Major Lisa Smith took the helm of the local Salvation Army Wednesday following the retirement and departure of Capts. Les and Susan Spousta.
Hitting the ground running on her first day, Major Smith said she first wanted to talk about the Christmas season.
“This is a challenging time of the year to come in. I want to emphasize I’m looking for people who want to help out for Christmas, either the Angel Tree toy distribution or with the ringing the bell,” she told the News-Sun. “I know there are some volunteers already. I have not met them yet, but we would like people to know we are collecting money and that money stays here in Hobbs and is used to help people here in Lea County.”
Volunteers have to pass a background check, she said, ensuring they have neither theft nor sex offenses on their records. “Those are the two disqualifiers,” Smith said.
Originally from Casa Grande, Ariz., Smith said she has served as a commissioned officer of the Salvation Army for 15 years, listing posts in Colorado, Utah, California and Nevada with a desire to live in New Mexico.
“It’s always interesting to go to a new place and learn about a new community,” she said. “I’m a single officer. When you’re asked to take a post for Salvation Army, you can’t say no. You salute, smile and go. I’m happy about being here because I’ve always wanted to live in New Mexico. I like being in smaller communities.”
Her last post was Mesquite, Nev., population about 21,000.
“I find that my personality type is good for the rural communities,” she said. “I like the individual contact with people, the more personal relationships and the spirit of community in smaller towns.”
Hobbs and Lea County appeal to Smith even if they are a little larger.
“People are very friendly here. That’s what I like, the friendliness,” she said. “I think people care and are involved with the community, so I’m looking forward to being a part of the community, integrating in with everyday life, getting to meet people.”
In addition to the social services, Smith hopes to build attendance at the Salvation Army’s church.
“Attendance has been kind of low for the last couple of years. We’re hoping to get more people to come,” she said. “We’d like to get more young people attending, teenagers, youth and young families.”
Upon the Spoustas’ retirement, they left two pairs of shoes for the major to fill, but she said she recognized limitations.
“I’m still familiarizing myself with what Salvation Army does in Hobbs, but whatever the Spoustas did, I’m going to do my best to continue,” Smith said.
Some of the projects she’d like to continue include a Bible study, a women’s ministry and nursing home visits.
But other activities could come up. “I’m an idea person. I know my idea-meter will kick in once I’ve been here a while,” she said.
Back on fulfilling Christmas needs, she said she hopes to be able to give at least two toys to each child registered for the Angel Tree program.
“We need people helping with that process of distributing the toys, people to help bag them and stage them,” she said.
Susan Spousta told the News-Sun Wednesday their move to retire was “bittersweet” because she and her husband received such support throughout Hobbs and Lea County and they were a little sad to be leaving.
“Hobbs is a wonderful, supportive community,” she said. “We’ve never been in a community as supportive.”