When Lieutenant Jeremiah Eisley and his wife, Lieutenant Kathryn Eisley, of the Salvation Army, first came to Portsmouth it was not as much as a culture shock as one might think.
“When I first got here I actually drew a lot of comparisons because Williamsport (Pennsylvania) is a river town,” Eisley said. “Lumber was the main industry, but just like down here with steel and things like that, they’ve had it all dried up around the same time, but my hometown is now in the wake of an economic recovery and a downtown revitalization, and I was very happy coming here, that I started seeing the beginnings of that, and now, as we leave, I’m starting to see that’s really starting to take off, and I have very high hopes for Portsmouth, you can see it walking down the street. Just in a short period of time, the three years that we’ve been here, I already see more businesses, more young people, more people out doing things.”
The Eisley’s are packing up and leaving the city of Portsmouth for New England.
“Typical with the Salvation Army, every few years, there’s a shuffling, and Katy and I are moving to Rochester, New Hampshire to be corps officers there with the Salvation Army,” Eisley said. “A phone call came out earlier last month and it just became official a couple of weeks ago. So that’s the next chapter of our lives.”
Rochester, New Hampshire is in northern New England and is in a different division of the Salvation Army. Neither has ever been there.
Eisley made a comparison of the two cities and how their problems are handled in the public eye.
“From my limited experience, it seems like in communities where it looks like they have everything together, they have the same problems. They just know how to hide them,” Eisley said. “Something that we’ve seen here in Portsmouth is that many of the issues and problems are right there and everybody can see them. Whereas when you move into other communities, where you say – ‘hey, we have this problem,’ they say – ‘what are you talking about? We don’t see that.’”
Eisley said, while people in Portsmouth need help, they ask for it, but when the shoe is on the other foot………
“I can’t recall a time that I ever needed help and somebody said, ‘we can’t help you,’” Eisley said. “Everybody down here is willing to lend a hand. People aren’t oblivious to the problems here and I think that that coming alongside in agreement with trying to make this community a better place is what we have seen here.”
The Eisleys will be replaced by Captain Stan Simco and Captain Misty Simco, corps officers currently serving in Newport, Kentucky. He said they are familiar with the river valley, having also served in Marietta, Ohio.
“They’re very good people and very excited to be here, and I look forward to them being able to carry on as we pass the baton and see how they can grow and increase from what we’ve done, just as we’ve grown and increased from what our predecessors left behind,” Eisley said.
Eisley said there is one more big event before the two of them slip out of town.
“June 3 is our Fifth Annual 5K to fight against hunger,” Eisley said. “Registration is at 8 a.m, a shotgun start is at 9 a.m. and awards at 10 (a.m.).”
He said anyone can go on tristateracer.com and register for $25. Those who pre-register are guaranteed a tee-shirt. The day of, the cost of registration will be $35. The run/walk starts at the Portsmouth floodwall area behind the Portsmouth police station. If any businesses wish to lend a hand with sponsorships, they will happily advertise that business.
“A lot of people may not realize this, but the Salvation Army currently – Monday through Friday – serves a hot lunch to people for free,” Eisley said. “I think that’s something unique to the Salvation Army here in this community. You have people who are able to fill in on the weekends.”
Eisley said sometimes he is asked where the money for the lunches comes from, seeing the Army serves over 1,000 meals a month.
“We try to find it,” Eisley said. “If the wider community could just know that this is something that we can do only with continued support. The Salvation Army, to an extent, is an investment the community makes and if the community sees and knows there’s a hunger problem, people need to know that the Army is a place people can come to eat.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewisPDT.