New commanding officers of Salvation Army pay local visit

STEUBENVILLE – Maj. Earline May of the Salvation Army of Jefferson County played tour guide Wednesday, showing Capts. Steve and Dolly Griffin around what will be their new home and their new duties as servants of the Lord.

Come June 26, the Griffins officially will assume the post that May is leaving for an 18-month appointment at the Salvation Army of Columbus. There she’ll spearhead the department for human trafficking and work in the finance department and then retire.

After the community says goodbye to May at the 11 a.m. June 23 service at the Salvation Army at 332 N. Fourth St., then comes the formal “hello” to the Griffins during a June 30 service, also at 11 a.m. at the Salvation Army.

“Today was orientation on the different activities that go on and being shown around town and the different events she has that we’ll be taking care of,” Steve said in explaining what their day in the area involved Wednesday.

But even as the couple prepare to leave one assignment in Alliance as commanding officers there to begin work in Steubenville, they don’t look at it as employment.

“To me it’s not a job – it’s a ministry,” Dolly said of what has been a call on their lives for the past 11 years, first as commanding officers for four years in Gloversville, N.Y., near Albany; then four years in Herkimer, N.Y., near Utica; then the past three at Alliance, one of three Salvation Army posts in Stark County.

The ministry is a second career of sorts for the couple, who will celebrate their 40th anniversary come August. Steve, a native of Princeton, Ill., was in the Marine Corps for 20 years, retiring in 1991, then was a commercial truck driver for 10 years, retiring in 2001. Dolly, born and raised in Rome, N.Y., worked in banking, retail and the oil industry.

Their no-church background over the years gave way to a churched one when Dolly became a member of the Salvation Army in the early 1990s. The Salvation Army is, first and foremost, a church, something many people don’t realize, they said. She also would work as a secretary/case manager at the Salvation Army in Rome.

“Every Sunday after I became a soldier I would say, ‘Do you want to meet me at church?'” she said of what would become a routine conversation in encouraging her husband to follow suit. “I would go about my merry way but imagine my surprise one Sunday when he says ‘I will meet you down there,’ and he started coming to church.”

May said the Griffins bring their own gifts to the new appointment.

“I run it one way, but they’re certainly going to run it differently, and that’s not a bad thing,” May said. “Change I’m sure is on the horizon in some things, and they bring gifts to this place that I don’t have, and it’s always good,” May continued.

“Steve brings to this place some maturity because he served in the Marines, and he would have a little better command of some situations that I may not have had because of his experience in the military,” May said.

“Dolly brings some new energy to this place,” said May, who admitted her energy level has waned as a caregiver the past two years for her associate, Lt. Karen Zehler.

“My energy has just gone by the wayside almost for the last two years, and they’re going to bring a new shot in the arm, a new energy that I believe this church needs desperately,” May said. “I am just anxious to hear some good things happening in the future,” she said.

May has been commanding officer of the local post for more than 10 years, beginning on Oct. 1, 2002. She is in her 40th year as a pastor.

May asked for an assignment in Columbus as she has family there and so does Zehler to help with care giving.

In the coming weeks, Steve said the couple will focus on getting adjusted and getting to know people.

“It’ll be an adventure, and we look forward to getting to know the community,” Steve said, extending an invitation for people to come and worship at the Sunday services at the Salvation Army.

The services are come-as-you-are.

“You don’t have to dress up in your finery – you just come,” May said. “I always say to our congregation God looks at the heart. He wants you in church. He wants fellowship with you.”