An invite from her brother to a Salvation Army youth group meeting started Stacy Antonovich on a long and sometimes winding road that’s now led her to Hobbs to lead the local corps.
Growing up in Casper, Wyo., in an area similar in many respects to Lea County, Antonovich wasn’t involved in church until her neighbors invited her brother to attend services.
The officers at what would become her home Salvation Army corps were hosting a contest — with prizes for anyone who could bring a guest for Sunday school, Antonovich said.
“My neighbor’s kids took my brother and my brother wanted a prize, so he took me,” she said. “Salvation Army became my church when I was very little.
“It has been home to me pretty much my whole life. I don’t remember life before the Salvation Army as my church.”
It didn’t take long before Antonovich knew she was being called by God, she said, to serve with the organization. As a teen, she recognized the impact officers in the Casper corps had on her life. They were important to her growing up, supporting and encouraging her.
“I knew as a teenager I wanted to do that, I wanted to be that for someone else,” Antonovich said. “I was one of those kids who came from a very dysfunctional home with an alcoholic parent and things were challenging.
“But my family isn’t that much different from most families. If I can be that person (who has a positive impact) for somebody else, it’s worth it.”
Prior to coming to Hobbs in late June, Antonovich attended a 22-month training at the Salvation Army College near Los Angeles, Calif. The officer’s training academy covers everything a corps officer needs, from pastoral duties to keeping the books at the local corps offices balanced, she said.
It’s an intensive course of study, with traditional spring and summer breaks spent not at the beach or working odd jobs, but working in Salvation Army corps offices around the western United States, helping experienced officers and learning the ropes in what can best be described as an internship or apprentice officer program, Antonovich said.
“We’re learning and working alongside the officers there. We’re learning different things we might not be familiar with.”
After graduation, Antonovich served two-year appointments in Santa Cruz, Calif., then in Clovis, Calif. She was then transferred to Denver, Colo., for two years, where she operated a Salvation Army family shelter. Her latest posting was corps officer in Avondale, Ariz., a suburb on the southwest side of Phoenix, home to 10 separate Salvation Army groups in the metropolitan area alone, she said.
Antonovich is now a captain in the Salvation Army hierarchy.
Hobbs is “very different, in the fact it’s much smaller than being part of a metro area,” Antonovich said. “Because of being in a smaller community, there are other significant partners, and agencies and organizations that are helping, but it’s a far smaller amount than being part of the larger metro area.”
That means, in part, Salvation Army of Hobbs is probably called upon more than her previous appointments, Antonovich said.
In larger metropolitan areas with more and bigger Salvation Army corps, such as Phoenix for example, the other agencies and organizations are also larger and consequently able to provide more assistance to a greater number of people, addressing a greater number of needs.
But the needs don’t differ all that much, she said. Growing up in a relatively small community not much larger than Hobbs that’s also centered around energy and agriculture industries, Antonovich witnessed people facing many of the same challenges they do here in Lea County.
Homelessness is a significant issue she seen everywhere she’s been, she said. But it can be a simple as someone needing short-term help with a utility bill or with a deposit on an apartment “so they can get into a home to be safe and secure.”
The biggest challenge in her new appointment is, “looking at the overall picture and being able to meet the families where they are, to help with what their specific needs are,” Antonovich said. “Meeting the needs where they are and not being a cookie-cutter, ‘we’re going to do this for everybody’ agency. How can we specifically meet the needs of those who have a need?
“As officers, we also believe this is a calling that God has placed on our lives. God clearly told me multiple times, ‘This is the plan I have for you.’”