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Salvation Army gets new leader

Monday, August 5, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

People visiting the Salvation Army of Martinsville and Henry County might recognize its new commanding officer — she has worked there before.

Lt. Shauntrice Williams has been on the job for about five weeks. Originally from Gaithersburg, Md., she did an internship at the local corps a few years ago while she was training to become an officer.

Williams, 26, previously was an assistant commander at the Savannah, Ga., corps and then operated a community center at the Augusta, Ga., corps.

The local corps, on Memorial Boulevard in Martinsville, is the first one of which she has solely been in charge. She acknowledged that the two corps where she previously worked are in much larger cities.

Martinsville “may be a smaller community, but it’s a bigger responsibility,” Williams said.

She will oversee a local organization that is a church as well as a provider of social services, such as food and financial aid for the needy.

For instance, records show the corps so far this year has provided rent and utility payment assistance to 226 households, and it has given out about 55 bags of groceries a month. Just in July, it served 167 free prepared meals.

Sunday school and Christian worship services are held Sunday mornings.

Youth services are among the corps’ other services. They include a “corps cadets” program for teenagers that is designed to develop their spirituality and leadership skills, as well as character-building and life skills development programs for younger kids.

“We’re more than just the bell ringers at Christmastime,” Williams said.

She wants people to be aware of that because one of her goals as the new commanding officer is to increase the corps’ visibility in the community.

Hopefully, that will help increase donations of money and food in coming months, she said, adding that both typically are low at this time of the year, as is the case now.

Among her other goals are to build partnerships with local businesses and institutions and give the corps’ thrift store in Collinsville a makeover.

Williams has been involved in the Salvation Army since she was 9, when she took part in activities at the Montgomery County, Md., corps. There, she got to know Capts. Melvin and Dianne Welch, who were the commanding officers before they were transferred to the Martinsville corps about a decade ago.

When she did her internship in Martinsville, the corps was commanded by Capts. Orville and Debra Chambless.

Both the Welches and Chamblesses were transferred to other corps. The Salvation Army typically transfers its commanding officers every few years, based on needs of corps at specific times and capabilities of officers. Some are able to stay longer in a particular locality than others.

Williams succeeds Lt. Lisa Knotts, who was transferred to Louisville, Ky.

Williams recalled feeling a yearning to be a Salvation Army officer when she was 14.

Ultimately, “I felt it was God calling me” into the organization’s ministry, she said. “I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.”

She enjoys her job because of its various duties, which range from leading worship services to overseeing the corps’ administrative functions.

“No two of my days are the same,” Williams said.

Since moving here, she has found Henry County and Martinsville residents to be “very welcoming,” she said.

“It feels like a homecoming,” Williams said. “I’ve been welcomed with open arms.”

So open, she said, that she already knows she would love to be assigned to Martinsville permanently — if only the divisional headquarters would do that.


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