HOULTON, Maine — For the second time in less than a year, the Houlton branch of the Salvation Army has a new leader at the helm of the spiritual and charitable organization.
Major David Wetzel was appointed to lead the Houlton Salvation Army, replacing Damon and Phyllis Hayward who served in that role for 10 months. Prior to the Haywards, Steven and Irma Pearl were in charge of the group for a seven-year period.
A native of Philadelphia, Wetzel previously served in Carlisle, Pa. before being assigned to the Houlton branch by the corporate office.
The Salvation Army played a big role in Wetzel’s life growing up as his parents took him and his three brothers to the Salvation Army for church services. It had such a strong impact on him that Wetzel decided to become a minister in 1995.
“I enjoy the work … helping people,” Wetzel said. “I tried different churches over the years, but always found myself coming back to the Salvation Army. They welcome everyone.”
During his 19 years of service with The Salvation Army, Wetzel has demonstrated his commitment to serving others in His name. “I look forward to meeting my new neighbors and working together with the community to address the needs for families and individuals in the area,” he said.
The Houlton Corps offers general assistance of food, clothing and utilities. During the summer, children have the opportunity to attend The Salvation Army’s Camp Sebago in Standish. During the holidays The Salvation Army assists families with meals and gifts. These efforts help serve the primary commitment of The Salvation Army, which is to help meet the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of all people.
Prior to his current appointment in Houlton, Wetzel had appointments in Bridgeton and Morristown, New Jersey, New Haven and Bridgeport, Connecticut and, Carlisle, Pa. Major and his wife Karen graduated from The Salvation Army’s College Of Officer Training located in Suffern, New York in 1995. They worked together in all of their appointments. Karen suffered from four bouts of cancer and passed away in October 2011. Wetzel has two children and five grandchildren.
Wetzel said he had never been to Houlton prior to his assignment. His only previous ventures to Maine were visits to Old Orchard Beach and Rockland. The transition from a major city to the Shiretown will be an adjustment, he admitted.
“I came from a big operation in Carlisle,” Wetzel explained. “We had a couple of shelters and feeding kitchens. It will take some getting used to, but I like what I have seen thus far.”
Wetzel said his top priority is to get more youths involved in the program.
“I really wanted to get the young people back into the Salvation Army,” he said. “It’s important to bring back the youth programs like the boys and girls clubs, and I would really like to bring back the Salvation Army Band.”
Although Houlton is considered the primary office, The Salvation Army covers a broad spectrum in Aroostook County, with locations in Presque Isle, Caribou, Madawaska, Van Buren, Fort Fairfield and Fort Kent, providing social ministry and other services for those in need.
For many, the Salvation Army is thought of as the group that provides gifts to needy children at Christmastime. That effort, however, is just one small part of what the Army does.
According to the group’s website (www.salvationarmy.org), “The Salvation Army is an integral part of the Christian Church, although distinctive in government and practice. The Army’s doctrine follows the mainstream of Christian belief and its articles of faith emphasize God’s saving purposes.”
Among the many programs the Salvation Army provides are: casework services; character building programs; Christian education; community recreation and education programs, emergency financial assistance, emergency shelter, food and nutrition programs, group work services, men’s ministries, music and arts programs, residential camping activities, seasonal services, visitation services, women’s ministries, and worship services.
Houlton’s Salvation Army headquarters is located on 12 Court St. and is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; social service hours are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; children’s Sunday School is held Sundays at 9:45 a.m. and worship services are Sundays at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The Salvation Army has ministered to the needs of residents since 1888 and values its charitable role in the community. Wetzel can be reached at 532-2322 or by email at email@example.com.