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Tamaqua Salvation Army volunteers distribute food

It’s just another day at the office for Jesse Durning.

The Tamaqua Salvation Army makes a big difference in the lives of many local residents. And he is always a part of it.

At no surprise, Durning, who has been a volunteer for 14 years, was at the Salvation Army distributing food on Tuesday.

“It’s a shame to do it this way; by appointment only and not letting anyone in the door, but we figured OK, it’s a little extra work and we already have the bags packed. To me, it’s no big deal, as long as they show up.”

Odds are you’ve seen Durning contributing somewhere in Tamaqua. He wears many hats for the organization, as both the kettle and food coordinator. How often does he volunteer?

“Eight days a week,” Durning joked. “I’m here just about every day. Even when the Captain (John Luby) tells me to stay home on the weekends, I still come here to check the place out. I straighten up and catch up on the things I couldn’t do during a hectic week.

Durning, of Lansford, was ironically introduced to the Salvation Army by trying to find a venue for an event of his own nonprofit organization.

“There was a police officer here, Keith Verbilla, now he’s a state trooper,” Durning said. “We run a nonprofit wrestling organization. I thought that we couldn’t do a show in Tamaqua, but then I couldn’t believe it when I saw the gym. We started doing wrestling shows here, and then I didn’t realize that the Salvation Army was actually a church. In the meantime, I was struggling with the faith, and I became a member. So it wasn’t only just a new home to do wrestling shows for me. I just love helping people.”

The Tamaqua Salvation Army will continue to distribute food each Tuesday and Thursday by appointment only. People needing assistance may call any time during the week for a phone interview, and a time slot will be assigned for pickup. A Salvation Army volunteer will bring the food to the door. The public is not allowed in the building.

“We’ll just keep meeting the needs as long as they’re there,” Luby said. “There have been some emotional and distraught people on the phone. I think it’s also important for all of us to take a dose of reality. This is not going to be fine next week, this is not going to be over by Easter. … We’re helping each other by staying 6 feet apart and by staying inside.”

Jesse Durning, a 14-year volunteer of the Tamaqua Salvation Army, helps put together and distribute bags of food every Tuesday and Thursday on West Broad Street in Tamaqua. JUSTIN CARLUCCI/TIMES NEWS