By Riley Manning
TUPELO – On the heels of Major Sue Dorman’s departure, the Salvation Army of Northeast Mississippi has received a new pair of senior officers.
Majors Jeff and Linda Daniel reported for duty on June 22, fresh from their previous assignment in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and said they are looking forward to setting to work in the area.
“So far, so good,” Jeff said. “We’ve worked in a few communities around the size of Tupelo, and we’re excited to help advance the Army’s mission here.”
Jeff and Linda both grew up in Oklahoma, and became involved with the Salvation Army as teenagers through the Army’s church.
“I grew up in the church with my family,” Linda said. “When I graduated from high school, I got a job at the Army’s thrift store as a cashier. The older I got, the more I felt a calling to make it a career.”
Jeff felt his own call at an annual youth rally held by the Army, and went on to become a social worker for the charity.
“Actually seeing people’s lives and become what God intended them to be is incredible,” he said. “Every day is something new, and is never routine.”
The two met at the Salvation Army in Enid, Oklahoma Linda had risen to the position of manager at the thrift store. The pair began dating, and married before departing to the Army’s officer training seminary in Atlanta. According to Linda, the Army will not admit a married person as an officer without their spouse becoming an officer as well. For this reason, husband-and-wife majors are far more common than single majors, Linda said.
“It’s most definitely easier as a team,” Jeff said. “I’m in charge of the more administrative duties, and preaching, and she does more of the individual programs.”
“The job is getting bigger all the time. There’s a lot to do,” she said. “I’m really partial to the youth, helping and seeing them grow.”
Linda, 59, and Jeff, 52, completed their training in 1992 and were commissioned as lieutenants. As is customary of aspiring majors, the Daniels spent five years as lieutenant, then another decade at the captain rank before finally advancing to majors in 2008.
“So we’ve been around a while,” Jeff said.
During their time as officers, Jeff and Linda bounced back and forth to several appointments in Arkansas and Oklahoma. They got word of their transfer to their first positions in Mississippi on April 28, the day an EF3 tornado struck Tupelo.
“We’re still in the learning curve,” Jeff said. “But obviously there’s a need for the Army in this community.”
For now, the majors said they would work to expand their service population and proceed with the prospect of expanding the Army’s homeless lodge.
“The majority of people we’ve worked with throughout our careers subsist right at or below the poverty line,” Jeff said. “It seems the homeless problem has become a more visible issue in Tupelo over the recent years, and that’s a trend we’ve seen a lot as economies change and populations become more transient.”
Army social services director Susan Gilbert said the new officers are already bringing fresh eyes to the table as they scrape through the summer lull and prepare for the holiday season.
“Money is really tight this time of year,” Gilbert said. “With people on vacation, they don’t think about non-profits, but they’ve had some wonderful ideas on how to help that problem.”