The Salvation Army Nanaimo Corps

On May 15, 1888, six years after Nanaimo became a municipality, The Salvation Army established the Corps and a shared past with the city was begun.  Through the early years when Nanaimo was a rugged coal mining town to the present, the doors of The Salvation Army have been open to assist those in need.  The original motto of The Salvation Army’s founder William Booth “Soup, Soap, and Salvation” still rings true today.

The first church built in 1893 at 19 Nicol Street was replaced by the new church at 505 Eighth Street in April 1986.  The original church has gone through many transformations to provide social and spiritual services to the surrounding communities throughout the decades.  In 1953, the building was renovated and a new front was put on the building which can still be seen today.  Changes to the main structure allowed for Community Services and administration offices upstairs; and the slanted floor on the first level was redesigned to create a gymnasium which did double duty as a place of workshop and a church hall.   In October 1993, the Corps received a grant from the City, and the tiny operation of a two-burner stove and a large soup pot to feed the hunger was replaced with an industrial kitchen and a dining room which now provides 75,000 hot nutritious meals annually. 

In July 2007, the New Hope Centre built beside the former church opened its doors to provide residential programs for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The design of the newer building gives the illusion of it being attached to the original structure.  There is 24-hour staffing to meet the needs of these programs.  The Centre provides laundry facilities and showers for the public at designated times throughout the week. 

The Salvation Army offers the following services and programs at 19 Nicol Street:  

  • Emergency Food Hamper Program (3,000 hampers distributed annually),
  • Daily Baked Goods Distribution Program (baked goods collected  from stores),
  • Emergency Shelter Program (23-bed operation for men),
  • Fresh Start Supportive Housing Program for those in recovery (8-studio apartments)
  • Correction Services Canada Halfway House Program (ten studio apartments),
  • Hot Meal Program (operates 365 days a year serving lunch and dinner),
  • Addiction Services (referral to treatment centres and support after treatment),
  • Nanaimo Response Unit (part of The Salvation Army Disaster Division responding to provincial emergencies),
  • Summer Camp (18 Nanaimo kids spend a week in July at Camp Sunrise),
  • Back to School Program (provides school supplies and backpacks to kids the first week in September),
  • Voucher Program (for those in need of clothing/ small household items),
  • Income Tax Clinic (March –May),
  • Laundry facilities and showers for the public on weekends,
  • Free haircuts one afternoon a week,
  • Free chiropractic clinic on Friday afternoons,
  • Free acupuncture clinic one afternoon a week,
  • Weekly - AA Meetings, NA Meetings, Coffee House ,and
  • A Christmas Dinner for Shut-ins Program. 

Prior to 2003, The Salvation Army had an annual Christmas Food Hamper Program.  Now, The Salvation Army in partnership with Loaves and Fishes operates Hamperville from November to December 24th.  Dedicated volunteers and generous community support enable Hamperville to provide approximately 2000 Christmas food hampers to those with limited incomes. 

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Nanaimo. A Salvation Army Thrift Store has become a standard retail operation in many communities across North America.  These thrift stores have their origin in the directive given by our founder William Booth to “give to the poor”.  In March 1963, the former telephone building at 76 Bastion Street was purchased to house a hostel, sleeping quarters for sailors on shore leave, a small apartment to accommodate a family to oversee the operation, and the first Salvation Army Thrift Store in Nanaimo.  Throughout the decades, the locations and number of these thrift stores varied but the principle remained the same – quality at an affordable price for varied incomes.   Items range from designer clothing, small household items, furniture and more.  All stores provide the same pleasant shopping experience  one would expect to find in a successful retail operation.  

The Bowen Road Store and the Nored Mall Store incorporate environmental practices within their operations.  Clothing that cannot be sold is recycled. The Bowen Store operates a “Metal for Meals Program” allowing for metal to be dropped off at their location for recycling.  The latest recycling program is collecting old vehicles no longer used which are picked up by a towing company.  The owner of the vehicle is issued a income tax receipt by the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army Community Church exists to share the love of God.  The Nanaimo Corps is a mission-driven body of believers who through relevant Bible and practical teaching minister to the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of the individual.  The programs and services offered at 19 Nicol Street stem from the Salvation Army Community Church.  The Corps strives at all times to provide a safe environment whereby people are encouraged to grow in relationship with God and each other.  This is reflected in their community outreach programs.  As the Corps celebrates its 125th anniversary, it is a time of reflection and gratitude to Nanaimo and the surrounding communities for their ongoing support of the work of the Salvation Army.