New Salvation Army leaders say Davidson County already feels like home – Lexington Dispatch

For Majors Ray and Whitney Morton, moving to a new community is nothing new. They are used to playing “closer” for projects in progress, establishing spiritual leadership, and serving the community.

But they say their recent assignment as the new leaders of the Salvation Army of Davidson County feels a lot like what they call “home”.

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The Morton’s are replacing Wayne and Claudia Mead who were assigned to serve at the Salvation Army of Rocky Mount on June 21. The Mortons most recently were posted at the Salvation Army in Tupelo, Mississippi.

“We’re glad to be back in North Carolina,” said Ray Morton. “Wayne and Claudia have done a fantastic job and we are excited to be here. They were such a wonderful couple. The one thing I will say is I can keep (Wayne’s) vision, but don’t know if I will be able to keep his energy.”

Both were born and raised near Davidson County, Ray Morton in Gastonia, and Whitney Morton in Concord. They met as freshmen at UNC-Greensboro and were married by the time they graduated.

After graduating from the officer’s training college in Atlanta in 2002, the couple was assigned to their first post in Elizabeth City where they rapidly learned how to handle disaster relief after Hurricane Isabel, a category 2 storm, hit the area.

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“It was three weeks of 16 and 18 hour days work,” said Whitney Morton. “After only a week’s worth of disaster training, it was a lot to take in. We learned a lot, mostly about asking for help. We had nine counties, each with its own problems that we had to keep an eye on. It was an incredible time that we will never forget.”

In three years they moved to a post in High Point, where they had their first experience serving the community outside of disaster relief operating a women’s shelter, a boys and girls club, and senior housing.

A little over a year later, the couple, which was now a family of four with the addition of their son and daughter, moved to Mount Airy where they developed a deeper connection to the ministry of the Salvation Army. While still providing services and support for the community, it was a chance to expand the spiritual side of their calling.

“We had done a lot of disaster and community services, this was more to learn about the church. To make sure a person’s needs have been met to a point they can start making spiritual decisions, to start working on rebuilding their life. It was a beautiful area and a restful time,” said Ray Morton.

After four years, the Morton’s were on the move again, this time to Spartanburg, South Carolina where they facilitated the transition of two Salvation Army locations into one chapter. Three years after that they were getting settled in New Bern during the financial crisis where governmental furloughs from the local military base and unemployment impacted the increased need for services.

Whitney Morton said it was during this time she became active in the Salvation Army anti-human trafficking campaign, Project Fight. The project which provides case management for survivors of human trafficking started with a handful of communities has spread throughout North and South Carolina.

“I am so humbled to be part of that and to see how well they are doing now, to see they have families of their own,” Whitney Morton said.

More: A new hope, a new name: Crisis Ministry to build homeless shelter in Lexington

After that posting, Ray and Whitney Morton added another skill-set to their resume and unknowingly impacted future leadership in Davidson County. The couple became teachers at Evangeline Booth College training Salvation Army officers in Atlanta and was one of the instructors for Wayne and Claudia Mead, who were the previous Salvation Army leaders in Davidson County.

“I love to teach, it is a way to share best practices,” said Ray Morton. “Even though you don’t feel like you are the expert, you realize the experiences you faced make you knowledgeable. It was beautiful to see the Army from that side. We are training and molding future leaders that are passionate about the Salvation Army and are following the same calling we have.”

After teaching for two years the Morton’s were stationed in Shreveport, Louisiana, and then on to their most recent posting in Tupelo, Mississippi. During this time, the couple completed a construction project to build a new shelter and dining facilities.

When they were informed a few months ago that they had been assigned to Davidson County, the couple was pleased to be returning to an area in North Carolina where they had begun their lives. It was also ironic how their new leadership role encompassed so many of their past experiences.

First of all, they were replacing two people they had trained as Salvation Army officers just a few years ago and this had been their first posting.

Then Davidson County Salvation Army is also currently undergoing an expansion of its kitchen area and will be partnering with the new homeless shelter being built next to their Ninth Street property, which was what they experienced in their last posting.

Also, Davidson County Salvation Army recently consolidated two chapters, Lexington and Thomasville, under one roof, just as they experienced in Spartanburg. The former leaders built a new Boys and Girls Club as they operated in High Point. And the Meads developed the Salvation Army Church to increase the spiritual impact in the community, just as they experienced in Mount Airy.

Ray Morton said his plans in Davidson County are to continue the great work of the former leaders. He said they are excited to undertake more projects, and hopes their past experiences and knowledge will make them a valuable part of the community.

The couple says they are ready to help finish the kitchen expansion project, which recently kicked off its capital campaign, and to start learning more about the community and its needs.

“We are super excited,” said Whitney Morton. “Every time we move it rips your heart to say goodbye, but you also get to say hello to a new community, and to help new people and make new friends.”

General news reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.