The Salvation Army in Texarkana has new leadership. Majors Russell and Tracey Czajkowski, married 29 years, are settling into their new post.
The Czajkowskis talents are especially suited for the needs they see in Texarkana. They have extensive experience working with the Boys & Girls Club and say the club in Texarkana will be an area of focus for them.
"Right now in Texarkana there is a huge need to build the Boys & Girls Club," Russell said. "Our goal is to create revenue so the club will be self-sustaining for years in the future."
It's important to keep the community aware of the work the Boys & Girls Club is doing and the needs it has.
"One issue many non-profit programs face is they have a lot of support at the start but over the years it becomes lax. Our goal is to help ensure the club has a solid foundation," he said.
Russell was first introduced to the Salvation Army through his work with the Boys & Girls Club.
"I first got involved with the Boys & Girls Club in Pasadena, Texas, in 1994. The schools there had horrible gang violence and the community was very vocal about starting a program there," Russell said.
That program was successful, in part because of the community support it received.
"They had a respect for what we were doing. We started sports leagues to keep the kids off the streets. We really made a great impact there and I fell in love with the Salvation Army and its mission," he said.
It was after that that Russell decided to go to officer training in the Salvation Army. Once he became an officer he was eventually assigned to Pasadena and returned to work with the Boys & Girls Club he helped get off the ground.
"In Pasadena we had gang kids that Tracey ministered to on a daily basis. Twenty years later some are ministers, community leaders and successful in other ways," he said.
Seeing the positive results of their life's work is very rewarding.
"It's awesome to see that," Tracey said.
Giving children hope for the future is what it's all about.
"What it takes when doing social services is you have to get people to view the big picture instead of seeing the world out of a small portal. If you can give these kids a vision of what they can be, they can learn to have successful, fulfilling live. We're here to serve all the youth. There are youth who may not have the resources at home but have great educational aptitude. We need, as a community, to build opportunities and give them the chance to grow in those areas and find out what their strengths are."
In Texarkana, the Salvation Army started the Boys & Girls Club only a few years ago but the two organizations' history goes back much further than that.
"We have chartered Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the United States," Russell said. "The Salvation Army used to have what was called the Red Shield Club for kids in need but they found that the Boys & Girls Club programs were similar to the mission plan the Salvation Army had for its youth. They've been working together for about 50 years," Russell said.
Through the Salvation Army's other assistance programs to the homeless and the needy, the Czajkowskis hope to improve the community by empowering people to stand on their own feet.
"These programs are meant to have a lasting effect on clients. Our goal is not just to provide lunch for a day but to provide the tools to be free from government assistance and public support," he said.
Seeking out grant funding for the Salvation Army is also an area of focus.
"It's very important, to not only count on the local community, but also to reach out to state and federal foundations. There are a lot of monies out there for social programs if you know how to write grants. One of my goals is to have at least half the operating cost come from outside the Texarkana Community," Russell said.
The Czajkowskis have been posted all through the region, most recently in Little Rock, Ark. For most of their assignments, they've been in place for five years.
"We've been very lucky in that. We feel like God has called us to each one," Tracey said. "I'm excited to be here."