NSSDMC 2012: ‘Ready for Mission, Equipped for Service’

National conference targets social services and disaster management

By Christin Davis

Alongside baseball’s spring training in Glendale, Ariz., the 2012 National Social Services and Disaster Management Conference (NSSDMC) began with its own “season opener,” a welcome banquet for 722 delegates primarily from the U.S. and Canada wanting to be “Ready for Mission, Equipped for Service.”

“This is a great, energizing experience of collaboration, and a combination of thoughtfulness, passion and commitment of the Army in serving the less fortunate,” said Commissioner William Roberts, national commander, who participated throughout the event with his wife, Commissioner Nancy Roberts, national president of women’s ministries. “We want to be worthy of those we serve, so we all strive for excellence.”

Two evening plenary sessions focused on The Salvation Army’s social services and emergency disaster services (EDS), respectively. The final banquet recognized four territorial programs for excellence and achievement, which each received a $5,000 program grant, and eight individuals for excellence in social work or disaster management, “Sleeves Rolled Up” (see sidebar).

“All of us working together make the Army what it is,” said Major Betty Israel, national social services secretary. “Together, we come to the public table at the federal and state level; thank you for what you do.”

Testimonies showcased the power of The Salvation Army in individual lives, including that of Jeff Taylor who retired as a wealthy Wall Street securities trader at 29, but by 33 was living under a bush on the streets of Phoenix. He committed crimes to maintain a drug addiction, and went in and out of jail before a judge mandated him to the Phoenix Harbor Light. “I felt a sense of relief when I arrived, like I’d come home,” he said. Taylor went on to influence legislation in Arizona that releases nonviolent inmates 90 days early for treatment.

Kev Cavallero and Major Ron Toy discuss emergency hydration packs in the exhibit hall.

For the first time, the triennial National Social Services Conference included Disaster Management personnel and presenters, especially highlighting the Army’s relationship with FedEx in one plenary.

“In The Salvation Army, I see a bunch of doers,” said Shane O’Connor, program advisor for FedEx Global Citizenship. “It is a great example for people to follow.” In the past 11 years of its partnership with the Army, FedEx has donated 14 canteens, valued at about $100,000 each. O’Connor announced a donation of the 15th canteen to the Golden State Division in the Western Territory. Commissioner William Roberts, national commander, presented O’Connor with a Sleeves Rolled Up award.

Emergency Mobile Kitchen held a drawing for a 6’x12’ support trailer (retail value $13,000), which was won by Captain Barbara Schneider of the Petaluma Corps in the West’s Del Oro Division.

Michael “Mickey” C. Caison, disaster relief team leader for the North American Mission Board, urged attendees to recognize the value of partnerships with faith-based community groups in providing for the needs of people in disaster. “Sometimes Jesus used his hands, voice, objects, thoughts and power as God, and then there were times he used volunteers,” Caison said. He read the story of the paralytic, whose friends opened the roof of a house to present him to Jesus in Luke 5. “We need to be like these friends who had a conviction that Jesus could help their friend and did whatever it took to take him to him,” Caison said. “The world needs the hope that comes with meeting Jesus.” And to be successful, he said, we must cooperate, communicate and coordinate.

Beyond the plenaries, learning was key to NSSDMC. “Most importantly,” Roberts wrote in the conference welcome letter, “the paramount goal is to refine skills and deepen commitment for the life-changing work in which The Salvation Army is engaged.”  Ninety-three different workshop and networking sessions were available, ranging from combating child hunger, to compassion fatigue, to expanding homeless solutions and services. Program tours in Phoenix, including of the soon-to-open South Mountain Kroc Center, exemplified the Army’s mission and work.


“The challenging economic times in which we live, as well as the frequency of national and local disaster situations, confront Salvation Army ministries with increased demands upon resources, creativity and personnel. The 2012 conference  provided a means for delegates from across the country and Canada, as well as international delegates from Australia, England, Mexico, Haiti and the Caribbean, to acquire new skills, share information and develop the resource networks that will enlarge and improve our capacity for service. We experienced a sense of God’s approval upon the celebration and training that was central to the conference, and I believe that he will continue to take pleasure in the conference-wide commitment to truly be ‘Ready for Mission: Equipped for Service.’”

– Major Betty Israel, national social services secretary


In one workshop, Cindy Sutter-Tkel, Golden State divisional social services director, discussed understanding and responding to the needs of international families. “Cultural competence isn’t that you have it or you don’t,” she said. “It’s a continuum.” She suggested following the National Association of Social Workers’ 10 standards for cultural competence (see in both personal and professional life.

The southwest division youth singing company performs.

Worship was a critical component of NSSDMC, with the Sunday worship service led by Western delegates. Lt. Col. Joe Posillico, Southwest divisional commander, presided; Captain Monica Covert, from the Phoenix Citadel Corps, led the call to worship; and Lt. Mike O’Brien, Flagstaff corps officer, led praise and worship. Major Denise Hawk, South Mountain Kroc Center corps officer, presented Scripture in dramatic fashion, and Lt. Lisa Barnes, Southwest divisional youth secretary, gave a compelling testimony of being denied love by her mother, but receiving it in the Army. Commissioner James Knaggs, territorial commander in the West, preached from Mark 12.

“In this season of Lent, we acknowledge that the mark of a Christian is sacrifice,” Knaggs said. “We love ourselves less, God more, and others in between.” He said that our love should be about confidence, competence and character.

“We have something to offer in this Salvation Army,” Knaggs said. “We’re loved to love.” And that begins, he said, with confidence in our own salvation.

A focus on theology continued in the final breakfast session at NSSDMC, featuring Dr. Ron Sider, professor of theology, holistic ministry and public policy, and director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary. Sider also serves as president of Evangelicals for Social Action and has published 31 books.

“I believe in the last 125 years The Salvation Army has done better than any other organization in holding together evangelism and social action,” Sider said. “But I also know you continue to wrestle with this. We must ensure, unlike so many in the Christian church, that we do not tear apart word and deed.”

He spoke on six aspects to consider in maintaining the relationship between evangelism and social action: sin, nature of persons, the gospel definition, salvation, Jesus, and eschatology.

“If sin is both personal and social, if persons are body and soul entities meant to live in interdependence, if the gospel message is the fantastic news that the kingdom has begun, if salvation transforms relationships with God and others in the church body, if Jesus is the redeemer who intends to restore creation, then Christians should not try to escape the world, but change it,” Sider said. “We change it by leading people to Christ and by changing unjust social structures. We must love the whole person the way Jesus did.”

Musical guests throughout the conference included: The Southwest Divisional Band, Southwest Division Youth Singing Company, the Glendale Deer Valley High School Drum Line, and the Foothills Baptist Church Choir and Orchestra.

In the last remarks of the conference, Kevin Thompson-Hooper, chairman of the National Social Services Commission and territorial social services secretary in the South, thanked Israel for her service to the Army as she anticipates retirement. “I like to think that I have a good heart, because of the love of Christ that fills it to help the least,” Israel said. “And I know you all have the same heart as well.”

The 2014 NSSDMC will be held in Atlanta, Ga.


2012 NSSDMC award recipients:

Lawrence Williams accepts an award for individual excellence in social work for the Western territory from commissioner Nancy and William Roberts, national leaders. Photos by: Ron Bawden, Major

Territorial Program Excellence and Achievement

The Chicago Metropolitan Division Child Care Programs in Chicago, Ill. (Central)

The Anew Center: Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Program in Jamestown, N.Y. (East)

The Red Shield Family Lodge in Atlanta, Ga. (South)

The Haven: West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Healthcare Center in Los Angeles (West).


Individual Excellence in Social Work

Louise Simons, divisional social services secretary for the Northern Division (Central)

Florence Rhue, director of children’s services for The Salvation Army in Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division (East)

Deronda Metz, director of social services for the Charlotte, North Carolina area command (South)

Lawrence Williams, executive director for the Army’s Honolulu Addiction Treatment services (West)


Sleeves Rolled Up

Jim Daly, EDS volunteer in Minnesota (Central)

Allister MacLeod, EDS volunteer in Massachusetts (East)

Carlene Campbell, EDS volunteer in the Arkansas-Oklahoma Division (South)

David Sherman, director of EDS at White Mountain Outpost, Ariz. (West)


About the West’s recipients:

The Haven: West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Healthcare Center in Los Angeles provides services to 270 homeless veterans, many with a dual diagnosis of mental health and substance abuse, each day. The high quality of services have increased The Salvation Army’s visibility, facilitating and fostering community relations, as well as support from foundations and corporations. Most recently, the Haven was nationally recognized for implementing evidence-based programming and developing best practices modalities.


Lawrence Williams is the executive director for The Salvation Army’s Honolulu Addiction Treatment Services (ATS). Beginning in 1982 as an outreach counselor, Williams became executive director. Under his leadership, ATS became a nationally accredited provider of substance abuse and treatment services in 1990. He revised and upgraded the manual of policies and procedures, and provided staff with substantial training based on the Commission on the Accreditation and Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) operating standards, earning ATS its first CARF accreditation in 1991, and successfully achieving three-year CARF renewals to the present. ATS is licensed for 66 residential beds and annually provides more than 1,200 clients with quality treatment and recovery services.


David Sherman is a spirit-filled ministry leader at The Salvation Army White Mountain Outpost in Lakeside, Ariz., since 2000. Following the 2011 Wallow Fire, the largest in Arizona history, Sherman led all aspects of the response as incident commander. He also serves as chaplain for the Linden Fire Department, an agency representative for the Northeast Arizona United Way board, a member of the Governor’s Arizona Regional Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, co-chair of the Navajo County Community Network Team and chairman of the FEMA Navajo County Emergency Food and Shelter Board.


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