Salvos pair warm to the Mid West

Jon SolmundsonGeraldton Guardian
Slavaion Army lieutenants Shannon and Tracy (back) with their children Henry, Bill and Alby (back).
Camera IconSlavaion Army lieutenants Shannon and Tracy (back) with their children Henry, Bill and Alby (back). Credit: Jon Solmundson, The Geraldton Guardian

After two years of training, the new Salvation Army Geraldton Corps lieutenants said they could not possibly have chosen a better place to start their mission.

Shannon and Tracy Watson arrived earlier this month to replace Jeff and Jacqui Milkins as the local officers, fresh from the training college in Victoria where they picked up skills in community outreach work and ministry.

Mr Watson said officers did not get to choose where they were sent — rather the corps sent them to the location where their skills would be best used — but they had wanted to go somewhere relatively regional.

“We were told where we would be going around September last year,” he said.

“We both received the letters at the same time, so we went to lunch together, opened the envelopes at the same time and almost immediately reached for our phones to begin researching the place.

“Even if we had been given a choice, I don’t think we could have done better.

“The (Salvation) Army really couldn’t have picked a better place for us and we were truly blessed.”

The couple are originally from Bundaberg, Queensland, and Mrs Watson said it was nice to be back in a warm climate and a similarly regional locale, since their time spent studying in Victoria had been much more oriented around city life.

She said they were frequent travellers, and had become used to moving.

“For a lot of people coming out of Salvation Army training, moving away from family is really hard, but it wasn’t so much for us because we already move around so much,” she said. “For us it’s just the next exciting step of our adventure.”

The Salvation Army’s military-style establishment is no stumbling block for Mr Watson, who spent more than seven years in the Royal Australian Navy, including extensive work with navy cadets which he said had given him a passion to work with the youth of Geraldton.

“My thinking in wanting to come out (to the regions), was that I prefer to work in a holistic community and engage with the whole town, rather than just a suburb in a big city where all the lines blur together,” he said.

“We want to partner with the community ... so it’s not a case of blow-ins coming into a new place and thinking they’re going to fix all the problems.

“We’re out to ask the community ‘how can we fill the gaps?’.”

Mr Watson said their key message was the Salvation Army was an army of volunteers, and though it had a religious aspect you didn’t have to be from their church — or any church — to help those in need.

“We are a mission, we are a movement, and we want to be that outlet to direct people who want to volunteer in their communities,” he said.

Those looking to volunteer in the Salvation Army’s work for those in need can contact the WA Corps on 9260 9500.

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