Saying goodbye to Cape Girardeau will be bittersweet for Bob and Joyce Gauthier and their family.
After eight years of service at the Salvation Army center in Cape Girardeau, the Gauthiers are preparing for a new assignment. Beginning July 1, they will be assigned to Salvation Army territorial headquarters in Chicago. Maj. Bob Gauthier will work with prison ministries and his wife, Maj. Joyce Gauthier, will serve as women's ministry secretary.
The work is vastly different from the hands-on, active role they've played in their 25 years of corps service so far, the couple said.
"It will be at a different level," she said. "Instead of being hands-on, we'll be enabling leaders."
Bob Gauthier said he's always felt a calling to prison ministry, but the timing for such a move was never right. Now, he's replacing another officer who is retiring.
And while the work will be vastly different, the Gauthiers say they are up for the challenge. "We've been told to prepare for a culture shock," he said.
Yet, their work in Cape Girardeau has been both rewarding and taxing.
"Running both a church and the social service agency can be very stressful," Bob Gauthier said.
While meeting last year with members of the Area United Way, Gauthier said the Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau provided food, clothing, emergency transportation and other "basic necessities of life" to about 20,000 people in the year prior.
While the community has been greatly supportive of the Salvation Army, there also has been a great need. Over the years, there has been an increase in the requests for food and housing assistance, as well as requests for medicine and utilities payments, Gauthier said.
Meals with Friends -- a free dinner offered at no cost on weekdays -- has remained a strong program, as has the annual Thanksgiving meal, Joyce Gauthier said.
And the Salvation Army's disaster relief unit has been activated several times during the Gauthier's tenure. They've worked through two major floods and several tornadoes during the last few years.
But some of the most exciting things to happen at the Salvation Army have been the growth in the corps and the number of couples who entered training programs for corps service.
Two couples from Cape Girardeau already are training to become Salvation Army offices, and another is considering such a move after college. To see that many people express an interest in the corps has been gratifying, the Gauthiers said.
"We are helping them to fulfill what God wants them to do in their lives."
The Gauthiers will be replaced by Mike and Mary Thomas, who are moving from St. Louis.