Doing the Most Good in Del Oro

Innovative programs, holistic ministry

by Sue Schumann Warner – 

Camp Del Oro, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, provides lots of fun times for campers of all ages.

“Doing the Most Good”? It’s an ambitious slogan…yet it’s one the Del Oro Division puts into practice 24/7 as Salvationists—soldiers and officers— and the employees who work alongside them, put hearts and hands to work, meeting the needs of those they serve.

What does “Doing the Most Good” mean in Del Oro?

  • In Antioch, it’s an after school program where struggling students, many of whose parents are drug addicts, receive help with lessons—as well as much-needed encouragement and support.
  • In Lodi, it’s a free medical clinic located at the corps, whose volunteer director is a doctor and an advisory board member.
  • In Stockton, it’s a support group for teens—boys and girls—who have been sexually abused.
  • In Oakland Chinatown, it’s outings and special classes for senior citizens, who find comfort and companionship in the shared language and culture of the corps.
  • In Sacramento, it’s a clean bed, a hot meal, and a caring counselor at an emergency shelter.
  • In Eureka, it’s a dynamic singing company, youth program, leadership training, and vibrant Sunday services.

And in scores of other locations throughout the division, it’s providing help in practical and compassionate ways, touching lives every day of every year.

“The most important thing in all we do is remembering who we serve,” said Divisional Commander Major Eda Hokom. “If we can keep that straight, everything else falls into place.”

A new division
Hokom has served as divisional commander since 2002, just seven years after the former Northern California and Nevada Division divided into the Del Oro and Golden State divisions. Creating the new division brought benefits as well as challenges; one of those was generating a new identity. “It’s been a challenge to create an esprit de corps,” Hokom said, “but we’ve met that in a positive way.” This year, she notes, family camp was held in their own camp for the first time in 10 years—an event that was enjoyed by almost 400 people from throughout the division.

Creating a foundation of funding resources also provides challenges. “We’re building on resources previously developed, as well as aggressive development strategies, including capital campaigns, and internet donor cultivation. Captain Doug Riley, divisional secretary for business, skillfully manages this challenge,” Hokom said.

One element of the division’s development has been in “thinking outside the box.” In this case, it was to implement a new concept in programming: to not have a divisional youth secretary. “Our program department now shares the youth responsibilities and everyone works together as a team,” she explains. “Captains John and Pam Brackenbury, divisional program secretaries, do a variety of the youth programs. Captain Colleen Riley is responsible for all the ‘C’s’: corps cadets, camp, candidates, and current issues. Major Harold Stromberg, divisional boys’ work director, coordinates a division-wide pinewood derby.”

Financially solvent
In the best fiscal condition since the division started, and due to innovative steps taken by Major Jeanne Stromberg, divisional finance secretary, Del Oro is now current with all bills, including territorial headquarters’. After evaluating their debt two years ago, all officers and employees accepted the goal of financial solvency as their own and seriously worked toward accomplishing it. Cutting costs, initiating a one-year salary freeze, and developing other kinds of funding resources, especially major gifts and foundation development, all contributed to their current status. “You can’t spend what you don’t have,” Hokom noted. “You must live within your means.”

Another innovative element to this has been sharing two positions with the Golden State Division. An officer, Capt. Nancy Helms, is based in the Golden State Division, and does statistics for both divisions. Ken Cavallero, emergency disaster services coordinator, is an employee based in the Del Oro Division. Officers and employees accepted the goal of financial solvency as their own and seriously worked toward accomplishing it.

Holistic ministry is key
In Del Oro, as elsewhere throughout the West, the Army’s holistic ministry is key to effective service. “Holistic ministry is really what it’s all about,” said Eda, “It’s the integration of the whole person, whether we’re helping them with social services or we’re with them in church. We need to be thinking constantly of ways to bridge and integrate our ministry, because all we do is ministry—it’s not just social services on one hand and the corps on the other.”

She gives an example from the Roseville, Calif., corps: the corps has a unique program where each Friday, the homeless can get showers. They are also invited to attend the corps on Sunday morning, which many will do. A soldier couple that volunteers there recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by inviting these homeless people to a barbeque in the park. “They’ve almost become kids to that couple,” Hokom said.
And in putting their hearts and hands to work, they clearly are doing “the most good.”

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