McKeesport Salvation Army under new leadership
McKeesport's Salvation Army Worship and Service Center has new leadership.
Envoys John and Kate Esker began their ministry on June 25, succeeding Majors Sean and Andrea Barton, who resigned after seven years at the center at 821 Walnut St.
“We want to be seen as a beacon of light to people in McKeesport,” John Esker, 33, said this week. “We hope to inspire hope by what we do, by what we offer, by how we carry ourselves.”
He and Kate Esker, 29, took a year off from Salvation Army work after serving in Beaver Falls and Uniontown. “We're wanting to continue what already is in existence,” John Esker said. That includes social services and a food pantry sometimes stretched thin.
“We hope to bolster efforts to get more donations, more donors,” John Esker said. “Social services go hand in hand with counseling. We have to minister to the physical needs as well as the spiritual needs.”
Kate Esker hails from Philadelphia, her husband from the Youngstown, Ohio, area. They and their daughter Cadence, 5, live in White Oak.
“When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my family went to the Salvation Army in Philadelphia for food and clothing, so from a young age, I noticed how they helped people, and I wanted to be able to do that when I grew up,” Kate Esker said in a 2011 interview.
The Eskers met at Valley Forge Christian College, where John Esker earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. Kate completed her Associate of Occupational Studies from the Salvation Army School for Officer's Training.
Their rank in Uniontown was lieutenant.
“It's a complicated thing,” John Esker said. “We stepped out of the work for a year and the Army has a policy. Upon reentry there's a phasing in.”
The couple's experiences are wide ranging, including work with children in after-school programs; service to the elderly; and membership in Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.
A current McKeesport project is the backpack program. Registration begins on Thursday and will be conducted weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon through Aug. 8, with distribution set for Aug. 12 from 9 a.m. to noon.
“Many kids need to know that there is hope and there are causes like The Salvation Army that is in the area,” John Esker said.
More details about the McKeesport center are available by calling 412-673-6627.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.