Two weeks into their new assignment as commanders of the Johnson City Salvation Army, Capts. Nick and Fallyn Garrison and their assistant, Capt. Dianne Welch, are focusing on continuation of the careful financial stewardship and shelter renovations initiated by their predecessors and hoping to expand the corps’ outreach to children, youths and the growing number of older city residents the agency serves.
In update on the corps’ financial outlook, Nick Garrison gave credit to Commissioners James and Ruth Osborne, the retired national Salvation Army commanders who served a six-month interim command in Johnson City beginning in January, and to Majs. Gary and Patty Elliott, who were deployed to Johnson City in late 2009 to put the local corps’ financial house in order.
“The commissioners and the Elliotts did an excellent job cutting back on expenses and it’s in a lot better shape than when the Elliotts arrived,” Nick Garrison said in an interview last week.
“We’re still trying to get a handle on it but according to the commissioners, we’ve pretty much cut expenses all we can without cutting programming, and it’s still a stretch to meet our expenses. We’re kind of down to the bare bones on costs and looking for new revenue because the last thing we want to do is cut services that the commissioners and the Elliotts did their best to keep at the level they have been.
“One of William Booth, our founder’s, famous quotes is ‘We will do this and more,’ but it’s a tough balance, making sure we have all the funds we need to meet expenses and to continue to operate at the highest level we need to be at.”
The Garrisons’ past experience in challenging financial management give them greater hope for what they will be able to accomplish.
“At our last post in Paducah (Ky.), our focus was financial and making sure we steered in the right direction. We were there three years and the economy was going down then.
“We’re big Christmas fanatics and we’ll be out then with a more concentrated effort with our kettles. We’ll be doing tours, as they have done here before. ‘Behind the Red Shield Tours,’ they’re called. They’re walking tours and it’s amazing when you actually see what’s happening,” Nick Garrison said.
“The Center of Hope (emergency shelter and kitchen) here is a top-notch facility. I’ve been impressed. And people will be surprised to see. There is good staff here, definitely. And from what we’ve learned, when people see what we’re doing, they will want to help more.”
Also at the top of the Garrisons’ to-do list are renovations already under way at the Center of Hope.
With community donations quietly raised by Commissioner James Osborne during his brief tenure and with funding left to the corps through estates and trusts, work to install new handicapped-accessible showers and rest rooms in the men’s and women’s and children’s shelters at the Center of Hope are ongoing and new institutional grade furniture for the dorms has been ordered.
Beyond that, Nick Garrison said, the shelter is in need of new flooring tile and new lighting in the hallways outside the showers, new furniture in its common living areas, and other updates he believe the community will help the corps accomplish. “It will take more funding. The community has stepped up already and there will be more opportunities for them to step up and help with that.”
As they have done throughout their careers, the Garrisons, who met as teen counselors working at Salvation Army summer youth camps, also hope to reach out more to kids and youth in their new neighborhood. “That’s what made a difference in both of our lives too,” said Fallyn Garrison, whose first exposure to the Salvation Army came as a Girl Guard, the army’s equivalent of Girl Scouts.
“Our ministry is a practical ministry with more visibility in the community,” Nick Garrison said. “Sharing the love of Jesus Christ is behind all that we do and we’re excited to see what God has in mind for the Salvation Army in Johnson City.”
Welch, whose family’s membership in the Salvation Army church goes back four generations, said her passion has always been working with the elderly and she will continue that during her time in Johnson City, where between 60 and 70 elderly people take part in the Senior Program, compared to 30 seniors only a few years ago,
“We’re all still figuring out our direction, but I know I will be with the seniors,” Welch said.
“When we learned there was a shelter here, the shelter became the passion for all of us, along with the youth programs to bring in more kids from the church and, hopefully, from the streets.”