New Salvation Army captains feel at home in Aiken
David Phelps and his family have only been living in Aiken since June, but it hasn't taken long for them to adjust to life here.
“We already feel right at home,” he said.
Phelps and his wife, Amber, are in charge at The Salvation Army of Aiken. They both hold the rank of captain, and they both are 34 years old.
“From what we've seen so far, The Army, locally, is very well respected,” Phelps said. “I think the people in Aiken trust us to do what we say we are going to do.”
The Phelpses, who have two daughters, replaced Majors David and Angela Repass, who received a new assignment with The Salvation Army of Horry County earlier this year.
“Because The Salvation Army has a quasi-military structure, you know that every two to five years, you are liable to be transferred, so this is just the normal moving around,” Phelps said.
It helped that he and his wife were already familiar with the area because they had worked in a number of other places in North and South Carolina previously, including Charlotte, Burlington and Greenwood.
“We also both are originally from small southern cities like Aiken,” Phelps said. “I'm from Columbus in northeast Mississippi, and Amber is from Pascagoula on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.”
In addition, according to Phelps, the strong foundation left by the Repasses in Aiken was an important factor in making the transition an easy one.
“As officers in The Salvation Army, we are often given wells we didn't dig and orchards we didn't plant, so we inherit a wealth of resources from the community, as well as from the officers that were here before us,” he said. “We're enjoying the fruits of the Repasses' labor because they did such a wonderful job as the stewards of the finances and the resources here. We may make a tweak here and there, but I don't think there is anything major that needs to be changed immediately.”
Phelps and his wife will work as a team in running The Salvation Army of Aiken.
“A lot of her time her responsibilities fall more into the church programming and the Christmas toy drive, while mine fall more into the day-to-day business,” Phelps said. “But at the same time, she is involved in the day-to-day business when she needs to be, and I am involved in church and the toy drive when I need to be, so we share all the responsibilities.”
One thing that Phelps wants to concentrate on is making sure that The Salvation Army maintains its traditions while changing with the times.
“While our vision will stay the same, I think we need to become more savvy with the different ways of getting our message across, such as the Internet and Facebook,” he said. “Unfortunately, The Salvation Army is often the best kept secret in town. People know that we exist, but they have no clue what we really do. One of my main goals is for us to tell our story more. We don't just help at Christmas; we help 365 days a year.”
The Salvation Army of Aiken's headquarters is located at 322 Gayle Ave. For more information, call 803-648-0461.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.