For Shane and Gina Halverson, being assigned to lead the Juneau Corps of the Salvation Army was a homecoming. It was also like being dropped in the middle of an auto race.
Gina, who is of Tlingit heritage, was raised in Hoonah. After spending the past few years in Los Angeles in an instructor position with the Salvation Army she’s elated to be able to introduce their three children to the region where she grew up.
She and Shane — who met in Anchorage as teenagers — arrived in October, just in time for the holidays. Their first big event was the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Hangar, where they served more than 500 meals to those in need. The day after Thanksgiving, the annual bell-ringing at various Juneau shopping centers began.
They’ve had hardly any time to settle in, Gina said. She likened it to an auto race, as they’re taking the wheel at a key time.
“When they go into the pit stop and they’ve already gone around a couple times,” Gina said, laughing, “we’re like, ‘OK, let’s jump on in.’”
One of the more meaningful endeavors so far for them was the Inmate Christmas Toy Store Program. The Salvation Army partnered with Lemon Creek Correctional Center to allow some inmates to send Christmas gifts to their children, sending presents to 43 children in 23 families, Gina said.
They brought a selection of toys to LCCC, where a handful of inmates then picked out gifts for their children. They then wrote personalized notes to their children and Salvation Army volunteers then wrapped them and sent them out all over the country and even internationally.
“It was a different experience,” Gina said. “I hadn’t done that, and we’ve done a lot of different things.”
Throughout the past two decades, the two of them have worked up and down the country’s west coast and on various Pacific islands as well. Now in their forties, they have gone up and down the West Coast and all over the Pacific Ocean with the Salvation Army.
They began their careers in Oregon, and then returned to Alaska for the next 10 years or so, moving between ministries in Wrangell, Petersburg and Anchorage. Shane said they were very hands-on during these years, and enjoyed connecting with people and making a difference.
From there, they were transferred to Hawaii, where they were in charge of youth services on the Hawaiian Islands and elsewhere. Shane recalled trips to the Marshall Islands, Guam, Pohnpei, Chuuk and other locations. It was quite the difference in climate from their years in the Northwest, Shane said with a laugh.
After a few years of island living, they transferred to Southern California to teach at the Salvation Army College for Officer Training. There they not only instructed Salvation Army newcomers, but they also learned from some of the most experienced officers around. Shane said that was a valuable time, but in the summer of this year, they got what he called “a breath of fresh air.”
The job of running the corps in Juneau was open, and they had been selected for it.
“We just had a lot of experience here,” Shane said, “we know the people, we do well in Alaska.”
They moved up in the fall, and hit the ground running. Their three children — aged 15, 12 and 9 — go to three different levels of school at the moment, adding yet another bit of chaos to the mix. The transition has been sudden and has kept them busy, but Gina smiled broadly as she used racing analogies.
“All of a sudden, you hear the (starter) gunshot and you’re off,” Gina said. “Let’s do this thing!”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.