PITTSFIELD — Since arriving in July, Capts. Elliott and Darlene Higgins are still on a learning curve as the new leaders at The Salvation Army of Pittsfield. What the pastoral couple have found early on is the local religious-based organization deals with same issues as The Salvation Army churches in Athol and Fall River where they previously worked.
"In Athol, fuel assistance was a big need, even in such a rural area," Darlene Higgins said.
Her husband added,"The similarity in all three [communities] is the drug issue and unemployment, but that's probably the case for every Salvation Army in the state."
The Salvation Army is a Christian denominational church and an international charitable organization structured in a quasi-military fashion.
The Higginses come to Pittsfield with more than a decade of service with the Salvation Army in Massachusetts. They began as lay employees in Elliott's hometown of Fall River, working from 2004 to 2008 before entering a seminary for the next two years, emerging as ministers with the rank of lieutenant. They were assigned to Athol before being transferred to the Berkshires.
The newcomers plan to improve upon and expand the mission of the local Salvation Army, beginning with a youth movement.
"We're trying to make the church younger," Elliott Higgins said. "We now have a kids club every Tuesday."
The local Salvation Army will continue its long tradition of providing meals, a food pantry, clothing, emergency services and other programs for the less fortunate.
But the Higginses' ministry also wants to help people they serve become more self-sufficient and look bring to Pittsfield the "Pathway to Hope" program established in eastern Massachusetts.
"We want to find a way to empower them so they won't need food pantries," Darlene Higgins said.
To carry out the Salvation Army mission, the Higginses are seeking more volunteers, especially to build up their advisory board. Those interested can email Elliott Higgins at email@example.com.