On June 19 they will bid Anniston farewell and head to their new assignment in Ashland, Ky. But those who know them say their effect on the community will be felt for years to come.
Stephen LaFollette served as chairman of the board for the Salvation Army during the Kingsburys’ four years as corps officers. He said he’s sorry to see them go.
“Both truly have a servant’s heart,” LaFollette said. “They live the ideas and teachings of Christ.”
Curtis Simpson, executive director of the United Way of East Central Alabama, has worked closely with the Kingsburys over the last four years.
“Anything we ask of the Salvation Army, they always come through,” he said.
Mark Jones, divisional public relations director for the Salvation Army, praised the Kingsburys’ skills in administrative leadership and program coordination.
“They are wonderful people with enduring strength and a deep love for the broken and downtrodden,” Jones said. “They have a heart to see people overcome adversity.”
Both Darrell and Debbie are majors, an honor reserved for officers who have given 15 years of service, and both devoted themselves to service in the Salvation Army at an early age. Debbie was introduced as a child, tagging along with her sister while their mother volunteered.
“I felt the calling at 14 and just never left,” she said.
Darrell became involved even earlier. Born to officers, he said he is what’s referred to as a “child of the regiment.”
After a lifetime of service to their fellow man, the couple say they still delight in their calling.
Of all the good the Kingsburys have brought to the city, LaFollette said he was blown away by their work with Camp Hidden Lake, a week-long camp for at-risk children in second through seventh grade.
“These are kids in our community that they’re going out of their way to serve,” he said.
According to Debbie, for many of the children it’s their only escape from a world of neglect and abuse.
“One little girl said ‘I got to sleep in my own bed and I’ve never had three meals a day in my whole life ever,’” she recalled. “Can you imagine?”
Under the Kingsburys’ direction, the Core Salvage Rehab Center for men with substance abuse problems expanded to include Celebrate Recovery, a program to help men rebuild the relationships their addiction cost them, according to Debbie.
Neil Breimer, the substance abuse program’s director, who has worked at Anniston’s Salvation Army for 14 years, said the couple were able to gain access to two apartments that allowed him to expand the program to include six months of aftercare.
“That gives me 11 extra beds for guys who don’t know what they’re going do or don’t have any place to go,” he said.
The results have been encouraging. Darrell said the average program’s success rate at the end of one year is between two and five percent, but 25 to 35 percent of the men in their program are maintaining sobriety at the end of a year.
On April 27, LaFollette said, the Kingsburys raced home from a conference in Orlando to meet the many needs of the community and have been working tirelessly ever since. And there is still much work to be done. According to Darrell, 15 men and women, bused in from Tuscaloosa after the American Red Cross closed their temporary shelter, will spend the next four or five weeks in Anniston while their local Salvation Army is rebuilt.
“Our biggest need is for people to come sort through donations,” Debbie said, adding that anyone over age 18 wanting to volunteer can just show up Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Stepping in to fill the Kingsburys’ work boots are Burt and Cristy Lind, currently serving in Columbus, Miss.
“They’re high-quality, compassionate people,” Jones said. “Anniston is getting a strong officer.”
According to Jones, officers are usually transferred every three to four years, though some terms can last as long as seven years. The decision to transfer an officer is made by the divisional and territorial commanders and is based on the needs of the community and the skills of the officers.
“A lot of prayer goes into that decision,” he said.
Darrell and Debbie said they have complete faith in the couple taking over their duties during this time of recovery. They said they will miss Anniston and its caring residents, but they are looking forward to being closer to their new grandchildren, ages 6 and 3 months.
“What was a 12-hour drive is now closer to five,” Darrell said. “Just in time to spoil them.”
There will be a farewell ceremony for the couple and dessert reception after the church service today at 1:15 p.m. in the Salvation Army’s fellowship hall on Noble Street.