Mixed emotions. That’s how Salvation Army Capt. Dan Williams describes his impending departure with his wife, Kimberly, as they take new jobs as the county coordinators for Alameda County.
During the last six years, the Williamses have been fixtures in the community, running the Salvation Army shelter and its many programs and services.
They have helped guide homeless residents from the streets to rehab and finally into homes. They have led Sunday morning church services, hosted community events and served dinner to those in need.
One of their biggest achievements is raising enough money to finish the Hope Harbor Shelter on Sacramento Street, with space for a culinary arts school and three new single-family units for men to stay with their children or women to stay with sons older than 11. The nonprofit plans to hold a ribbon-cutting soon.
The couple, who have been married for 32 years, are excited for a new challenge, yet sad to leave Lodi because it is a supportive and friendly community, Dan Williams said. Their last day will be June 24, and new officers will arrive on June 27.
“There’s a lot to miss when you leave Lodi,” Williams said.
Williams sat down with News-Sentinel reporter Maggie Creamer to discuss his six years in Lodi and what lies ahead. Below is a lightly edited transcript:
Q: How will your responsibilities be different as a county coordinator?
A: We are going to be the county coordinators for Alameda County. We will be working with the Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley and Tri-Cities Salvation Army Corps.
As corps officers here, we not only run the shelter, the transitional housing, the culinary arts school and the different programs and social services, but we are also pastors at the church on Sundays. As county coordinators, we will not be corps officers, so we will not be pastoring a church.
Q: How do you feel about that?
A: Mixed emotions. I’ve never not been a pastor with the Salvation Army. We’ll still be pastoring the officers, the staff and the people who God puts into our pathway, but we will not have church every Sunday morning or the preaching and teaching, which is the stuff I love to do, so that’ll be different. That’s the toughest part of being in this type of an appointment.
Q: What are you going to miss about Lodi?
A: I’m going to miss the people. I’m going to miss the way this community comes together when there is need. They want to help, they want to be a part of the solution. If we need something, they go out of their way to do it.
I will miss the churches working together so wonderfully. I’m going to miss our Good Friday service together with the other pastors.
And I’m going to miss the people of our church here that we’ve watched come from homelessness, or (drug and alcohol) programs or they just wanted to worship here. The spirit is so wonderful here.
I was talking to my divisional commander last year about the possibility of moving. And he said, “You do understand there is no grass greener than Lodi.” And I agreed.
Q: What has been your and your wife’s greatest accomplishment?
A: The greatest accomplishment for us is working with the people in this community and getting them from homelessness to living in homes, off the streets and clean and sober. As far as watching lives grow, it’s been a really good feeling to see it happening.
Building-wise, we were able to get transitional housing going here for men. We started a homeless veterans transitional housing, and we finished the shelter ... because there were four phases. The final pieces were the single parent units and the culinary arts school.
... I guess one of the things that was said to me one day was I was gone on a Sunday morning, and everything went like I was there. The meeting went great, the classes went as scheduled. Sometimes when the pastor leaves, or someone key to the meeting, things fall apart. But they didn’t. We were just the ones who were chosen to come here and guide it.
Q: Tell me more about the culinary arts program.
A: It’s in its fifth year. Our ninth graduation is this month. There have been more than 53 graduates, and 50 of them are working somewhere. It has been one of the best programs, and the Army has been looking at expanding it at other Salvation Army locations.
Q: Describe the success rate as far as getting people off the street and clean and sober in Lodi.
A: We are doing really well. Each month we send at least 13 to 15 men to a drug and alcohol rehab program. We send a woman every two months, because there are not as many places for women to go for drug rehab.
If even half of those complete the program, there’s seven men and women who are now off the streets and doing well.
We are successful because of the way the shelter is set up. It is zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol, because we want people to move forward. If they will walk through the door and want the help, we’ll bend over backward to do whatever we can to get them wherever they got to go.
Q: Do you feel like you are able to do more because the community is so supportive?
A: Yes. Each community has to support what the Salvation Army is doing or we can’t do it. There is no big brother, there is no money coming in from our divisional headquarters. The money that comes into the Salvation Army here stays in the Salvation Army here. Every program has to support itself or it just does not happen.
Q: I know you have spoken publicly about your own struggle with addiction. Tell me more about that.
A: I was an alcoholic by the time I was 16, a drug addict by the time I was 18. I was doing crank and cocaine. I didn’t like needles, so that was not a problem.
I was in that kind of a lifestyle up until 21 years ago, when I finally gave it over to God and he took away the addictions of the drugs, the alcohol and the smoking.
I celebrated my 21 years sober on Aug. 5. That’s part of why I work well in this realm; I can relate to the men and the women I work with. I’ve had the addictions, I’ve been homeless as a young man, I’ve done those things.
That’s why it’s important for me to let people know that you can change. You can have a better life. There is a better life out there than the drugs and alcohol, or living on the streets. They can do anything they want to do if they just want to do it.
We want to make sure that they know that there is a better life and that God loves them.
Q: What made you feel called to become an officer?
A: My wife was with the Salvation Army as a child. Her mom had gone to the Santa Cruz Corps. When the Salvation Army came to Yuba City, she started going to the church there and she finally got me to go.
God just really began to work on our hearts that he wanted more from us.
I’ve known since I was 11 years old that God had called me to do something, but I didn’t know what it was or understand it.
One day we were driving to see her mother, and I turned the radio off and looked at her and said, “I want to ask you a question. I believe God is calling us to be officers.”
And she began to get tears in her eyes and said, “For the last week, I’ve been trying to figure out how to ask you the same thing.”
So we prayed about it and I called my corps officer at the time and said, “Kim and I would like to talk to you about the possibility of becoming officers for the Salvation Army.”
And he said, “That’s great, because I started your paperwork two weeks ago. Your preliminary applications are on my desk.”
I really believe it was God saying to us, “You need to do this.” So I left my construction job, and she left hers and we went to training for two years.
Q: What is the one thing you’d want to say to the Lodi community?
A: Thank you for believing in Kim and me. Thank you for be supporting us and making our time here special. They will be missed. There are a lot of people all the way from our board, to the City Council, to community members, to churches who really made our time here so blessed. It’s going to be hard to leave these people.