Meet Salvation Army Lt. Hector Cid: Promoting Unity Through Faith, Service and Diversity
Salvation Army Lt. Hector Cid was in the middle of Christmas signups to help get toy assistance for kids in the Reading area when Pennsylvania Rep. Manuel Guzman Jr., came to his office with an unexpected surprise.
The Commonwealth was honoring him with a citation to recognize his efforts as an unsung hero who works behind the scenes to help his community. As someone who typically puts his head down and shows up to work every day to help people, he was caught off guard.
“I was speechless,” Lt. Cid recalled, “I didn’t know how to react because I did not expect this at all. I am kind of an introverted person as well, so I was taken aback by the praise.”
Despite the surprise, Lt. Cid was thankful for the recognition.
“I am not serving for the purpose of receiving recognition or praise from people,” he said. “We are serving because we see a need and want to address it and share the gospel through it. It is something to be thankful for.”
Lt. Cid is one of hundreds of officers in Eastern Pennsylvania who work every day to provide services as administrators, teachers, social workers, counselors, and youth leaders. In Reading, these services range from providing housing to youth programs to violence prevention.
To get a sense of who Lt. Cid is and what shaped him, go back to his roots. He was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and is the oldest of three children. He grew up in poverty and saw the impact it had on his parents, who were trying to give their kids opportunities they were not afforded. Religion was an important aspect of the upbringing he received in his Christian household. His family was grounded in faith by attending church every Sunday.
Lt. Cid started his studies at Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo for an Industrial Engineering degree but did not finish because he had to get a job and help take care of himself and his family. He migrated to the United States at age 18 for summer work, where he participated in an International Camp Counselor Program hosted by the YMCA back in 2006. With this work and travel program, he also worked at a few Christian camps in the Poconos and worked at The Salvation Army Star Lake Camp in Bloomingdale, New Jersey.
It was during the summers of 2007 and 2008 working at The Salvation Army Star Lake Camp where Lt. Cid learned about camp ministry and how different corps function. He also would visit his uncle, Alfonso Ciriaco, who is a Corps Officer and was appointed to Tarrytown Corps at the time.
After getting involved, Lt. Cid has steadily moved up the ranks. Since 2020, Lt. Cid and his wife, Lieutenant Melissa Lopez, have been Corps Officers at the Reading Temple Corps.
This past August, the couple was appointed City Coordinators of the Reading Corps. They oversee the activities and operations of the Corps and are responsible for leading the Spanish congregation. The couple uses a “divide and conquer” approach to tackling issues within the Reading community to maximize their productivity.
There are a lot of demands and responsibility for City Coordinators which can limit how much time they give to different issues and initiatives on a given day. Lt. Cid believes the dynamic and relationship with his wife has helped with this challenge and provides flexibility with their work.
“My wife and I have been able to identify our strengths and what we are comfortable working on,” he said. “I can imagine that, in a different context, it would be quite an interesting position. I am thankful we are a team.”
There are different issues Lt. Cid can point to within the Latino community, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, but he has narrowed his focus on a few things, such as food shortages, rent assistance, and immigrants transitioning to the United States.
“With the current state of the country, there is a lot of need for food, specifically with inflation.” Lt. Cid said, “We have seen an increase in people at our monthly food distribution where we are now serving 400 to 500 families.”
Lt. Cid noticed the numbers dropped once the country started opening back up but now has noticed a steady rise since July.
“There are a lot of rent increases, and eviction notices,” he said. “Then you take the influx of immigrants that have arrived in the city and combine the issues, and it's causing a bit of a situation.”
With the language barrier, most immigrants have a hard time acquiring resources or do not know what is available to them. This is where Lt. Cid and his team come in.
“At least 50 people daily come to our door asking for our services. We are trying to inform people what resources are out there; even if we cannot service them ourselves, we can refer them to an agency that can.”
Looking ahead, Lt. Cid sees building solidarity not just within the Latino community but among all races and cultures in Reading.
“When looking toward the future, we would like to keep on working to promote unity through the diversity of cultures around Reading,” Lt. asserted, “Not only in the Hispanic community but also the American community overall.”
Lt. Cid is also overseeing other initiatives such as worship groups and the identification of potential leaders within the community to work with The Salvation Army officers.
“Those pillars that you help form in the unit will stay there. So, we need to promote this unity and work together.”
As for Lt. Cid, he intends to just keep doing whatever it takes to help those around him.
“I’m not special,” he said, “I am really thankful for this recognition, but it is not about my power whatsoever. It is all about God working through humble hearts that are available for Him.”