The new commanders at the Salvation Army of Bradenton arrive with a long resume of administrative experience.
Majs. Bob and Kathy Parker have spent almost 50 years combined serving at several capacities and several locations in the organization.
But on his second day in Bradenton, Bob Parker, 52, made clear the couple’s first priority in their first command together.
“The most important thing is people, more important than program, or policies, or procedures or anything,” said Bob Parker, who previously served as a commander in South Carolina and Georgia with his first wife before she died.
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“Whether it’s those that we reach out to serve, whether it’s employees or those who are part of our congregation, the key thing is people and what’s happening in their lives and how you can improve their lives and reach out to them at their point of need, whatever that is,” he said.
The Parkers come to Bradenton from Fort Lauderdale, where Bob was business manager and Kathy office manager for two years at the Salvation Army Broward County Area Command. They replace Majs. Tony and Suzanne Barrington, who departed for Leesburg after two years.
Kathy Parker, who was meeting with a women’s group Thursday and unavailable for an interview, has been employed at the corps, divisional and territorial levels of the Salvation Army for 25 years. Bob Parker served as a Salvation Army officer for 24 years, working at the Florida state headquarters near Tampa and headquarters in Oklahoma and Washington, D.C., along with his command posts.
Maj. Robert Pfeiffer, the development director at the Salvation Army, said the Parkers’ administrative background will serve the local group well because the economy and an aging donor base have conspired to challenge the organization. Donations are down between 6 and 7 percent this year, while requests for service have increased 43 percent.
“They bring years of experience. They bring a heart of compassion,” Pfeiffer said. “In these difficult economic times, that’s going to be a real plus for us here. They also come with a heart for ministry. That’s going to be very important.”
Service is a family affair for the Parkers. Two of Bob Parker’s four children are working in the organization. Bobby Parker and his wife, Nicole, are officers in charge of the Salvation Army in Athens, Ga., and Robin Parker is an officer appointed as the assistant divisional youth secretary in Jackson, Miss.
Parker said he and his wife are still getting settled in and learning about the community’s needs. Pfeiffer said homelessness and unemployment are the most pressing problems the Salvation Army has been facing.
The organization will welcome the Parkers at a Sunday service at Salvation Army Center for Worship and Service, 5328 24th St. E.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be here,” Parker said. “There’s a wonderful staff here, many long-term employees that have given great service. We look forward to being here a nice, long time.”