During their second week living in Longview, Larry and Julie Feist participated in the Go 4th Festival parade.
Although they’re still learning about their new home, the Salvation Army officers said Tuesday they’re excited to become involved in the community and make a difference.
“We want to leave Longview better than we found it,” Major Larry Feist said.
The couple is the Salvation Army’s fourth pair of new officers in Longview in the last five years, replacing Lts. Matthew and Cameo McQuade. Nothing is certain, but Feist said he and his wife are known for holding longer appointments.
Feist, 55, was commissioned a Salvation Army officer in 1991. He served as a single officer in several locations before meeting and marrying his wife in 2003. Captain Julie Feist, 54, was commissioned an officer in 2006. The couple served together in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., for eight years, then five years in Oroville, Calif.
During their time in Oroville, much of the Feists’ focus was on emergency disaster response, especially during last year’s wildfire season. The town is just south of Paradise, which was mostly destroyed by the deadly Camp Fire in November.
The Feists raised $90,000 in three weeks this spring for an emergency disaster services trailer kitchen and a truck to tow it.
Since arriving in Longview on June 25, the couple has “fallen in love with the community,” Julie Feist said. The couple hope to change lives by learning peoples’ stories and their plans, Larry Feist said.
The Feists said they bring a variety of experiences to the officer positions. Larry Feist said each appointment he’s had over the years prepared him for the next.
“There’s a lot happening here. We’re better prepared to address those things, he said. “It’s hard when you’re a deer in the headlights.”
When it comes to Cowlitz County’s homelessness problem, Feist said they plan to find and try to meet the unmet need.
Julie Feist said they want to make sure the Salvation Army is not duplicating services and is offering clients something they can’t get anywhere else. The Feists said they are working with the organization’s social services director to find out where the gap in services is.
The Salvation Army provides services for homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless including case management, limited emergency rent assistance, food boxes and a hot lunch program. The organization also operates the Hope House transitional housing program.
Feist said recently the commander for the Salvation Army’s western territory challenged the posts to double the impact of homeless assistance programs and to increase homeless prevention services.
Larry Feist said the agency is also trying to start a shower program for homeless people. They are working out funding and liability concerns. His wife said they want to make sure programs they start can be funded long-term.
The Salvation Army relies heavily on donations, primarily raised by its annual Red Kettle Campaign. Nationally, money raised from the kettle drive has declined over the last few years, linked to declining use of cash, retail shopping and difficulty hiring ringers. The campaign raised $142.7 million in 2018, down from $144.5 million in 2017.
In November, Lora Marini Baker, Salvation Army spokeswoman for the Northwest Division, wouldn’t share the exact amount raised in this region, but she said the kettle numbers for the region have been up year after year.
Larry Feist said one goal he has for the campaign is for all the bell ringers to be volunteers. Although Feist said he doesn’t know the local ratio of volunteers to paid ringers, cutting that expense should help the campaign make more money overall.
The couple hopes to create relationships with other service organizations and clubs in the community, Julie Feist said. She plans to join the Kiwanis Club and her husband hopes to join a Rotary Club.
“It’s all about building relationships and helping people,” she said.