It may be the first posting of their career, but lieutenants Jared and Tonia Collins are looking to “dream big” as they assume leadership of the Sedalia Salvation Army.
The couple, freshly ordained after two years of Salvation Army training in Chicago, assumed duties in Sedalia last week following the June retirement of former commanders Majs. Mark and Sue Haslett.
“We have been here since Tuesday in office, getting to know the community and the people we will be working with,” Jared told the Democrat. “We are looking forward to what we can do here in Sedalia. Our community programs are working well and we are looking forward to seeing those continue. And we have such a great staff around us and they seem so capable.”
The couple met and began dating in 2008 while working for the Salvation Army in the Waukegan, Ill. area, but “though this is our first posting, we aren’t really new to the Army. We’ve been around the block before,” Tonia said.
“We were both born to officers in the Salvation Army, so saying we have a hometown somewhere isn’t easy,” Jared said, but noted that he considers Detroit home, while Tonia considers herself a Chicagoan.
The couple have a 7-month-old daughter, Zoe, as well as two daughters, Emily, 12, and Aliyah, 10, both of Independence, from Tonia’s previous marriage. And, though they felt a calling to seek a life with the Salvation Army, they were both concerned they would be placed too far away from the older girls.
“We were concerned where we would be location wise. We didn’t want to be posted to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and have the girls down in Independence,” Jared recalled. “That was a main concern, but we were confident the Army would take that into consideration and we both felt strongly this is what God wanted us to do.”
As the date of their ordination approached, the couple became aware that the Sedalia posting had become available, but, Jared said, “we didn’t want to get our hopes up.”
The couple were ordained along with other recent graduates before a crowd of some 5,000 by Gen. Linda Bond, the Army’s international leader, and were then informed that they had been selected for the open slot in Sedalia.
“When we got on that stage and they told us we were coming to Sedalia we were ecstatic. The girls are close and that is great, but this is also a great city and a great operation,” Jared said.
Since meeting with staff and community members, Jared said he was overwhelmed at how active the volunteer base is, especially the Army’s soup kitchen and summer food program.
“I was floored when they told me everything we do here, especially volunteerwise — serving 900 to 1,300 meals a day. That is just incredible to me. On Wednesday we got to see the Bible study here, so seeing the people that want to grow closer to the Lord is also a really wonderful thing,” Jared said.
Tonia added that the Army is only one organization and stressed the need for continued relationships with other faith and social service agencies.
“We know community partnerships are essential to do this. The Salvation Army can never accomplish everything. We can’t do it all. But, with other agencies and people in the community we can come together to meet the needs. If we want to continue to do the most good we will continue to need the help of our partners,” Tonia said.
Looking ahead, the couple, who are both trained musicians, said they hope to expand the group’s religious ministry, including the addition of a musical ministry.
“We are hoping to dream big a little bit,” Tonia said