By ANGIE HAFLICH
Taking a leap of faith to become officers with the Salvation Army was one of the scariest things that Jeff and Joyce Curran have ever done, but the couple said it also is one of the best things they've ever done.
"Our own personal mission is we don't like to see people go hungry," said Lt. Jeff Curran, co-commanding officer.
The Currans started working at Garden City's Salvation Army in June, but their journey started seven years ago when they resided in Lawrence and decided they needed to do something about hunger.
"I was talking to a woman at the homeless shelter and her son, who was 13 years old, the same age as our son at the time, and about the same build — big, tall kid — he comes up and he says, 'Mom, I'm hungry,'" Jeff said. "And I was thinking, 'At 13 years old, they're a bottomless pit.' I thought, 'A 13-year-old kid, when he gets hungry, when he has the urge to eat, he should be able to.' And when I saw the look on his mother's face, my heart just melted because she was just hopeless. There was nothing she could do about it. She lived in a homeless shelter, and I thought, 'No parent should ever be in that situation where they can't feed their kid.'"
He said he remembered thinking that someone needed to do something about it.
"And then it was like I heard the audible voice of God saying, 'I know. Somebody should. How about you,'" Jeff said. "So I got the hint, and that's how we got on board with the Salvation Army."
Joyce Curran had begun working with kids who lived in their neighborhood in Lawrence several years before that.
"The church we were in at the time was very mission-focused, but it was all overseas, and I'm thinking, 'Look at the people in our neighborhood that are living in cars. There was a family, five kids in a car who lost their home,' " she said. "How can this be?"
In 2001, she stopped working as a dental hygienist so she could raise and home-school her kids, and that's when she began helping some of the neighborhood kids, as well.
"We would feed them breakfast, make sure they got to school, that they were clean, that they were showered. And sometimes their water was turned off, sometimes they didn't have heat, so we just tried to do whatever needed to be done," Joyce said.
Two years ago, the couple began attending the Salvation Army's College for Officer Training in Chicago, selling their home, cars and practically all of their other belongings.
"We got rid of everything we owned except our clothes, my sewing machine, Emily's little kitchen and her doll house and our books," Joyce said.
The couple has three kids, 24-year-old Alex, 19-year-old Ryan and 16-year-old Emily.
"We talked to our children, too, because we didn't feel like we were just called into ministry — because we're a package deal, our kids were going to go with us, so we asked them how they felt about it," Joyce said.
Jeff said being uprooted, first to Chicago and then to Garden City, was challenging and difficult for them, but they have adjusted well.
"They seem to be really enjoying it here," Jeff said.
Jeff and Joyce said that because they are so busy at the Salvation Army, they don't get to spend as much time with their kids as they would like, but Ryan and Emily often come help their parents.
"They don't always want to come help, but they go away feeling very blessed because they have seen the impact they have had on someone's life, and that is incredible," Joyce said. "Everybody has the same needs. We all need to feel like we're useful. We all need to feel like we've made a difference, and when they come and they see that, that is where they really shine."
The Currans said that they are fortunate that they were assigned to Garden City.
"They appoint you. We had no idea where we were going to go. We could have gone anywhere within the 11 states of the central territory, so this (being appointed to Garden City) was just so totally unique. They normally don't send you back to your home division, but we are very happy they did," Joyce said.
Jeff said that he sees the Salvation Army's role as being the distribution center for those who are less fortunate.
"We're the ones who are going to go and do that, but we need everyone's help to make it happen. Society has to do it. It can't just be us," he said. "It takes everyone working together, and that's what we're trying to do here."