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The Salvation Army of Wilson has had a tumultuous year, but there is a new face hoping to bring stability and support to the historic nonprofit.
Angela Bateman rose through the ranks at the Tyrrell County Inner Banks Hotline to become a community advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She relocated to Rocky Mount in the spring and jumped at the chance when she saw the posting for the Salvation Army service center director. The 39-year-old mother of two said that during her decade of experience on the coast, she helped oversee the organization’s thrift store and administer assistance to clients.
“We had a pot of money, but like any nonprofit, we didn’t have a lot,” she said. “When we ran out, we’d refer our clients to the Salvation Army in Washington for assistance.”
Maj. David Phelps said officials were not coy about the challenge ahead for Bateman, who is filling the void left by Montressee “Chon” Ferrell since June.
“We didn’t sugarcoat this position,” Phelps said. “We want to be as transparent as we can and part of that is if we were going to hire a new service center director, it was only right to help her understand that this not a normal situation at this point in time. Even in the process of her being hired, we had many conversations. We didn’t want her to think she’d walk into the position and everything changes, so Angela was well prepared.
“We didn’t want her to wear rose-colored glasses.”
Salvation Army headquarters representatives pushed the board during the first part of 2018 to put together a plan to address the local organization’s mounting debt and in July, officials gave a one-year reprieve. In December, though, officials decided to shutter the church and create a service center that would be led by a civilian instead of assigning Salvation Army officers to oversee the post.
Ferrell was hired in February to fill the role, but quit in June after months of frustration and reportedly not receiving the necessary support from headquarters.
“I was told about some of the drama and told I would have some fires to put out and I have been,” Bateman said. “... I want the negativity gone and to have a positive outlook for everyone here. There were changes made, but we’re still here, we’re still going strong and we’re still helping the community.”
Among the first order of business for Bateman is hiring a new social services director. Jamilla Kirby resigned in August, but an interim case manager from Rocky Mount stepped up to see walk-in clients on Mondays and Wednesdays. Since the staffing change a month ago, more than 70 clients have received food assistance from the Salvation Army.
“Salvation Army has made a commitment to stay in Wilson County,” Phelps said. “It may not look like it did 10 years ago, but we’re still serving the needs of the community.”
Officials said support from the community is integral to providing assistance, serving youths through the Boys & Girls Club and expanding the family store hours to include Saturdays again.
“People need the Salvation Army and because of that, we need the community support. It goes hand-in-hand,” Phelps said. “We understand there is a need here and there always will be a need. People come through these doors every day needing help, so as long as that continues, we want to be here to provide assistance. On the flip side, we can’t do that without community support.”
Bateman said she looks forward to providing stability and reliability, especially as the Salvation Army readies for the annual red kettle fundraiser and Angel Tree campaign.
“This is an awesome organization that helps a lot of people, not only during disasters but during everyday life,” she said. “You never know when you are going to need the Salvation Army. Everyone always falls on hard times and it is good to know there is an organization like the Salvation Army to help.”