AUGUSTA — A new couple is at the helm of the Capital Region Corps of The Salvation Army.

Maj. Patti Murray and Capt. Scott Murray began their work last week after being transferred from Burlington, Vermont, where they had spent the past three years.

And it turns out that the captain, at least, is familiar with central Maine.

“My parents, grandparents, all the way back grew up in Augusta,” he said. “It’s almost like coming home.”

Murray’s father, Norman Murray, is from Hallowell. He later moved with his wife, Celeste Moody Murray, to Portland, where their son Scott was born and raised. His grandfather managed a supermarket in Gardiner.

“I spent I can’t tell you how many summers in Augusta,” he said.

The couple, who have four children and three grandchildren between them — plus two more grandchildren expected — has family in Winthrop, Yarmouth, Portland and elsewhere in the state.

Patti Murray, 58, was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She initially joined The Salvation Army at age 14, later attended the seminary and then became an officer at age 21. She took 12 years off to raise her family before re-upping.

Scott Murray, 52, joined The Salvation Army later.

“I got invited by a friend to the Old Orchard Beach camp meeting,” he said. He met Patti Murray in Old Orchard Beach and the couple married in April 2005. He eventually went to the seminary as well.

In Burlington, the Murrays built up the youth program in particular — and offered popsicle patrols in parks in the summer. In their prior assignment, in Oil City in western Pennsylvania, they had a canteen program that fed 35,000 to 50,000 meals a year, offering dinner six nights a week.

“It was the only dinner feeding program in the city,” said Scott Murray, adding that it was supported by more than 1,000 pounds of food donated each day, including 1,000 pounds of meat each week, which was shared with other agencies when the Salvation Army’s freezers overflowed. They also found success in offering cooking, quilting and sewing classes for children.

“We are a great believers in children in art, singing, dancing, musical instruments and anything that has to do with connecting with them in that way,” Patti Murray said. “All our arts activities are centered around a Christian theme — the songs that they sing, the sacred dances.”

The Salvation Army aims to address their food, social and spiritual needs, the couple said.

“Our goal is to be as holistic as possible and try to reach the parents too,” Scott Murray said.

In an interview in their headquarters on Eastern Avenue in Augusta, the Murrays said they still are figuring out what their focus should be in the capital region, both for immediate and long-term goals.

“One of our big goals is to get out in the community to see who’s doing what,” Scott Murray said. “There’s not enough dollars for all of us to chase them. We want to see what aligns with our mission and is complementary to all the other agencies.”

Patti Murray said they hope to reach out to at-risk youth and are considering whether there’s a need for a mobile soup kitchen.

“We have to find out what other agencies are doing and find a niche where the need is not being met,” Scott Murray said.

They also are reading the farewell brief prepared by the prior officers.

The former area officers, Lts. Joel Lyle, 36, and Kama Lyle, 30, were moved to the Portland area with their four children, ages 5, 3, 2, and 10 months. The Lyles had two children when they were first assigned to the Salvation Army Capital Region Corps three years ago. They lived in Oakland — in the Salvation Army-owned home now occupied by the Murrays — and worked at the 36 Eastern Ave., Augusta, worship and service center.

Now based at The Salvation Army headquarters in Portland, they will serve as divisional youth secretaries and candidates secretaries for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Kama Lyle said the couple will oversee youths and young adults in the three states.

“Central Maine was our first appointment,” she said. “We’re excited for the next phase in our journey.”

While the Lyles were to be in the capital area until two weeks ago week, they ended up moving earlier than anticipated to attend staff orientation because campers were to begin arriving on June 30.

She said they found that the Augusta area has a strong sense of community. “When there’s a need, it’s not one agency against another,” she said. “We all rally and work together.”

The Capital Region Corps also has a caseworker who assists with all different kinds of needs in six communities in the Augusta and Waterville area.

Lt. Anagelys Cruz, 26, who is from Arecibo, Puerto Rico, has been associate corps officer for the Capital Region Corps for more than six months and is helping to bridge the gap between the service of the Lyles and Murrays. Cruz previously was in Rutland, Vermont.

The Salvation Army Capital Region serves Augusta, Chelsea, Hallowell, Sidney, Waterville and Winslow.

Service units handle things in other municipalities in the area.

The Salvation Army also operates a thrift store in Waterville and a social service office there.

According to the Salvation Army’s website, there are 7,546 centers in communities in the United States.

They aid those in need, and “in living and sharing the Christian Gospel by meeting tangible needs, we give the world a lasting display of the love behind our beliefs.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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