PORT RICHEY — His grandparents were deeply involved in Salvation Army. His parents first met and fell in love through Salvation Army.
“I’m a third-generation Salvationist,” Capt. Kenneth Fagan said in an interview after taking the reins of leading Salvation Army Pasco Corps.
His daughter, Lynda Thornhill, is a Salvation Army major at the Florence, South Carolina. She can’t help but tease her old man from time to time that she now outranks him. “She tries to pull rank on me,” Fagan said with a chuckle.
Son Scott helps people as a firefighter and paramedic in the Kissimmee area.
Fagan moved into his new Pasco home with Bubba, a 5-year-old Australian shepherd that tips the scales at 55 pounds.
After settling into his post the past few months, Fagan shared his views about the mission of Pasco’s prolific charitable programs, plight of the homeless, domestic violence problems, maintaining financial stability and other topics.
Another goal is growing church membership at the church at 7745 Ridge Road, alongside the community center. Worshippers at Sunday services also can hear Fagan play his tuba, Bessie the Bass, in the church band.
Fagan came to Pasco after Capts. Jay and Sherrie Deaton served here about a year.
“They actually came from Fort Myers, which is where I came from,” Fagan said. From 1989 to 1997, Fagan served at Shelby, Wilson and Wilmington, N.C., as well as Daytona Beach.
For 15 years, he left the Army to become an American Red Cross fundraiser based at Daytona Beach.
“This is sort of the dark side,” Fagan said. “My wife and I divorced,” prompting him to make the change. The “amicable” split came after 23 years of marriage, he said.
“It took a while,” Fagan said, but in 2012 he asked Salvation Army to begin reinstatement. He became director of the mission station at Bonita Springs.
Elevated to rank of captain in November, Fagan then landed at the Pasco Corps.
The programs here astonished Fagan. “We’re really reaching out and making an impact.”
Center of Hope, led by director Jeanne Coulter, feeds a large number of people from the Washington Street site. The church and community center on Ridge Road offers programs for children and adults. The domestic violence shelter celebrated its 30th year in 2012. The Dade City office reaches out to east-side residents.
Prepping for before- and after-school programs now that summer camp is winding down, Bobby Riordan does a “great job” with community center programs, Fagan emphasized.
“He is amazing,” Fagan remarked. “I have an amazing staff period. They are committed to the mission of the Army and to their programs.”
Fagan would like to increase church membership and attendance. Some 60 to 90 people typically attend Sunday services. “Folks don’t know Salvation Army is a church,” he commented. “We provided all these programs as a way to reach folks where they are.”
Fagan added, “It’s not just about the numbers for me. It’s more about growing the Kingdom, about reaching folks with the message of God.”
With an annual operating budget of about $500,000, Fagan believes another primary goal is to keep donations coming in to support the myriad outreach programs. “And I think that was part of the reason why I was sent here because of my fundraising background.”
The recession had contracted donations for several years that forced the closing of the Angel Preschool and other cutbacks. While the Pasco Corps has regained a firm financial footing, Fagan wants to build relationships with donors and encourage more individual contributors. Publix and Walmart are two stalwarts of corporate support of Pasco initiatives.
“We’re already making plans for Christmas,” Fagan observed about the red kettle campaign. The annual fundraising drive usually provides about half the funds Salvation Army needs to operate programs year round.
The red kettle goal typically is $250,000. Nov. 15 is the kickoff date here for the 2014 campaign at the Gulf View Square mall.
Fagan goes to Pasco courts a couple of times a month to maintain relationships with court staffs and perhaps to hear parts of domestic violence cases. “I feel sad for the folks” embroiled in such cases. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Another heart-wrenching issue is homelessness.
“I don’t want our programs to be just a Band-Aid” for homeless people, Fagan said. “I really want our programs to change people’s lives”