Jan. 24—Majors Barb and Tom Duperree have arrived at the Lockport Salvation Army to continue the lifetime of service to which they've dedicated themselves. They introduced themselves informally by addressing the Rotary Club of Lockport on Tuesday.
First and foremost, Tom Duperree said, he is here "to love God and other people."
He noted that the Covid pandemic caused the Salvation Army "to lose a lot of traction with worship service."
"We'd like to build the church up," he said. "It's not about the numbers, it's about bringing people into a relationship with Jesus and it's good to have collective worship."
The Duperrees have been Salvation Army corps officers for 35 years, both after being reared in the church, Barb in Warren, Ohio, and Tom in Punxsutawney, Pa. The Duperrees have two grown children and, at this stage of their lives, a desire to be close to Cincinnati, where Barb Duperree's mother gets medical treatment.
Barb and Tom both say the Salvation Army has provided something special that helped them in their lives. Going to church there as children, they each saw parents volunteering or otherwise modeling to their children the value of serving others, and that helped give the couple the foundation of their lives. Barb's father did accounting work for the Salvation Army on weekends after working as a steel mill foreman all week.
Tom Duperree said it was love at first sight when he met Barb: "God said to me, this is the bride I've prepared for you."
The Duperrees' tour of duty for the Salvation Army has taken them to various locales in the U.S. Northeast. They spent the most time in Dayton, Ohio — 17 years — and still feel committed to the cause.
"It's something you do without needing conscious thought," Tom Duperree said. "It's a part of who you are and it always comes back."
The Duperrees are in charge at the Lockport citadel, which houses a food pantry alongside the Sister Mary Loretto Memorial Community Soup Kitchen and, once again, the city's official warming shelter where people without a warm place to sleep may go overnight when the temperature falls below freezing. The shelter was offline briefly this winter due to staffing issues.
After two weeks in Lockport, the Duperrees say they see their purpose. Tom said he has seen a lot of "beautiful people" but also "a lot of suffering."
"We're happy to be here ... and we hope we can be helpful for those in need," Barb said.