Damiani honored by Salvation Army

Published 10:14 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Salvation Army, as advisory board member Andy Damiani will tell you, does a lot of things that go on without a whole lot of fanfare.

Capt. Shauntrice Anthony of the Suffolk Salvation Army presents an award on Tuesday to advisory board member Andy Damiani for his decades of service to the Salvation Army.

But it took a few moments of fanfare on Tuesday to recognize Damiani during a meeting at the Bank Street headquarters by making him a life member and presenting him an engraved memento in the shape of a flame.

“We know your love and passion for the Salvation Army burns like a fire,” said Capt. Shauntrice Anthony of the Salvation Army.

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Damiani, 95, has been on the advisory board of the Salvation Army that neither he nor anyone else in attendance Tuesday could remember exactly how long. But records show it has been at least 30 years, Anthony said.

Damiani recalled giving the Salvation Army a rent-free space he owned at 109 Pinner St. for its thrift store many decades ago.

“One of the things we did for our community was the Salvation Army,” Damiani said. “It’s deserving. The Salvation Army does so many things that go along without a whole lot of fanfare. The Salvation Army is more than just ringing a bell.”

Even so, Damiani recalled his heart being warmed on many a cold December day by seeing the iconic Salvation Army bell-ringers outside of shops.

“People looked forward to seeing a little group of Salvation Army members,” he recalled. “I think the people had a high regard for the Salvation Army.”

Damiani, a former Suffolk mayor who owns many downtown buildings, has long been known as “Mr. Downtown” and “Mr. Suffolk.”

That wasn’t lost on Anthony for long when she and her husband, Lt. Johnny Anthony, arrived two years ago to take over as the Suffolk officers.
“When we first got here, one of the first things I was told was, ‘If you know anybody, you need to know Mr. Damiani,” Anthony said.

The Salvation Army holds a church service every Sunday, with an average attendance of about 45, Anthony said. There are more than 80 members, known as “soldiers” or “junior soldiers,” depending on their age.

“It’s not judged by membership,” Damiani said. “It’s judged by service.”

One current dilemma the Salvation Army has is how to serve all of the people in its service area, which extends as far as Surry, many of whom aren’t able to travel to downtown Suffolk.

“The needs are there, so you have to go and bring them into the fold,” Damiani said. “The needs of the people grow.”

But, he added, “Name five organizations statewide or nationally that help people get through life. The Salvation Army is at the top.”

Damiani appreciated the recognition but urged others to carry on his tradition of service.

“I’d like to encourage people to do likewise, to continue the flame you see here,” he said.