Majors Roger & Carol Duperree discuss all the good The Salvation Army is doing in RI
By Ralph Davis
I used to think of the Salvation Army as comprised of just thrift stores. Man, was I wrong. Instead, it is a worldwide organization with its headquarters in London England with a membership of 1.7 million. Their mottos: “Doing the Most Good,” and “Love beyond”
Viewing it from a military standpoint, when entering enemy territory, the first thing an army does is establish a beachhead; a strategic position in which to work from. A perfect example of such a stronghold is the Salvation Army unit in Providence.
It is located in the very heart of South Providence where the streets are rampant with drug dealers and users, crime and more. Most notably though, it is an area comprised of an untold number of folks that are broken and lonely that have the opportunity to benefit from what the Salvation Army has to offer.
The Salvation Army is, first of all, a Protestant church. It was founded in London, England in 1865 by William Booth a London minister. Booth Left the comfort of the pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
According to Major Roger Duperree of the Broad Street location, Booth “came to realize that is very difficult to reach out to people with his message while they are hungry and lack clothing or other essential items and began to provide for such needs first.” One might surmise then that this was the start of the Salvation Army social service component.
Major Roger and his wife Major Carol oversee the Broad Street operation and have been there since 2019. They are associate state coordinators and have had a number of assignments in the US and particularly Philadelphia. They believe that they are “Called to make a difference in the lives of people that are losing hope.”
Having the pleasure of spending time with them, I came away with the impression that they are two people with a genuine passion for alleviating the pain and suffering in the community as best as they can. Both gentle spoken and sharing the same conviction and passion for helping others, they seem to be the perfect pair.
Major Roger said that their unit is called a Corps Community Center and there are two others in RI: in Pawtucket and Newport. He quoted the words of an individual that fittingly describes the situation. The SA is “Serving on the outskirts of hell rather than living on the extremities of heaven.” Major Roger described their location as “Essentially providing a safety net,” for the community.
Major Carol said that people often come to the center with desperate needs. They can’t pay rent or utilities, need clothing or food and other essential items. Some mostly need counseling; a listening ear, as they navigate within the jungle in which they live.
There is a food pantry that is open on Wednesday from 9-12. For clothing needs, it is typical for a voucher to be issued which can be redeemed for clothing at one of the thrift stores. Furniture needs can be taken care of as well. The Sunday evening meal is served from 4:00–4:45 pm
To best serve you, making an appointment is necessary. You can call their receptionist, Kathleen, at 401-831-1119 and she will be happy to assist you. Extreme emergencies, of course, will be addressed quickly
Major Carol said that they wish that they could do more, have more time available or rooms open but they need help, and volunteers to help fill the many voids. They especially need assistance with their community programs such as the soup kitchen, the food pantry and holiday programs.
A Monday night Bible study takes place at 7 pm. Sunday school is at 10:30 am with the church service at 11:15. All are most welcome to attend any of these.
I had the opportunity to speak with a man named Michael Vandenburgh. He said that he became a believer in Jesus Christ while in his twenties. He then began addicted to drugs which lasted for years. He ended up incarcerated at the ACI and when he was released he had nowhere to go and learned about the Adult Rehabilitation Center ** located at 201 Pitman Street in Providence. They took him right in.
It was there that his belief and love for the Lord was reunited and he is on fire to this day! He was offered the position of truck driver for the SA and did that for a while. He was then given the job as head of the maintenance department. This is not only a paid position but is one that offers him room and board.
Michael knows what it is like to be crying for help. Part of his excitement about living there is has many opportunities to speak with people in the program, encouraging and spurring them on to success. He unabashedly proclaims Jesus Christ as the number one catalyst for change.
Asked to speak to our readers, Major Roger ended the interview by saying “When you are walking on a tightrope and you begin to fall we are there to catch you.”
The Providence Corps Community Center is located at 386 Broad Street. The number there is 401-831-1119. The Newport office can be reached at 401-846-3234 and Pawtucket at 401-723-9533.
*For a comprehensive article about the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center see “A fresh start” article in the September 2019 issue of Street Sights. It can be found, as well as many other past articles, at Streetsights.wordpress.com.