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New faces take over roles at the Renton Salvation Army
Some new faces can be seen at Renton’s Salvation Army. Major Kris and Camie Potter have taken over from the previous captains, Chris and Lisa Aird.
The Potters come most recently from their five-year post in Salinas, Calif., which Kris Potter calls “the salad bowl of the world.”
The Potters have two adult children and grandchildren.
Kris called their experience in Salinas “incredible” in a recent interview and detailed what they were able to accomplish in Salinas.
“We revamped a senior program that was kind of slowing down,” Kris said. “We had excellent community outreach programs to families, kids. We had a huge after-school program that was a real safety issue for Salinas was the hub of gang violence for several years.”
Kris explained how many of the kids there would be jumped into gangs and the after-school program provided a safe environment for certain segments of town. There were between 100 to 125 kids in the Potter’s program from a variety of schools and backgrounds.
The Potters also provided a lot of homeless prevention services to the Salinas community through the Salvation Army when they arrived in 2009. That was right in the middle of a bunch of homes being repossessed there and property values changing.
“People were experiencing homelessness issues for the very first time or at risk for being homeless,” he said. “We helped try and sustain (the) homeless. We established homeless prevention issues by helping people get permanent housing as soon as possible.”
“Yeah, it was really fun,” said Kris. “We had a great time and we were able to impact thousands of people.”
He and his wife, Camie, have been with the Salvation Army since 1993. Kris said they realized quickly that they don’t get to choose what they wear to work or where they work from year to year. They do choose their attitude, which he said is a positive one.
“Because the communities we’re going to go serve in, they need us to be positive and to come up with some solutions to problems,” Kris said.
There are no major plans or overhauls scheduled for the Renton Salvation Army under the Potter’s tenure. Kris thinks that Renton already has some phenomenal programs in place. In July the Renton Rotary Salvation Army Food Bank supplied 1,995 people with food through its grocery assistance program. About 172 bags of food went to the homeless that month and 222 volunteers supplied 756 volunteer hours at the center.
Volunteers are key to the Salvation Army’s mission and Kris did say he and his wife would work to get all of the Christmas red kettle bell-ringers staffed by volunteers this year and not paid workers. That will be one of their first projects. The Salvation Army serves 900 to 1,000 families every year at Christmas. About 15 percent of the budget is the red kettle campaign.
“The bell-ringing effort as we move to an all volunteer program, would really help us to put more of that money back into the community as opposed to giving somebody a job, which is not our primary mission,” said Kris.
He described the vision of the Salvation Army as two-fold: volunteerism and community relationships.
“Volunteerism is what the Salvation Army has been about for its entire existence and we have a great volunteer community here,” said Kris. “The other side of that is our community relationships, whether its with other local churches or synagogues, or business groups…are a very important part of Renton.”
He hopes the Renton community will welcome he and his wife and share their individual stories about their experiences with the Salvation Army.
“We’re going to be endeared to the community and we’re going to open our hearts and become part of Renton,” he said.