Sounds of the Caribbean filled the air as Capt. Martin Ross played the old favorite tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In" on the steel drum. While seated in the plush chapel of the Lodi Salvation Army, Ross said he teaches steel drum classes there.
Music is a big part of community outreach for him at the nonprofit, where he and his wife, Capt. Tory Ross, have been stationed since June.
The two first discovered the Salvation Army Corps as a place of worship while they were finishing college in Berkeley.
"We fell in love with the people. We felt very welcome there," said Tory Ross.
At the Corps, they would sit around a table and study the Bible. They enjoyed the roundtable format so much that they have built their own ministry on that concept. The roundtable made them feel welcome and important. They hope to make others feel the same.
The Rosses believe people don't find peace until they do what God calls them to do. When people desire to follow that is when they find purpose and really shine, said Martin Ross.
"Whether or not they believe, they have a purpose and people need to seek that out," he said.
Daily, the couple balances spiritual duties such as Bible studies and counseling with administrative duties including fundraising, managing their staff of 33 and budgeting. But their biggest priority is getting out into the community and meeting with people. Since arriving in Lodi, the two have done that by visiting various churches that help support the community.
"We're looking at ways to add to the services to make a more efficient operation," Tory Ross said.
A marriage and family therapist, Tory Ross provides counseling services to the visitors of the Salvation Army as well as throughout the community. Martin Ross, who began as a chemical engineer, now calls himself a social engineer because he likes to problem-solve — a quality that is needed in order to help people, he said.
The Rosses believe that working on the family unit as a whole is the best way to help people. Since the Salvation Army has many programs geared toward adults, they are hoping to extend them to children.
"We don't want to tear down what has been built, but build upon that," said Martin Ross.
They plan to continue the youth program already in place, but to also focus on tutoring, mentoring and counseling.
The Salvation Army provides a reward program for children who do well in school. The two are hoping to build on that because they believe children's self-esteem is affected when they suffer in school. These children are considered to be more at-risk of dropping out of school and joining gangs. This might help empower them, Tory Ross said.
Another of the Rosses' goals is to educate people on valuing different personality types and communication styles. They want to show that there is more than one way to solve problems. This will help people be fully equipped to move on to bigger and better ventures, said Martin Ross.
On the holistic side, the couple plans to teach a living debt-free class in January. Their own past financial struggles have given them the desire to help others live free of debts. Their goal is to help people understand the idea of needs versus wants. They operate on the philosophy of a hand up, not a hand out, because they feel it's important not only to provide for people but to help them along the way.
"For those coming out of poverty situations, understanding finances is key to helping them stay out of it," said Martin Ross.
The Rosses are working to get the Salvation Army's computer lab up and running. They are seeking donations of what Martin calls e-treasures — twoto three-year-old working computers.
The couple is also hoping to increase the number of volunteers at the Salvation Army. They would like to reach out to churches and businesses in the area to combine talents and time to help the community, and to partner with wineries to help educate those struggling with the issue of over-consumption.
The Rosses said they feel embraced by a community that comes together to help each other.
"It's not just by checks, but with their sleeves rolled up," said Martin Ross.
The couple, who were married in 1992, has three children in grades six and 10 and a college undergrad. During their off-time, they enjoy taking trips to visit their oldest, who is attending University of California, Berkeley. Martin Ross enjoys watching political shows and reading leadership books. Tory Ross loves to read and watch movies.
The two, both 43, have served in the Salvation Army since 2000 and have been officers since 2003. Prior to relocating to Lodi, the couple spent seven years in Compton and then served in Modesto for two years. They took over at the Lodi Corps in June after the departure of Capts. Dan and Kimberly Williams.
Their hope for the future of the Lodi Salvation Army is to continue to provide outreach for individuals, and help people become a dynamic force not only in their vocations and family lives, but also to live through the Gospel, said Martin Ross.
"(I hope) people realize if it weren't for the grace of God, it could be any of us in those situations," he said.