The shelves of the office’s wine-colored bookcases were bare, save for 13 Salvation Army dolls, gifts signifying the couple’s devotion to their calling.
Majors Ethan and Sue Frizzell had only arrived at their new posting two days earlier at 1204 14th St. W., but the agency’s new Manatee County area coordinators had begun putting their personal touch to the place.
“Serving here is going to be a privilege,” said Ethan Frizzell, 37.
“It’s only been two days, but I like what I see,” said Sue Frizzell, 40.
The area is not new to them.
Ethan Frizzell has family in Bradenton, he interned here as a seminarian and vacationed here with his wife and children Canaan, 13, and Hallie, 12.
“The community has tripled in size,” he said.
The Frizzells, who are joined by Lt. Jamie Ward, succeed Major Bob Parker and his wife, Auxiliary Capt. Kathy Parker, whose new assignment is Birmingham, Ala., which is recovering from April’s devastating tornadoes.
The young couple have seen and dealt with their share of hardship and heartache in 15 years with the Salvation Army, especially the last three in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina.
“The devastation was still there, although we saw improvements,” said Sue Frizzell, a Frederick, Md., native. “Residents were coming back home and businesses were coming back, too. But I don’t think New Orleans will ever be fully recovered or whether some neighborhoods will completely come back. They’re always going to be in recovery.”
They did their best to hasten that process.
“What we focused on was how can you help individuals and families and by helping them bring back the community,” said Ethan Frizzell, who’s from Pittsburg, N.H. “Recognizing you have to help those who are vulnerable and those who are stable, we did grants also for teachers, firefighters, police, EMS at same time as seniors, because you can’t only help one population or the other.”
It’s that approach which the Frizzells bring to the Bradenton agency, its shelter and its role in dealing with the chronic issue of the homeless.
Their shelter in New Orleans had room for 90 men, 70 women and 12 rooms for families.
Here it’s 102 for men and six families. The agency’s shelter for women is in Sarasota.
“We have to look and see what poverty our social systems might be causing vs. those who are passing through from other social systems and then determine how we’re going to invest our compassion into that poverty,” Ethan Frizzell said.
Engaging the business community is crucial to the discussion.
“Unfortunately, transient homelessness can be very hard on the business community, especially the downtown area,” Frizzell said. “It’s a difficult conversation because it becomes a quality-of-life conversation for all residents vs. compassionate service. We have to have those conversations without being judgmental or mean, but also taking in the real ramifications for business. You can’t lose a community in order to do compassionate service. You have to balance those.”
The Frizzells answered their calling to the Salvation Army under different circumstances.
Sue Frizzell grew up going to their church, “Fell in love with the ministry, the community and the people it served,” she said. “I started out as a social worker and secretary after high school. Then God said you need to do this fulltime.”
She entered the seminary at 24.
As for her husband, he was raised Methodist, but while going to Manatee Junior College in Venice, he was drawn to the Salvation Army Church, its legacy of service and entered the seminary at 21.
“I loved that you could use its resources to serve the community’s needs,” Frizzell said. “We get to connect hope to opportunity for those who wouldn’t have that opportunity otherwise.
“Our ability to meet human needs is limited only by the generosity and compassion of the community -- and Bradenton has a strong history of supporting the Salvation Army and is known for its compassion.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.