The Salvation Army was founded in London, England in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth. On February 13, 1886, The Salvation Army first opened its work in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The early Salvationists opened a barracks over a shoe store at 112 East Main Street.
For nearly a century the Army was to occupy various buildings. They included sites at the corner of Church and Water Streets, 244 N. Rose Street, and the current location at 1700 South Burdick Street, which was dedicated to God and Mankind on Sunday, November 17, 1991.
As the early Salvationists saw the need, various activities commenced. Music was one such important activity. In 1903 Peter Gayhide organized the first Kalamazoo Band. The intervening years saw participation by the Band in scores of civic parades and countless functions.
Kalamazoo is now one of 1,383 Corps throughout the United States. From the outset, Army soldiers wore military-styled uniforms emblazoned with a large “S” for ‘salvation’ – but it soon became known as standing for “Soup, Soap, and Salvation.”
A vital component of The Salvation Army’s mission is to “meet human need in His name without discrimination.” The Army’s commitment to economic justice was expressed in 1890 by the organization’s founder, William Booth, in his “Cab Horse Charter:”
“… every Cab Horse in London has Three things: a shelter for the night, food for its stomach, and work allotted to it by which it can earn its corn. These are the two points of the Cab Horse’s Charter. When he is down he is helped up, and while he lives he has food, shelter and work. That, although a humble standard, is at present absolutely unattainable by millions of our fellow men and women in this country.”