Free food, free games, free rides: Salvation Army’s inaugural fall festival in Lima

LIMA — Volunteers from the Lima Salvation Army spent their Saturday morning driving to clients’ homes to see who was interested in attending the group’s inaugural fall festival, traveling as far as Spencerville to pick up interested families.

Admission was free, as were the snacks, games and pumpkin pie eating contest. So too were the rides to the festival, provided by Salvation Army volunteers to ensure families who lacked transportation could still attend the festival together.

Kids spent hours racing each other up and down the inflatable slide, seeing who could eat an entire pumpkin pie the fastest or playing ring toss on a set of pumpkins outside the Salvation Army’s Market Street post.

“The community gives us so much, so let us give them something for free,” said Captain Philip Bender, who became the Lima Salvation Army’s newest officer with his wife, Captain Charity Bender, in June.

The couple moved to Lima from their previous assignment in Pennsylvania, where they spent eight years with the Salvation Army of Huntingdon County.

In Lima, the Benders have focused on reviving pre-pandemic services and children’s activities like Saturday’s festival, which Bender said he hopes will become an annual occasion, potentially inviting other nonprofits to participate in future years.

“We wanted to see what it would be like,” he said. “And we have been blessed with so many people coming out.”