Since arriving here from Atlanta on June 16, Lts. Antwann and Bethany Yocum have set up house, gone out to get a feel for their new territory and gotten straight down to work on an alarming shortfall in the corps’ operational funds.
With this year’s loss of just over $90,000 in local and grant funding being compounded by a sharp decline in sales at the Salvation Army Family Store, one of the Yocums’ first orders of business has been to get the word out that the store is up and running in an all-new location on East Main Street.
“We need people to come see us,” Antwann said. “We can’t do it without store traffic. It’s very important.”
So on Saturday, Aug. 10, the Yocums and the corps’ staff and volunteers will host a daylong grand opening celebration at the new store at 1420 E. Main St., with hamburgers and hot dogs, prizes for the first 100 customers who make a purchase, door prizes every hour and one of the biggest and best Salvation Army thrift stores the lieutenants have seen loaded with good deals.
“We are going to have to figure out how to do more with less,” Antwann said after learning that this year’s $75,000 drop in the Salvation Army’s annual United Way funding is tied to a national decline in United Way giving.
Outside the corps, the Yocums have begun familiarizing themselves with the community they came here to serve.
With their children, 10-year old Mekhi and 3-year-old Mia, they have started visiting the city’s parks and hiking trails and report they are enjoying the city’s pace.
Unlike many past commanders of the local corps, the Yocums’ first vocation was not the Salvation Army.
High school sweethearts, they finished college, married and started their family and their careers in the private sector — Antwan as a child welfare worker and Bethany as a registered nurse — years before they felt called to pursue their commission as Salvation Army officers.
Antwan, who grew up in the Salvation Army church, brought Bethany into the denomination. But it wasn’t until 2013 that they made the decision to sell their home in Danville, Kentucky, and move to Atlanta to begin their officer training.
They were commissioned in 2015 and spent four years at the helm of Atlanta’s Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Center before the notice of their assignment in Johnson City came to them in early June.
Now in their second command, they are on track for promotions to captains in the Salvation Army in June. In the meantime, both are pursuing master’s degrees online through Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville.
Here they have found the Salvation Army staff working to meet the local need at both the Salvation Army Center of Hope’s shelter, kitchen and social services office and out in the community through the corps’ outreach programs for veterans, for people who are homeless and for people who are in need of food in the region’s rural areas.
“It’s a good team,” Antwann said. “Our time here will be important to preserving these programs.”