‘Most Rewarding Part is Seeing Others Give Back’
LOWELL -- Tim and Nicole Ross met as teenagers at the Salvation Army in Lynn. Fast forward nearly 25 years later, the two are on their third placement as Salvation Army captains, this time looking to make a difference in Lowell.
The married couple have different stories to tell on how their lives were on track to “fight for good and fight for God.”
When Nicole was 8 years old and growing up in Lynn, she remembered seeing a Salvation Army bus pick up kids in her neighborhood. One day, she asked her mother if she could go.
“It just became a second home and the adults that were there became my family and really cared,” said Nicole, who is now 38. “I became an adolescent and things at home got a little bit crazy. My parents struggled with various things, but the Salvation Army was there.”
She remembers the Salvation Army officers coming to her home to meet with her parents for Bible study, as well as financial and marital counseling.
“It was just a real holistic approach to my family,” Nicole said. “It wasn’t just about providing food for the food pantry, it was an entire investment in who I was.”
Over the years, her sister and parents also got involved in the Salvation Army.
As a fifth-generation Salvationist, Tim’s roots with the Salvation Army date back to before he was born. His grandfather came to the United States from England, where he also was involved with the Salvation Army. Tim’s parents were officers in Hyde Park and Athol before having to step away from active service as officers for medical reasons.
“We went to the Salvation Army as our church in Lynn and had youth programs, music programs,” said Tim, 40. “People invested in you. Each officer that came along growing up took time to invest in me, then eventually I was doing the bell ringing as well.”
Tim later became a youth pastor for the Salvation Army in Lynn and Nicole was hired as the after school director there. The two wed in 2004 and two years later, attended what is now called The Salvation Army College for Officer Training in Suffern, New York. They were captains for four years in Plymouth, then six years in Quincy before coming to Lowell in June. They said they feel blessed to have three appointments in their home state.
“Oftentimes I find, in our other appointments the officers have to bring the momentum. We have to show up with this momentum, even though we don’t know the community, the resources we have or anything,” Nicole said. “But here, that wasn’t the case. The momentum was there -- it was, you just need to get on board.”
Tim said the energy from the city was palpable, especially with the Radiothon, which is unique to Lowell.
“As we look to the future, we certainly want to strengthen the programs that are going on here,” Tim said. “But also look into the community as to where maybe something might be lacking or where the Salvation Army can help meet a need that’s not being met.”
Next month, Tim said they will be conducting a program study to delve deeper into how programs can be enhanced. Nicole said they usually take their first year as captains in a new community to really observe how things operate and what the needs are.
Wednesday was a huge holiday distribution day for the Salvation Army. It was exhausting, but was well worth it. Nicole said as people waited to receive packages of food and toys, you saw genuine relief flash across people’s faces. She said two women showed with a metal shopping cart waiting for their own packages. The women, who planned to walk from the Salvation Army on Appleton Street to Centralville, tried to maneuver their packages to fit in the one cart. Nicole reminded them, they still had food to get home.
“The lady looked at me and said, ’This is for my kids. I’ll do whatever it takes,” Nicole said. “I was just kind of moved by that.”
Although they cannot do this in every case, the Salvation Army made travel arrangements so the women could make it home.
Having three biological daughters and one foster daughter, ranging from ages 3 to 14, Tim and Nicole Ross hope the giving spirit of the Salvation Army will also be instilled in them. They take the time to emphasize the importance of compassion, kindness and understanding.
“It is a lifestyle for them as well because they’re along for the ride. Their lives change when our lives change,” Nicole said. “Our children are so enriched and rewarded from being a part of this community. So many people come alongside them and love on them and remind them that they do matter.”
The most difficult part as Salvation Army captains is dealing with limited resources and not being able to assist with everyone’s problem. But the rewards outweigh any difficulties for Tim and Nicole Ross.
“The most rewarding part is seeing others give back after they have been blessed with whatever assistance they may need and to eventually pay it forward,” Tim said.
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.