Bath Salvation Army marks 130 years of service

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BATH — In 1886, the Salvation Army started the Bath Corps, 21 years after William Booth founded the movement in London.

The Bath branch marked 130 years of service to the city and 20 surrounding communities at a Library Park gazebo gathering Aug. 24. Majs. Angelo and Virginia Bermeo entertained children with magic, and the Salvation Army Brass Ensemble added music to the festivities.

The Bath Salvation Army, which moved to its 25 Congress Ave. site from Water Street circa 1980, is open 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday, with social service hours from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday

“There’s always need,” Maj. Jean Henderson, who is the co-commanding officer of the Bath Corps with her husband, Kenneth Henderson, said in an interview Tuesday, noting that the organization keeps busy with the vastness of the area it covers.

“Just at Christmas alone, we service well over 500 families,” she said

The organization also caters to thousands of children throughout the year with educational programs and healthy meals, as well as the Salvation Army’s “very vibrant and very active music program,” through which brass, guitar, percussion and piano are taught.

“We have lots of award-winning children who have gone through that program,” Henderson said, referring to a showcase inside the organization’s headquarters with two large displays of trophies that youth have earned in recent years “because of the talent that has come through this place.”

“All the programs are free to kids that might not otherwise have had the opportunity,” she added.

Besides food, the Salvation Army’s services include clothing, disaster services and utilities, as well as toys for children during the holidays. There’s also the Sunbeams and Boys Adventure Corps, through which youths earn emblems, similar to the Girl and Boy Scouts, according to an Aug. 25 organization press release.

The Salvation Army also offers an affordable camping experience at Camp Sebago in Standish, which this summer brought in 30 children between the ages of 7 and 16.

In addition, “we have senior programs, and we have have women’s programs, and men’s programs, so hopefully we’ll have something for all ages,” Henderson said.

She and her husband have headed the Bath Corps since 2006, spending seven years prior in that capacity in Berlin, New Hampshire. In all that time, the most rewarding part of her work has been seeing lives change for the better.

“The motto of the Salvation Army is ‘Heart to God, Hand to Man,’ so it’s kind of like a dual purpose,” Henderson. “And to see a life changed – not only for them, but also for generations to come, because of that one life – there’s nothing better than that.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Major Jean Henderson, left, and her husband, Maj. Kenneth Henderson, are co-commanding officers of the Salvation Army’s Bath branch, which just celebrated its 130th anniversary.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.