Devine retires as Gift Services director
Fulfilling various duties, Kathleen Devine now reflects on 26 years of employment with The Salvation Army.
By Karen Gleason –
Kathleen Devine retired as Western Territorial Executive Director of Gift Services on Dec. 30, 2016, after working 26 years for The Salvation Army.
She didn’t begin work at Territorial Headquarters (THQ) with the goal of leading a department, she said. In fact, she almost didn’t come to work at The Salvation Army at all.
In August 1990, she was ready to return to work after having moved to Southern California from Northern Virginia, where she had a successful management career in high tech. Spotting an ad for an administrative aide at a charitable organization, she called, but when someone answered, “The Salvation Army,” she hung up. She said she wasn’t interested in working at the thrift stores or the red kettles.
But then, she felt she should at least hear what the job entailed, she said, so she called back and scheduled an interview.
After a short stint in the planned giving department, she worked for Lt. Colonel Al Avery for five years in the business administration office. Eventually the legal department recruited her for the position of office manager, working for then-Captain (now Lt. Colonel) Victor Doughty, now Territorial Secretary for Business Administration. In that position she was responsible for numerous duties including gifts of donated property, assisting with the split of the Northern and Southern California Divisions, and serving as project manager for the gift management system, which at the time was the largest software system ever undertaken by the Western Territory.
“We’re still using the same software 18 years later; although we are in the process of developing a new system,” Devine said.
In February 1999, the Gift Services Department was created to handle the territory’s planned gifts. When she was approached about heading up the department, she declined, saying, “No, I’m not qualified because what I know about planned giving you can fit on the head of a very small pin.” Nevertheless, with leadership encouragement and the promise of obtaining her certification in planned giving, she accepted.
“The department started out with a staff of four,” Devine said. “At that time we were doing 100-150 gifts a year. We now have over 5,000 gifts under management and a staff of 18. We handle all aspects of gift administration and provide support to the field, assisting with complex assets. We want to ensure that the interests of The Salvation Army as well as our donors are protected, and that we are in compliance with all federal and state regulations.
Gift Services is also responsible for handling the estate administration work for the territory. “Our goals are open communication and transparency,” Devine said. “We work closely with the divisions and provide each of the ten divisions with monthly reports.”
No two days are ever the same, Devine said. The department handles a variety of gifts and unusual assets like airplanes, boats and closely held stock. “In many cases, The Salvation Army serves as trustee or executor,” she said. “It’s sad how many people don’t have family, or people they can trust.”
They do trust The Salvation Army, though. “In serving as executors or trustees of estates, we have cleaned out houses, cared for pets, placed flowers on graves and had donors’ ashes delivered to us,” she said.
Devine recalled a wealthy man in Santa Monica who gifted an entire block of duplexes. He had never forgotten his first Christmas in the U.S. as the child of Russian immigrants, when The Salvation Army provided presents for his family. “It’s very gratifying when you hear these stories,” she said.
“We work as a team and everyone is cross-trained,” Devine said. The work continues whether people are on vacation or out sick. “There is a lot of longevity and depth of knowledge in this department,” she said. “And we never take time off at Christmas. It’s our busiest time of the year.”
Devine said she is leaving the department in a good place and in good hands. “I’ve seen a lot of positive change in the department and in the Army,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful career and I am truly grateful for the privilege of working for The Salvation Army for the past 26 years.”
Despite having mixed emotions about leaving, Devine said she is looking forward to spending time with her 10 grandchildren, traveling and finally getting to take a Christmas vacation for the first time in 16 years.