The Salvation Army Southern Nevada: The Big Reveal

LESLEE ROGERS, PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER for The Salvation Army Southern Nevada (TSASN), has been on the job full time for two years after being a volunteer for 15. When you spend time speaking with Leslee and TSASN Advisory Board members and volunteers as diamondcake did, you hear about their concern that most people have only a limited understanding of what The Salvation Army does to help people in distress and how it does it.

When Leslee became Public Relations Officer one of her priorities was to better communicate what TSA does behind the scenes—a strategy she and several members of the Advisory Board felt would enhance the organization’s ability to reach its goals. Working with Advisory Board Co-chairs Bert Decker and Dudley Sondeno, the plan was set in motion.

Now Leslee looks forward to working with Advisory Board member Laura Ritz, Business Initiatives Manager at Wells Fargo Bank, when Laura steps into the role of Chairwoman in January 2014. Their mission: To continue raising TSASN’s profile in a way that sheds light on how its 19 programs guide clients from despair to productivity and sustainable self-sufficiency.

There are so many charities that need volunteers and financial support, and you are also active with the March of Dimes. How did you get involved with TSASN? How do you find the time to do it all?

My connection with The Salvation Army goes way back to when I was 16 and a member of our church’s youth group in North Carolina—we volunteered in a soup kitchen. Until then all I knew about TSA was their Thrift Stores and that they fed the homeless. Over time I learned more and more about what TSA does and was drawn to their mission to help people come full circle.

The clients want to understand how they got off track. After providing food and shelter, TSA shepherds them through a progression that includes rehabilitation, training to enhance social and life skills and education and employment prospects, then transitional housing. It’s not a quick fix by any means; TSA invests in people and their families with the goal of ensuring they don’t go back to the street.

And yes, I have three-year-old twins—a boy and girl—who keep me busy. But I find the time to work with TSA because what they do is that important. Plus my husband and I want to set an example for our children about the importance of helping others.

How long have you been involved with TSASN? Which hats do you wear?

We’ve lived in Las Vegas for four years. My husband had a job opportunity here, and I am very fortunate that Wells Fargo agreed to let me work remotely, though I do travel a lot for short periods. I already had an interest in TSA and thought the timing was right for me to take on a leadership role in a worthy charity. My husband’s friend, Jeremy Hilsabeck, was serving on TSASN’s Advisory Board. Jeremy introduced me to the board and three years ago a vacancy opened up and I was appointed.

Once I got my bearings I signed up to serve on the Donor Relations and Finance Committee. Right now I am chair of the Finance Committee and chair of the 2014 Annual Banquet. (I was co-chair of the 2013 Annual Banquet.) And in January 2014 I’ll become Chairwoman of the Board.

How many people sit on the Advisory Board?

There are 26 members, so there’s a lot of opportunity for those who have skills that can help us move forward.

Are you a Salvation Army soldier?

We are active in our church, The Crossing, so no, I’m not a member of TSA church. And that’s part of what I appreciate about TSA: it’s not about proselytizing, they welcome everyone. It’s about helping people find their own way.

Does Wells Fargo support TSASN?

For more than a decade the Wells Fargo Foundation has supported TSASN, including providing a team member to serve on the Board. For most of that time the position was held by Stephen Dastrup, a Wells Fargo Commercial Loan Supervisor. When Stephen stepped down in 2012 I assumed his position on the Board.

Wells Fargo was instrumental in supporting TSA with the Four Corners Food Drive hosted by Mix 94.1. As title sponsor they named TSA the main recipient, and Wells Fargo volunteers worked alongside TSA team members to pack and load trucks as donations arrived.

Over the years the company has also co-organized back-to-school drives such as Stuff the Bus to help disadvantaged children get ready for the school year. Since 2005 the Foundation has provided an annual grant of about $10,000 for program support. And Wells Fargo employees regularly help out at food drives and assist with food distribution. During the 2012 holiday season some of our colleagues volunteered to be bell ringers.

Leslee Rogers tells me she’s excited about working with you on new initiatives because you have “outside-the-kettle” ideas.

I’ve spearheaded two initiatives so far. One is a brand-new event in conjunction with the DISCOVERY Children’s Museum and other local charities such as St. Jude’s Ranch, The Shade Tree and Make-A-Wish®. The first annual “Day at the Museum” will be packed with fun, education and great food for low-income families at no cost to them. We’ve already held brainstorming sessions with the charities involved and I’m pleased that several companies have expressed interest in sponsoring the event.

In addition to the lunch and snacks we’ll provide on the day of the event, we plan to send each child and family home with food and coupons from local businesses because, unfortunately, the food served at events like this is often the only meal these kids will have for a few days.

The tentative date is early fall. We would love for this to become an annual event with more and more organizations participating each year.

What’s the impetus for collaborating—in a way, aren’t you in competition with other charities for donations?

In fact we are. But it turns out that when organizations with common goals work together on an event like this, we can make a bigger impact. If TSASN were to do this alone, we might have 30 children involved. With Day at the Museum we hope to host about 200. It’s easier to attract both sponsors and the media with a bigger event. And we like the idea of showing kids that there are a lot of people out there just like them.

And the second initiative?

I developed a new format for the Annual Banquet in March. For years the banquet was just for TSASN friends and family. Two years ago when Carrie Hurtik was in charge she decided to add a silent auction, which transformed it from a dinner into a fundraiser for the first time. Last year I co-chaired the event with Carrie; this year I am the chair. Our goal is to invite 300 guests and raise $100,000 for TSASN.

And much like the title of this article, we plan to use the banquet as a forum for talking about TSASN programs and the impact we have on people’s lives. Many of those we have helped will be there that night to talk about their success stories; we’ll also have video testimonials. We want to give guests and prospective donors an in-depth understanding of what goes on in our different programs. In addition to feeding the hungry and providing shelter and support to the homeless, we provide mental health counseling; rescue women from human sex trafficking; address alcohol, drug and gambling addictions; and provide support for seniors, developmentally-disabled adults, and struggling families.

We want people to understand how much value TSASN provides to the community—and we need to speak up about it. It takes money to do all we do, and I think if we improve our communications strategy we can help ensure the donations keep coming.

For information on the programs run by The Salvation Army Southern Nevada, visit

Previously published in diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for The Salvation Army Southern Nevada.