Celebrating 140 Years in Grand Rapids, MI

Jan 3, 2024

In 1883 The Salvation Army began its work in Michigan in the city of Grand Rapids.  They recently highlighted the 140th anniversary by highlighting a plaque at the Amway Grand Plaza. Even though the site was memorialized several decades ago, the plaque had fallen into disrepair and was cleaned and refurbished.

(News coverage from WZZM-TV can be seen by clicking here and for Fox 17 coverage click here).

(Attending the ceremony pictured left to right Grand Valley Area Commander Major Tim Meyer, Greet Lakes Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Steve Merritt, USA Central Territory Commander Commissioner Evie Diaz, and Great Lakes Divisional Leader for Officer Development. Lt. Colonel Christine Merritt)

After the Grand Rapids Fulton Heights Citadel Band played “Onward Christian Soldiers”, Major Meyer read a brief historical account of first Army leaders and services in Michigan.

Mr. James Lowe, a Christian businessman in the city was visiting Canada on a vacation. While there he obtained a copy of the Canadian War Cry, and after reading the contents, he believed The Salvation Army was needed in Grand Rapids.

The first officers assigned to the Grand Rapids Citadel Corps were Captain Jane McCracken, Lieutenant Jennie Hall and Cadet Thorogood. Along with this being the first location in Michigan, the Grand Rapids Citadel Band was the first commissioned band in the USA.

Mr. David Hay was the first commissioned Bandmaster and John Youngblood the first commissioned Drummer in the country.

Since opening, The Salvation Army has relocated to several locations in Grand Rapids, but service has continued.  In addition to a Kroc Center and the Fulton Heights Citadel Corps which offer multiple programs for singles, families, children and seniors, Grand Rapids also has both an ARC and a Harbor Light program, plus comprehensive centralized Social Services for Kent County, Emergency Disaster Services with the territorial SATERN hub, a nationally recognized Pathway of Hope program, and Little Pine Island Retreat Center which is available for rentals including church camps and educational / corporate training.

Following the plaque unveiling, the Grand Rapids Advisory Board held a William Booth Society (WBS) luncheon to thank annual donors of $5,000 or more.  The event was emceed by well-known local TV news anchor and meteorologist Terri DeBoer, who shared how The Salvation Army helped her family after Missouri river flood when she was a child.

Advisory Board member and chair of the WBS Committee, Dr. Ray Vander Weele, was joined by Major Meyer as they thanked WBS members for their commitment and generosity. “It takes a special type of person to give selflessly. William Booth was that kind of person, as are all of you here today.”  Vander Weele said. “You are a blessing to the mission of The Salvation Army, and your support impacts the lives of thousands of children, families and seniors, here in Kent County every year.”

Members received a WBS pin and certificate, and two books authored and autographed by DeBoer.

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