The local branch of the Salvation Army has welcomed a new corps officer to Rainy River District.
Arthur Heathcote is a long-time member of the Salvation Army and started his post in Fort Frances on June 28, though it’s not the first time he’s been in town.
“I was here last fall for six weeks filling in for a paternity leave for the corps officer that was here at the time,” Heathcote said.
“I absolutely loved the time that I was here and in January I got asked, ‘Would I be interested in heading back?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely, for sure,'” he added.
As the corps officer for the Salvation Army in town, it’s Heathcote’s responsibility to oversee the organization’s duties in Fort Frances and the surrounding areas.
“That involves looking after the spiritual needs of the congregation here,” he explained.
“It also looks after the administration of the property as well as the Thrift Store and the Community Family Services that operate out of this property.”
Heathcote has a long personal history with the Salvation Army, noting both his parents and grandparents were Salvationists.
“However, as a young kid, you know, I thought it was all kind of hooey,” he said.
“And I decided to go out and do a bit of experimenting myself with life and that type of thing.”
Heathcote said he ended up almost homeless and dealing with a drug addiction before he hit a wall in the early 2000s and was able to get back onto his feet and employable.
“An opportunity came with the Salvation Army and I thought ‘Well, we’ll give that a shot,'” he recalled.
“So that was in 2012. I’ve been clean for 16 years.”
When he started with the Salvation Army in 2012, Heathcote worked with the public relations and development office at their divisional headquarters in Winnipeg.
“My capacity there was grant writer,” he said.
“So I’m a fundraising individual by trade. That’s my craft, and highly administrative skills as well. That was one of the needs out here, was to be able to tend to the administrative needs as well,” added Heathcote.
Even as he brings a new set of eyes to the Salvation Army in Fort Frances, Heathcote said there are plenty of ongoing projects that the organization is working on in lieu of beginning any sprawling new projects.
“We’re currently working with the homeless initiative committee with regards to the sheltering issue of homeless individuals here in town,” he said.
“We certainly won’t do that on our own, we prefer to work with partnerships and collaboration. We’re sitting at that table currently, they’re looking at a temporary warming shelter for this coming season. They’re looking at long-term plans for a permanent shelter in town, too. So we work hand in hand with them to do what we can.”
Heathcote said it’s more beneficial for the community to take charge and organize these types of efforts, but the Salvation Army is willing to lend the experience it has. He also said that he’s looking forward to speaking with the Fort Frances Senior Centre and working with some of the senior groups in town.
“I’m seeing and hearing things about needs as far as dementia is concerned and palliative care,” Heathcote said.
“So we do have some older people ministries programs that are running in a different country that might work here as well. So just plugging into, you know, the people that serve those populations, find out what their needs are, what the gaps are and to be able to try and fulfill those as well for them.”
He stated that he’s careful to not overlap services with any current providers at work in Fort Frances to avoid any duplication of service.
Heathcote also was also quick to assure that a new corps officer doesn’t mean any of the roles the Salvation Army currently serves in the area will be disappearing.
“Community Family Services is an essential service here,” he explained.
“People that for one reason or another find they need clothing or help with other needs. The food bank as well operates Monday and Thursday. We see people coming in for that and interestingly enough it’s working poor that we’re seeing show up for food bank, not just people looking for a handout. People are having to make decisions of the ‘Do I spend money on food or rent?’ type of deal.
“I don’t see any services being cut,” he continued.
“They’re essential at this point in time and the thrift store helps to be able to generate the income to be able to provide those services in town, along with the donations that are happening.”
Heathcote said he’s excited to be in Fort Frances and take advantage of the opportunities to help out people in the district.
“I’m just really glad to be here,” he said.
“The support in the community is awesome. I’ve met some very talented professionals here as far as the service industry is concerned, as far as the community services are concerned,” added Heathcote.
“So I’m really looking forward to working with them, being able to support them in making this a better place.”