Our Opinion: Salvation Army should empower its Wilson staff

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THUMBS DOWN to continuing tension between Salvation Army of Wilson staff and volunteers and the national Salvation Army organization that’s threatening to overshadow the positive difference this charity makes.

The Times reported this week that Jamilla Kirby resigned Aug. 15 as the local Salvation Army’s social services director, citing frustration with a lack of responsiveness from the nonprofit’s chain of command. Kirby said Salvation Army leaders didn’t give her the tools to fully do her job, leaving some clients unserved and underserved.

Kirby’s departure follows the late spring resignations of several Salvation Army of Wilson Advisory Board members and Montressee “Chon” Ferrell, who served as the first director of the local Salvation Army service center, a streamlined operation that took effect after the local Salvation Army church’s January closure.

We hold Ferrell, Kirby and the local leaders who left the advisory board in high esteem. They’ve raised concerns that the Salvation Army organization should and act swiftly to correct.

The Salvation Army performs vital work to help struggling Wilsonians. That work must continue, and it’s the national leadership’s responsibility to ensure that it does.

THUMBS UP to the inspirational first-day welcome Darden Middle School planned for its new and returning students.

Dozens of men in dress shirts and ties offered handshakes, high-fives and fist-bumps to Darden youngsters on Monday, cheering the kids and encouraging them in their studies.

Student support counselor Eric Lyons noted some students may not have a positive male role model in their lives. The children met lawyers, businessmen, law enforcement officers and other working professionals who embody the example of studying hard, graduating and giving back to their community.

“It sends a strong message that you can do anything that you want to do,” Willie Williams told Times reporter Drew C. Wilson. “You have to work at it, but it is possible.”

Mentorship and encouragement is important for all young men, whether or not there’s a father in the home. For those without dads, having a male role model to emulate is crucial. Thanks to cooperation from community leaders, Darden Middle was able to start the school year on the right foot for its students.

THUMBS DOWN to Lucama Mayor Jed Simpson for publicly criticizing Wilson County commissioners after the county’s emergency medical services committee recommended building a new Wilson County EMS substation in Black Creek.

The town of Black Creek offered to donate town-owned land and provide water and sewer hookups for the EMS South Station. “We want to be a team player,” Mayor Ralph “Mack” Smith Jr. told Times reporter Olivia Neeley.

Simpson was miffed that county officials picked Black Creek over Lucama.

In a comment posted to our story on WilsonTimes.com from a relative’s Facebook account signed “Mayor of Lucama J. Simpson,” Lucama’s chief ambassador wrote that his town “is always left out of the loop as being in Wilson County” and cited a study showing the Lucama area’s high EMS call volume, concluding that “I guess some commissioners cannot read.”

Simpson said Lucama also pledged free land, water and sewer. But if his dealings with county officials were anything like his public call-out, we’re not surprised commissioners declined to take him up on the offer.

We might sympathize with Lucama if it weren’t for the mayor’s poor diplomacy. He owes the Board of Commissioners — and the residents he represents — an apology.

THUMBS UP to Sheriff Calvin Woodard, Deputy Dillon Pate and the men and women of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office for giving 7-year-old Nathaniel Parker a birthday he’ll never forget.

Young Nathaniel celebrated his birthday at the sheriff’s office last week. Pate met the boy while patrolling his Lucama neighborhood, and Nathaniel shared his wish to be a law enforcement officer when he grows up. His mom, Amanda Parker, asked if Nathaniel could tour the sheriff’s office for his birthday. Woodard and his deputies were glad to oblige.

“I think he’s going to remember this for the rest of his life,” Parker told Times reporter Olivia Neeley. Her son received a junior deputy badge and sheriff’s office patch, took a ride around the block in a patrol car and was even invited to sit behind Woodard’s desk.

The visit inspired Nathaniel, and it also warmed deputies’ hearts. “For him to come here with a uniform on, it means a lot to all of us,” the sheriff said.