Captains Kelly and Katie Nolan know their niche and it doesn't include running soup lines, setting up a food bank or drumming up drunks...

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Captains Kelly and Katie Nolan know their niche and it doesn’t include running soup lines, setting up a food bank or drumming up drunks on the streets of Bellevue for Bible-study classes.

“Our philosophy isn’t to duplicate services that other agencies provide, but to fill the needs that aren’t being met,” Kelly Nolan said.

Welcome to the modern Salvation Army, where each corps focuses on its local community.

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For the Eastside Corps, that means helping families. It provides free after-school day care and rent assistance for families about to be evicted.

When the new Bellevue facility opened last year, the Nolans were busy organizing holiday giving trees and Red Kettle drives, and helping low-income families with Christmas gifts of toys and new clothes. Last month they launched the after-school day-care program.

During this week’s midwinter school break, a free day camp/vacation Bible school brought in more than a dozen elementary-school kids who got to pretend they were in Africa. A large paper zebra hung on the craft-room wall at the agency on 164th Avenue Northeast. The chapel wall was covered with a giant desert mural.

“Many of these kids would be latchkey kids if they didn’t come here,” said Kelly Nolan.

The Salvation Army

Salvation Army Eastside Corps, Center for Worship & Service, 911 164th Ave. N.E., Bellevue; 425-452-7300. Web site:

Day care wasn’t part of The Salvation Army mission when it was founded in 1865 or when it began its Seattle ministry on Skid Road in 1898. Then the church group ministered to the homeless and down-and-out.

In Renton, today’s Salvation Army runs the main food bank. Substance-abuse rehabilitation facilities are in Seattle. During labor strikes, the Seattle staff shows up with grocery-store gift certificates for families. Each December the Eastside group runs Toy ‘n’ Joy, a store where parents can pick out free gifts for their families.

Nationally, The Salvation Army has more than 9,000 centers, including rehabilitation units, thrift stores, senior centers, group homes, medical clinics, community centers and camps.

The agency has maintained small Eastside social-service offices for more than a decade. From 1996 to 2001 it operated a thrift store, chapel and offices in downtown Kirkland. With rental costs rising, the group purchased land to build a new center near Crossroads.

The 5,500-square-foot center includes a chapel that will seat 100, a large multipurpose room, several smaller classrooms, office space and a kitchen. A grassy area to the north serves as a temporary playground. The center’s modular construction eventually will be taken apart and moved when the permanent facility is built in coming years.

In 2003, the corps served 1,306 Eastside families (3,804 individuals). Last year that number expanded to 1,644.

Luis Ramirez, 9, left, and Eduardo Llamas, 8, right, are chased by JoAnn Stapleford, 7, during a game at The Salvation Army center in Bellevue.

“We see a growing need every year, particularly from September to November when a lot of agencies run out of funds,” said Katie Nolan. “I know there is an unmet need because people are looking for help and not finding it.”

Salvation Army funding comes from a variety of sources. The annual holiday Red Kettle drives, United Way grants and individual and corporate donations support the social-services work. Thrift-store proceeds fund the rehabilitation programs. The church donations stay within the church side of the organization.

In the 2003 fiscal year, the 31 corps-strong Northwest Division of Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana, had an income of nearly $18 million. Kelly Nolan describes The Salvation Army as both a church and social-service agency.

“In this country people think of the Red Kettle drives, soup lines, homeless and feeding programs, and a lot of times people don’t know about the church,” he said. “The rest of the world sees us as a church first and social services second.”

Both Nolans are ordained ministers. They came to The Salvation Army in midlife, attending the corps’ college in Southern California. Both university graduates, Nolan, 52, had been an electrical engineer, had his own computer shop and had been a youth minister in another church. His wife was an accountant.

Each Sunday morning they run a Sunday-school class and a church service. The Christian church has typical youth groups, men’s groups and women’s groups.

“In The Salvation Army, both husband and wife are officers because this is an intensive job, a round-the-clock job,” he said.

The couple’s talents blend well at the Eastside branch. She handles the accounting; he does the computer work and the preaching. Earlier this week Katie Nolan helped run the day camp.

The Nolans came to the Eastside Corps in July 2003. They worked at two temporary sites, one on Northup Way and the other in an office building in downtown Bellevue. From 1996 to 2001, the Eastside Corps was headquartered in an old grocery story in downtown Kirkland.

“This new building was supposed to be up in a few months after we came,” Kelly Nolan said. “It turned into a bit longer.”

One delay was the permit for the modular building.

The Nolans have high hopes for the new facility. They want to expand the child-care component, operate a summer day camp, and expand their outreach to senior citizens.

They’re both involved in the community — Kelly is a member of the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary, Katie the Sunrisers Kiwanis.

About the only thing Kelly Nolan doesn’t foresee in the near future is an Eastside Corps brass band — long a tradition of The Salvation Army.

“The army has a reputation for brass bands, but I’m not very good on the trumpet,” he said.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or