Jul. 21—TUPELO — The Salvation Army of Tupelo welcomes two new captains to its helm. Captains Rob and Heather Dolby started their new post as the Tupelo Salvation Army Corps Officers three weeks ago and have already hit the ground running.
"We also want to make sure that people know that Tupelo is known as a place ... where we take care of our neighbors," Captain Rob Dolby said.
They previously served as Territorial Mission Specialists for two years at the USA Southern Territory Headquarters in Atlanta, where they were able to work with people on the frontlines from Texas to Virginia with community outreach, sheltering, and strategic planning. In June, they received their new appointment to Tupelo. Their goal is to always find a way to say "yes," Captain Rob Dolby said.
"Our hope is that we would never have to say no to someone so that every single person who needs a meal, that needs a place to stay and needs someone to talk to find hope will always have that available," Dolby said.
The two have been working full-time with the Salvation Army for over 20 years. They are from Canada, meeting at the Salvation Army War College in Vancouver, Canada through an urban mission training program. Captain Rob Dolby entered the Salvation Army after experiencing homelessness, going through a Salvation Army addiction program 22 years ago.
"Through that process, I never really left but felt called to stay and help others," Dolby said.
Captains Rob and Heather Dolby have been married for 16 years, serving in the Salvation Army's Canada & Bermuda Territory and USA Southern Territory. In 2006, they moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and worked with the city to open a city outreach program. They were also stationed in Greenville, South Carolina and Anderson, South Carolina, where they worked on expanding access to the shelter and worked with the community and Main Street Association to end homelessness on Main Street.
When they first came to the South, they only intended to stay for a year, but it quickly became home, Captain Rob Dolby said. They have three children — Jonathan, 12, Evangeline, 10, and Benjamin, 8 — who were born in Georgia and South Carolina, and have come to appreciate Southern hospitality.
"What Southern hospitality really measures up to is a place where we can still know our neighbors and a place where those neighbors are willing to help each other," Dolby said.
The Tupelo Salvation Army exemplifies a place where 100% of the resources come from the community, with aid going directly to the people in need. Currently, the organization serves 80 to 100 meals per day and provides housing to over 50 individuals, including three families.
The Dolbys seek to be outcome-focused and add to the practical ministry of the Salvation Army. One of their strategic goals for Tupelo is to open a day program and resource room that would provide people a place to go during the day. They will encourage people to work by helping them fill out applications and providing access to technology, case management and WiFi. They also want to open a hot office to be available to any organization to come and meet with people. For Captain Rob Dolby, it's important to address additional barriers such as substance use disorder, emotional wellness or mental health issues, and criminal justice issues by investing in people long term.
"We really can't approach homelessness with a cookie cutter model, let's get everyone a job and a house, because we want to make sure that those people who do obtain those resources can keep those resources," Dolby said. "We want to make the investment on the front end so we don't become a revolving door."
With COVID-19 causing many shelters throughout the region to partially close, Dolby looks forward to fully opening the shelter. To help do this safely, they decided to open and have two isolation units available. To combat food insecurity, the shelter will be moving carry out meals to resuming sit down lunch and dinner meals in August.
With COVID-19 causing major fundraisers such as Empty Bowls, which provides approximately 25% of resources needed to tackle food security, to go virtual, Dolby looks forward to returning to an in person event. Currently, he is seeing an increase in homelessness, with approximately 95% from Tupelo or the surrounding area, and anticipates the need for support rising with reduced government benefits and people struggling to transition back to the workforce after COVID-19 disrupted normal employment operations.
"We really see our role as being a bridge to support people from A to B," Dolby said. "That's where effective case management comes into play and good referrals to other community resources."
Since coming to Tupelo, the family has already met partner organizations, such as the United Way of Northeast Mississippi and Mississippi United to End Homelessness (MUTEH), and been welcomed with open arms. Their children will go to school in Tupelo and have already joined clubs, but what Captain Rob Dolby is most excited about is people asking how they can help and knowing that many businesses, foundations, and individuals are stakeholders in helping their fellow man.
"It's just been a blessing and humbling to be a part of this community," Dolby said. "It's nice to be in a community where you truly get to live in the community and truly get to know your neighbors."
For more information on how The Salvation Army is serving in Tupelo, contact Captain Rob Dolby at 662-610-7922.