A Major Loss for Salvation Army

For 40 years, Oliver and Geretta Stenvick have worked side by side at the Salvation Army, answering a spiritual calling to help others in need.

"I've always felt that God wanted me to give my life to service in the Salvation Army ministry," Oliver Stenvick, 65, said.

But the couple, who met in high school in Phoenix and married 46 years ago, are about to say goodbye to the Salvation Army life they have known for so long.

The Stenvicks are retiring from the Salvation Army ministry, where since 1993 they have overseen the Orange County Adult Rehabilitation Center in Anaheim. The six-month residential program serves up to 140 men countywide with drug and alcohol addictions.

"One of their strong points is they've been a team to enhance the lives of other people," said Warren Johnson, the Salvation Army's assistant Orange County coordinator.

The rehabilitation center's employees gave the couple a going away party Friday; a retirement service will be held Sunday. Next week, the Stenvicks will move to Sacramento, where their two sons and five grandchildren live.

During their tenure in Anaheim, the Stenvicks have administered the warehouse processing center where donated goods are sorted, priced and shipped to 14 thrift stores and six boutiques in Orange County. Proceeds support rehabilitation services. The pair also were instrumental in developing plans and raising money for an Anaheim rehabilitation center to serve women, set to open in about two years.

The couple said they were "called" to the ministry four years after being married. At first, Geretta Stenvick, 64, said she was unsure about making the lifelong commitment; her husband had been inspired as a boy after being reared in the Christian organization. For officers who marry, both must agree to serve together in the ministry.

What changed her mind? "I felt that this was the work that God would have me do," she said.

In 1956, they entered the Salvation Army training college, and a year later, became officers. They retire as majors.

Over the years, they have been pastors of five churches, youth leaders and administrators. In 1981, they took 18 months off for educational training, resuming their ministry in 1983 in Boise, Idaho. In June, 1984, they were assigned to help addicted men at a rehabilitation center in San Jose. They were transferred to Anaheim nine years later.

The reward of their work, they said, has been helping to change lives: men overcoming their addictions, getting jobs, being reunited with their families and finding faith.

"I'm proud of the people who have gotten their lives back together. That's the bottom line," Oliver Stenvick said.

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