Phone call sparks partnership
How connecting with local officials can lead to better community service.
By Chadwick Phillips –
When settling in a new city, many of us fret the little things—where to find the nearest grocery store or how to navigate the traffic. For Lt. Ryan Bearchell, the biggest concern was how he could best serve his community.
Bearchell arrived on site of a major commercial fire in Santa Fe Springs, California, on March 13. Little did he know, he was setting up a great partnership opportunity for the Whittier Corps.
Since July 2016, Bearchell has served as the Corps Officer in Whittier, with his wife, Lt. Jennifer Bearchell. A fifth generation Salvationist, Bearchell was commissioned in 2015 and began his service at The Salvation Army Siemon Youth and Family Community Center in South Los Angeles.
Following his move to Whittier, Bearchell quickly embraced his new role: overseeing multiple budgets, running Sunday services, and managing numerous social programs and youth ministries.
“It’s a very different position,” Bearchell said.
His move to Whittier sparked new opportunities, including the chance to bolster the reputation of The Salvation Army in his new community.
“It is our job to go out to the community and to find the lost and to reach them,” Bearchell said. “It begins with the humility of approaching other people humbly. Don’t wait for people to come to you; go out and tell people that you’re here. Tell people that you’ll come to them.”
In order to make his presence known, he reached out to community leaders throughout the city.
“I went to the city office, the city building, the police department, and the fire department and I literally just walked in, was non-intrusive, and handed out my business card to a couple of people that maybe could hold on to it or would be a contact in case we could provide this, that, or the other thing,” he said.
Just days into his new position, Bearchell contacted the Whittier Police Department following an on-duty death of an officer.
“I called and I just made The Salvation Army available in any way that we could help,” he said. “And in doing so, I was put in touch with Sergeant [Jim] Uhl and I offered him support for his department and prayer for them.”
Appreciative of the offer, Uhl agreed to a sit-down meeting to discuss how they could better work together to serve the community.
“I told him that no matter how big or small the need was, if he had anything that we could help with, please give me a call 24/7,” Bearchell said.
On March 13, in the midst of a large commercial fire in Santa Fe Springs, Bearchell received a call from Uhl.
“‘Hey, do you think you can bring out some water and some food?’” Bearchell recalled Uhl saying. Ready to respond, Bearchell quickly gathered as many supplies as he could and, with his son in tow, headed to the scene.
“While I was there, I put the call out for others, so we ended up having about five volunteers,” Bearchell said. “I’m glad he knew that he could call me.”
Thankful for Bearchell’s response, Uhl contacted Southern California Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Kyle Smith to commend Bearchell.
“Ryan has inserted himself and The Salvation Army into our community in a transformational way that has not been experienced until now. He has proven himself to be a valuable and loyal partner,” Uhl wrote to Smith.
Bearchell says that his connection with Uhl has created opportunities for The Salvation Army to work closely with city officials.
“When the community knows that we offer the basic needs, simple things like water and shade, it opens a doorway,” he said. “The police department is now partnering with us. This coming Christmas they are going to be partnering with us, coming to help with our women and children’s emergency shelter. Such a simple connection can open huge doors.”
Territorial Emergency Disaster Services Director John Berglund—in charge of coordinating resources for emergency incidents—said he believes this relational effort is key.
“It’s absolutely vital that corps officers network into their area and make contact with emergency management officials,” Berglund said. “It’s absolutely vital.”
Berglund said it is part of The Salvation Army’s identity as an organization to respond to disaster incidents.
“There’s a national expectation that The Salvation Army, which services individuals on a daily basis, is also going to serve communities in crisis when needed,” Berglund said. “The Salvation Army is not mandated or contracted to do this kind of work. We do it because of the mission, and because we live in these communities.”