Welcome, new friends

Published 8:35 pm Monday, July 8, 2013

It’s never easy to say goodbye to cherished friends, yet that is just what folks involved with the Suffolk Corps of the Salvation Army had to do this summer upon the retirement of Cal and Irene Clatterbuck. Their selfless service to the organization and to the city it serves endeared them to many of the city’s residents and served as a fine example of the Christian values underpinning the Salvation Army.

The sting that comes from saying farewell to the Clatterbucks, however, hurts a bit less in light of the fine family that has been chosen to take over for the Clatterbucks at the helm of the charitable service organization.

James and Susan Shiels come to Suffolk off a one-year stint at the Salvation Army unit in Warrenton. But their connection to the organization goes much deeper than that.


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James Shiels describes himself as “a third-generation Salvationist.” His parents were officers in the organization for 40 years, and his grandparents were involved in it, too. Susan Shiels began volunteering for the Salvation Army at a young age, and it didn’t take her long to decide it’s where she wanted to work. With the exception of a brief hiatus, the Salvation Army has been their employer ever since. They said recently that it has always been their church.

The Shielses come to the city at a vital time for the Suffolk Corps. Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on a new community center at the Bank Street location, and officials expect to open the facility later this summer. The building will provide recreational, educational and work spaces for the Salvation Army and the community it serves. Clatterbuck and the members of the board that advises the Suffolk Corps had high hopes that the facility would help reduce crime in the area by giving folks nearby a place to take part in positive activities.

The Shielses will be tasked with making that dream become a reality, while at the same time continuing the other important programs — from food distribution to operating the free toy “store” at Christmas — that are part and parcel of the Salvation Army’s mission in Suffolk.

It’s a tall order for this couple and the family they have brought along to Suffolk. But their long service and devotion to the cause give plenty of reason to believe they will be more than equal to the task at hand. We join the rest of the folks in Suffolk in welcoming them and pledging our support for their work.

The Shielses have big shoes to fill, but we’re confident supporters and clients of the Salvation Army here in Suffolk will soon be calling them friends.