leading the Salvation Army there for almost a year now. Before that, David Kumar worked for Newark West Side while Emily was still in seminary, a two-year schooling program for those joining the Salvation Army. The husband and wife team already has several specific initiatives they are focusing on for the community.
The Salvation Army was originally founded as a religious group, and music has always played an important role in it. Continuing this tradition, they offer a musical program in Kearny for children aged 7 to 15 every Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The free program offers music education, music theory, choir, dance, tambourine, and brass. The program also teaches children how to speak in public in front of crowds.
At the end of April, there will be an in-house statewide music competition, like a talent show, where children who have participated in the music programs can show off what they have learned in front of judges.
Another initiative they run takes place every last Wednesday of the month, where the Salvation Army hosts a customer-choice pantry for people to come in and select the amount of food they need for the month. The Salvation Army receives a certain amount of food from the NJ Food Pantry, which it then provides for free to the community. Customers receive a list where they can write down how many they need.
In addition, new customers who have an immediate need can access the emergency food pantry from Monday to Friday.
Finally, there is Kearny’s ESL program, English as a Second Language. Nearly 90% of Kearny’s population speaks Spanish, and many members of the Spanish-speaking community are interested in learning English. The program, which began in the fall, teaches basics such as the alphabet and numbers before moving on to learning conversational English. Classmates, mostly middle-aged and senior, also participate in the pantry, allowing them to practice their English with the rest of the community. The ESL program is open to anyone aged 18 and over.
While still in the process of getting a feel for the community, the Kumars look to the future and ways to continue supporting the community. Although still in the process of finding fundraisers, the Kearny Salvation Army will eventually be planning a back-to-school fundraiser in the fall where students will receive free uniforms. The Salvation Army in Kearny is located at 443 Chestnut St.