OSWEGO, NY – Oswego is now the ground zero for Salvation Army operations in Oswego County.
The Salvation Army in Oswego is realigning and expanding its programs, Major Donald Hostetler announced Saturday afternoon at the dedication ceremony for the Port City Citadel.
“As with many non-profits, the downturn in the economy has led many organizations to review operations, including the Army. After much prayerful reflection and planning over the past year plus, we are aligning the Fulton Corps of the Salvation Army under the direction of the new officers in Oswego and also including two services units under their direction, to encompass the entire county under one umbrella,” the divisional commander of the Empire State Division of The Salvation Army told a crowd of nearly 100 on hand for the ceremony. “Over all, we are looking at this model for other communities, too.”
The ceremony to officially launch the new county corps took place at the Salvation Army’s Community Center on West Second Street.
Colonel William Carlson, chief operating officer of the Eastern Territory of The Salvation Army, took part in the historic event.
“Our mission re-alignment is very positive for Fulton, Oswego and the county as we will continue to provide help and comfort to those in need,” Major Hostetler said. “The community center will remain open in Fulton. Worship services will move to the Oswego Worship and Community Center. It will also enable our officers to work with communities in the eastern side of the county.”
“Even as we look to the future, we give a grateful thank you to The Lord for the rich heritage that we have in the Salvation Army,” he continued, pausing to point out a picture of Lt. Colonel Helen Purviance on the wall behind him. “This picture reminds me of that heritage. This picture dates back to November 1919.”
The Army began in Oswego in 1886 – taking its message “to the streets because that’s where the people are”. They needed a warm place to hold meetings, he said, pointing out that “this is the north country. And so, eventually we found our way indoors.”
The Salvation Army first opened its doors in Oswego in 1893, and has been in continuous operation ever since. The first citadel in Oswego was officially dedicated on Aug. 1, 1920. It stood on the corner of West First and Cayuga streets.
At the opening of the new citadel, Captain Hayes told Oswego County Today that The War Cry, a newspaper that was distributed by the Salvation Army, talked of Purviance and the first Salvation Army building, which was dedicated Aug. 1, 1920.
The report says that the three-story citadel at West First and Cayuga streets was “one of the finest and best equipped” around.
“The basement had a laundry where the poor would come to get their laundry done,” Captain Hayes said. “There was also a day nursery. Students from the State Normal College donated their time for that effort.”
“A lot of (the Army’s local growth) was due in large part to this lady,” Major Hostetler said Saturday indicating Purviance’s portrait. “She came to Oswego in 1913 and found the Salvation Army still involved in a struggle to grow. During her service here, she changed all that and became one of the most beloved women in Oswego and in fact the entire world.”
Purviance is considered the first “doughnut girl” of the Salvation Army during World War I.
Purviance was commissioned in Oswego from 1913 to 1924.
In 1917, while serving in France, Purviance and other Salvationists would conduct religious services, concerts and bake treats for the “doughboys,” he said. “She built a heritage that continues to this day.”
The Salvation Army history book tells of her efforts in France; it doesn’t mention Oswego, he added.
“We all know she made a contribution here – a huge contribution. She returned here to resume her duties after she served in the trenches in France,” he said. “The rapid growth of the Army in Oswego is a direct result of the work of this remarkable woman.”
The Salvation Army service units in Pulaski and Phoenix will now be incorporated into the new Oswego County Corps.
Salvation Army service units provide similar social service assistance as a corps without the cost of maintaining a physical plant.
A service unit is entirely staffed by community volunteers. They provide emergency food, clothing, shelter and utilities to community residents, send local children to the Army’s Long Point Camp, provide back to school supplies and Christmas assistance.
“We believe the Army will be stronger under this new model. The new officers assigned to the new Oswego County Corps will bring energy and enthusiasm to this re-alignment,” Major Hostetler said.
He then introduced the new officers, Major James and Major Kathryn Purvis.
They have relocated from Elmira and are scheduled to officially be installed during a ceremony on Sunday.
Prior to Elmira, they were in Newburyport, MA. Previous to that, their assignments included the Troy Temple, the Buffalo Temple and Yonkers Citadel.
They succeed Major Corinne and Captain Kenneth Hayes. The Hayes were assigned to Oswego for 12 years. They have been reassigned to Niagara Falls.
Captains Kevin and Leslie Brennan, who were officers in charge of Fulton, have been reassigned to Franklin, Pa.
The advisory boards in Fulton and Oswego have been working together since February and are recruiting new board members representing the entire county and the service unit areas.
In addition to emergency assistance, the Oswego Corps has an active after-school program, soup kitchen, and fresh food distributions as well as providing camping opportunities at Long Point Camp for children and families and provide back to school supplies and Christmas assistance.
Fulton will continue to have a soup kitchen and free bread distribution.
“I grew up in Syracuse,” Major James Purvis told Oswego County Today. “It’s kind of like a homecoming. We were in Elmira for a year. Major Hostetler asked me and my wife if we’d give him some help up here. We have never denied someone in the Army when they ask for help – so here we are. We’re going to oversee the whole county from up here.”
“We promise to do our best. We want to serve this community, we want to make a wonderful difference,” said Colonel William Carlson. “What is important is that you follow the vision of what is important for here and now, what will be effective in this community.”
Prior to the Hayes, Majors Richard and Jody Best were the officers in charge of the Oswego Salvation Army.
They were reassigned in the spring of 2000 and began their new duties that July.
Richard Best was to become the divisional secretary for church growth and evangelism and would coordinate the men’s ministries for Salvation Army branches in 48 upstate counties. His duties involved overseeing spiritual ministries, evangelical outreach programs and mentoring younger officers.
Jody Best was set to be the division’s director of women’s services and women’s auxiliaries.
It was great to be back in Oswego, Richard Best said Saturday.
“There are a lot of good things happening in Oswego,” he told Oswego County Today. “The Hayes did a wonderful job while they were here. The Purvises will keep the ball going forward, not only for Oswego, but now for the entire county.”
For more information on the new Oswego County Corps, call 343-6491.