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For two-thirds of Maj. Bobby Lancaster’s life, the 69-year-old has served others through the Salvation Army. Now he is putting his experience to work in Wilson County.
Lancaster stepped up as the administrative commanding officer with the Salvation Army of Wilson on July 2 and on Tuesday, he had the opportunity to meet community members.
“In the two weeks that I have worked with the major, I am very impressed with his style of leadership,” said Gary Proffitt, chairman of the social services and communications division for the local Salvation Army. “He is a no-nonsense type of person that makes the right decision to correct a situation and give guidance.”
Lancaster graduated from Rocky Mount High School in 1968 and worked for the Salvation Army in Burlington for about 18 months before heading to Atlanta for the officers’ training college.
“I felt that the army was a great organization to work in a ministry with young people,” he said. “Young people have been the main push throughout my career through work at the Boys and Girls Clubs with the Salvation Army and other programs.”
In fact, Lancaster remembered former Wilson commanding officer Lt. Jake Law when the latter was a club kid.
“I hired Jake as a young kid for the Broken Arrow Boys and Girls Club, but I did not know my influence would bring him to the point where he also felt the call to work in the ministry of the Salvation Army,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster has worked his way up through the Salvation Army ranks through the years, eventually serving as the area commander for three years each in Richmond, Virginia, Greenville, South Carolina, and Charlotte. He also worked at divisional headquarters for the organization in Charlotte and in Washington, D.C. Lancaster most recently was the commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Durham.
“I enjoy the opportunity to be a part of so many different ministries through the army. I can come and sit and talk with clients looking for assistance, I can go to the Boys and Girls Club to see the leaders of tomorrow,” he said. “I can go over to the thrift store and see the pride in the faces of families who are using the money they earned to buy clothes or furniture.
“Every day the army makes a difference and every day the army gives me the opportunity to be a part of changing the lives of others. It is more than just a career, it is a calling.”
Despite all the years of working across the country, Lancaster returned to his hometown of Rocky Mount with his wife of 45 years, Kay. The father and proud grandfather said he looks forward to spending time with family while working three days a week in Wilson.
The advisory board for the Salvation Army of Wilson recently completed a list of recommendations for the organization’s administrative staff at headquarters to consider that would likely put the local chapter in a better financial situation.
“With the imminent restructuring of our campus, I am confident with the major’s 46 years of expertise he will lead us to make the right decisions and offer support,” said Proffitt.
The changes still are being considered, but Lancaster said he believes change can be good.
“I feel like the things the army did in Wilson in 1950 aren’t necessarily things the army needs to do to serve the community in 2018,” he said. “We have to reevaluate our programs to see whether we’re fitting the current needs of Wilson and refocusing our ministry is probably what I’ll help with while I’m here.”