Salvation Army is a residential real estate powerhouse
By day, Henry Graciani oversees a 54-bed treatment center for alcoholics and drug addicts who come to him broke and hopeless. After work, he makes a quick drive to the $1.3m Santa Monica home he shares with his wife and three children. Graciani is not a high-paid executive returning to a beach retreat. He and his wife, Dina, are career Salvation Army officers who bring home $25,000 per year -- combined. They are among dozens of the charity's officers in Southern California who are paid modest salaries but given rent-free housing -- some in high-priced communities such as Rancho Palos Verdes, Seal Beach and Santa Monica. Best known for its red-kettle holiday bell ringers, the Salvation Army is one of the nation's largest charities. It serves more than 69m meals a year to the needy, houses thousands of the nation's homeless and provides ready response to worldwide disasters -- most recently in Haiti. It's also a real estate powerhouse. In Los Angeles and Orange counties alone, the charity owns 87 homes and condominiums worth about $52m. Nationwide, it valued its real estate holdings at about $4bn in 2008 -- one-third of its total assets.