Salvation Army celebrates 20 years, new building

Carnival games, tours highlight celebration

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Aundre Pitts, 12, of Washougal, plays the Lucky Duck game during the Salvation Army of Camas/Washougal open house Saturday, Feb. 24, at 1612 "I" St., Washougal. Free hot dogs and popcorn were provided to the more than 400 people who enjoyed the carnival atmosphere.

It may have been all fun and games for the children playing Operation and Connect Four inside the Salvation Army of Camas-Washougal (Salvation Army)’s new Washougal-based community center on Saturday, Feb. 24, but for many adults, the Salvation Army’s 20th anniversary celebration dredged up quite a few memories and thanks for the local ministry’s work in the Camas-Washougal area.

April Castellani, 56, was among the more than 400 people who attended the Salvation Army’s Feb. 24 open house.

Homeless since the first of the year, Castellani said she visits the Salvation Army’s Washougal center three times a week to take a shower in the new hygiene center and sit in the coffee lounge’s “real comfortable chairs.” The center is a break from her recent attempt to find shelter. Aside from a five-day stretch during the snow, when she stayed with a friend in Camas, Castellani has been sleeping in her car while she tries to make ends meet.

The Salvation Army staff has been kind to her.

“They all know my name and treat me with respect,” she said of Salvation Army Pastor Samantha Wheeler, Corps assistant Jessica Wheeler and Social Service Coordinator Kendra Taggart.

Born and raised in Camas, Castellani graduated from Camas High School in 1979, and still has family members, including a sister, son and grandson, who live in the area.

Although she was a waitress while living in Arizona, Castellani said her chronic health issues, including diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), have negatively affected her ability to work.

On Tuesday night, she eats dinner and attends Celebrate Recovery meetings at the Salvation Army. Castellani said she thinks it’s a shame more people don’t take advantage of the programs and services available at the local ministry.

“I do see a lot of homeless people in this area with backpacks,” Castellani said.

She is hoping to find affordable housing in the Camas-Washougal area after she receives federal assistance.

Rhonda Boni-Burden, 58, of Washougal, is on the leadership team for the Salvation Army’s Celebrate Recovery program for people with “hurts, hangups and habits.” She explained there are several ways that the ministry can help people who have fallen on hard times.

“If you live in a car and you have a job interview, you can take a shower, wash your clothes or get clothes, write and print a resume, charge your cell phone and possibly have a fighting chance. That’s a helping hand up,” Boni-Burden said.

Ernie Grindle, 55, of Vancouver, said the service opportunities drew him to volunteer with the local Salvation Army.

“It’s what we are called to do,” he said. “I found a lot of people here who are easy to love.”

The Salvation Army in Washougal includes a food pantry and free clothes. It is located at 1612 “I” St. For more info, call 360-835-3171 or visit