2017-12-03 / Insight

Salvation Army store makes a difference in the lives of addicts

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Cpt. Robert Buttrey and his wife, Lynn have been administrators at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Flint for the past three years. This summer he opened the newest Salvation Army Family Store in Lapeer in what was an old ACO hardware store on Genesee Street. 
Photo by Phil Foley Cpt. Robert Buttrey and his wife, Lynn have been administrators at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Flint for the past three years. This summer he opened the newest Salvation Army Family Store in Lapeer in what was an old ACO hardware store on Genesee Street. Photo by Phil Foley LAPEER — While he wears a military-style uniform, talking to Capt. Robert Buttrey — one of two administrators at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Flint — is like talking to any retail store manager up to a point.

Buttrey talks about traffic, demographics and resetting stores, but he’ll also tell you what goes on in his stores is “shopping with a purpose.”

The nine Salvation Army Family Stores he’s responsible for in Davison, Flint, Flint Township, Saginaw, Bay City, Midland, Owosso, Lansing and the newest one in Lapeer support the Salvation Army ARC in Flint. The ARC, he said, provides free drug and alcohol treatment for between 70 and 100 men at any one time. Buttrey said men in the rehabilitation program stay anywhere from six to 12 months.

Buttrey understands the importance of the program better than most. Although the son and grandson of Salvation Army officers, be became an addict in his teenage years and by 18 was doing time for a felony.

“I never wanted to do this,” he said. “I was an addict for 17 to 18 years. I didn’t follow Christ.” But one day he found himself kneeling next to the couch with his father and “he led me back to Christ.”

The kid with a GED earned a bachelor’s of science degree in practical ministry in 2013 and a year later completed his master’s of business administration degree with a 4.0 GPA. He and his wife, Lynn, are now responsible for managing 203 staff in the Salvation Army’s mid-Michigan region, which stretches from Bay City to Jackson and from Lansing to Lapeer.

Buttrey said he’s been interested in opening a store in Lapeer since he and Lynn took over administering the Flint ARC. “Even though it’s a smaller community,” he said, “it’s a county seat and there’s a lot of traffic coming in from surrounding areas to shop.”

Earlier this year Buttrey signed a fiveyear lease on the 15,000-square-foot space that had been occupied by ACO for 28 years on Genesee Street. The original plan was to open in March, but that got pushed back to June.

“That’s not all that unusual,” he said. So far, he said, the store’s biggest challenge has been getting out the word that they’re here. “We’re constantly getting new customers who tell us, ‘We didn’t know you were here.’”

The second biggest challenge, he said, is dispelling the myth that a Salvation Army Family Store is a poor people’s store. “The demographics of people buying resale is changing,” he said. “It’s not just low income, middle class people are coming in too,” Buttrey said.

Salvation Army Family Stores, he said, are like T.J. Maxx or Marshalls, except they can’t order things. Everything the stores sell, Buttrey said, originate from local donations.

The Lapeer store, he said, is budgeted for a staff of 15 with two managers. Lapeer resident Andrea Hartwell, who worked at the Davison store for seven years, manages the Lapeer store. “I really enjoy it here,” she said.

Like all Salvation Army Family Stores, the bulk of the merchandize is clothing. Housewares and collectables are the next biggest sellers and furniture comes in a distant third.

Buttrey said while the stores attract all kinds of customers, the typical customer is a 30-to-55- year-old woman.

“When you shop here,” Buttrey said, “you’re saving someone from a life of addiction.”

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