|Lt. Chris Williams, left, and wife Lt. Kiley Williams, right, sort through backpacks loaded and ready for local kids.|
By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Six weeks into their first official assignment as newly minted Salvation Army officers, Lts. Christopher and Kiley Williams are fielding backpacks and contemplating how their ministry here will take shape.
“We got about 20 backpacks delivered here today, and we're getting another delivery from the town municipal offices – they're still coming in,” said Chris Williams. “It's not like we stop taking requests at some point. If someone needs a backpack, we'll get one for them.”
Salvation Army office manager Deb Graziani is just back from delivering a Backpack “Christmas” Tree to the Hannaford supermarket, loaded with more tags. The hope is that residents will take a tag and purchase the items listed, which are coordinated with the school district to include items specific for each grade level.
“Donations are good too,” said Kiley Williams. “We can use gift cards or cash to fill in the items that are still needed – and of course, to support our everyday mission.”
That everyday mission is grounded in Christian ideals, a ministry “motivated by the love of God” seeking to “meet human needs” without discrimination, according to a statement issued by the International headquarters of the Salvation Army, established 145 years ago by William Booth, a London-based street preacher.
“Some people still don't know we're primarily a church,” said Kiley Williams. Just the other day someone mistook her for a member of the military. Her Salvation Army uniform, navy skirt and crisp white blouse with navy and scarlet accents, has also been mistaken for a pilot's uniform.
|Town employees together donated more than 100 backpacks.|
“It happens,” she said. “I grew up in the Salvation Army, so I understand that people think of it as a service organization first.”
And in many ways, that is really what drives the Salvation Army – acknowledging the need among those in community who are struggling financially or spiritually and offering tangible assistance, through services and programming.
Starting Sept. 5, the Williams' will be initiating some subtle changes to the Sunday schedule – Sunday school will begin at 10 a.m. followed by worship at 10:45 a.m.
“Right now it's still more of a coffee house atmosphere,” said Chris Williams, explaining that before the Salvation Army moved its operation to Folsom Street, it was located on Broadway and featured the Summit Cafe, a coffee shop with a teen focus.
The Army is about to move again, finalizing details on a new, smaller rental space. It's a cost-saving measure that should make it possible to channel more resources to outreach rather than operations.
“We want to see what this community needs, what kind of programming is relevant to families,” said Kiley Williams. “One thing we were thinking about is something called Moonbeams, for 4 and 5 year olds, that involves singing and story time, crafts, maybe teaching kids how to cook.”
The age group has appeal for the Williams' who have two daughters, 16-month-old Sydney and 4-year-old Abby. They are looking to connect with groups and families, perhaps using the Salvation Army Canteen mobile disaster van as a promotional tool.
“We're hoping to so a Popsicle Day at the end of August, maybe just go out to an apartment complex and park and give away some Popsicle and introduce ourselves to the community,” said Chris Williams.
By next month it will be time to start lining up bell ringers and corporate sponsors for the annual Red Kettle Campaign, the Army's major fund-raising effort.
“It's hard to think about Christmas already, but it's time,” Chris Williams said. “We hit the ground running since the day we got here, and it won't stop anytime soon.”