Fishing for the kingdom
Small corps has big impact in Kodiak, Alaska.
The Salvation Army Kodiak Corps in Alaska numbers just 20 attendees on a Sunday, but these members are deeply involved in the town of roughly 13,500 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report.
“Kodiak is a warm and caring community,” said Major Cathy Quinn, corps officer with her husband, Major John Quinn. “Whenever there is a tragedy or disaster the whole community comes together to help.”
A hub for the maritime industry of southern Alaska, Kodiak Island maintains a large and varied fishing fleet. The population decreases during fishing season—May 15 into September—while the fleet is out on the fishing grounds, an area the size of the lower 48 states. It’s also a Coast Guard community, with personnel moving frequently.
The Salvation Army provides a stable base within the fluctuating currents of people, seeking to meet their needs, whatever they may be. Each week, corps members serve up to 50 families from the food bank, run a kids’ club, a worship service and Bible study at the senior high-rise facility, and a visitation program.
In conjunction with other agencies in Kodiak, including Safe Harbor and Brother Francis Shelter, The Salvation Army also maintains a supportive network to promote substance-free living through the “Beachcomber Program,” the first of its kind in the community that provides a drug-free, safe living environment for up to 10 men and women transitioning from a substance abuse program to independent living. In addition to safe housing, program participants work with a case manager to achieve individual goals in relapse prevention, mental and physical health care, vocational services, life skills training and adult basic education.
Powered by volunteers
Members run the corps’ vast programming.
Corps sergeant-major (CSM) Dave Blacketer, president of the Senior Citizen Center Board, speaks on alternate weeks in the worship service at the senior high-rise, and his wife, Carol, assists with the Bible study.
Gary and Sue Byers serve as quartermaster and assistant CSM, respectively. They operate the food bank, help with youth activities and are the unofficial corps photographers.
Adherents Tony and Esther Furio volunteer countless hours each year painting, waxing, fixing and vacuuming in the corps’ facility.
These three couples tag teach the adult Sunday school class, and Sue Byers teaches a youth class.
Adherent Barbe Wolkoff, family store supervisor and chaplain for the state of Alaska in the AL Auxiliary, runs an efficient volunteer program that works when the store is open and restocks on Monday nights, resulting in the store’s highest sales on Tuesdays.
Each year, volunteers run the corps’ Red Kettle program. “If we don’t have volunteers, our kettles don’t go out,” Cathy Quinn said. “During the five seasons that we have been here, our Red Kettle effort has grown from $15,000 per season to $25,000 this past Christmas.”
In touch with the community
Kodiak’s Coast Guard station, the largest worldwide, houses rescuers who also serve as active law enforcers, protectors of the fisheries, and as volunteers in the community when off-duty. One family began ringing bells for The Salvation Army in 2010, started attending the corps in 2011 and brought another Coast Guard family to the worship services.
The corps participates in the Ministerial Alliance, which meets each month for fellowship and conducts three community meetings each year—a fishermen’s memorial service each May, a community-wide Good Friday service, and a community-wide Thanksgiving service. The corps holds a community “singspiration” the last Sunday night of each month January through March, as one of the rotating hosts of local churches. Soloists and praise teams from the different congregations participate.
In addition to their duties as corps officers, the Quinns hold positions in the local community. Cathy Quinn is a volunteer chaplain with Kodiak’s Providence Hospital; John Quinn is a volunteer chaplain with Bayside Fire Station and opens each Borough Assembly meeting in prayer. He also writes a weekly column, “Another Day in Paradise,” for the Kodiak Daily Mirror religion page. Quinn said the weekly reflection of activities and events “helps keep us pointed to God and in tune to the needs of this community as part of God’s work in Kodiak.”