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Veteran Salvation Army commander's last hurrah will be in Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader - 11/28/2022

Nov. 28—Colin DeVault came to the rescue in Manchester this past summer.

DeVault, who has spent a career operating Salvation Army corps in the eastern United States, was parachuted into the Manchester location when the last commander unexpectedly died.

Scott McNeil, who had led the Manchester Salvation Army Corps through the COVID-19 pandemic, had died in early June, about two weeks before he was to transfer to another post.

McNeil had been doing two jobs, that of post commander and business manager, another vacant post.

"Both offices looked like the occupant clearly intended to come in the next day," said DeVault, a major in the military-like Salvation Army rankings. "In the next two years, I'm just trying to stabilize everything and prepare for whoever's going to follow me."

One of his biggest tests started last week, when the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army kicked off an entire month of fundraising efforts. Along with the traditional red kettles, it will raise thousands that help fund Salvation Army programs year round.

Such programs include Kids Cafe, summer camps and after-school education programs.

"This is chiefly a business appointment, heavy administration," said DeVault, who shares the title co-commander with his wife of 45 years, Brenda, who is also a major.

He said the Manchester corps has a strong reputation within the Salvation Army for its youth-oriented programs, such as Kids Cafe.

One of his goals over the next two years is to implement Pathway of Hope, a national Salvation Army program designed to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

He has an end in sight. He is 64 and will reach full Social Security eligibility at 66 years and eight months, when the Salvation Army mandates retirement.

DeVault's office features five, 6-foot tall bookcases. He has a doctorate in theology, and three of the cases are crammed with theological works. Imperfectly, he can read the Bible in its original languages of Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament).

He's the kind of guy who could speak for an hour about a lone Biblical phrase.

"We (the Salvation Army) will never leave basic social service," DeVault said. "Jesus said there will always be the poor among you, and that's what we're called to do."

The Salvation Army was the home church for both his grandmother and mother in his early years in eastern Ohio. The family moved to Delaware when he was 13, and within a few years the family was instrumental in establishing a Salvation Army in Dover, Delaware.

His career with the Salvation Army has taken him from a post in the isolated community of Houlton, Maine, to Mexico City, one of the world's largest cities.

He's held positions in several New York cities, and most of his other assignments have been in Pennsylvania. He was scheduled to take over the command in Oneonta, New York, when McNeil died and his superiors told him to head to Manchester.

A bonus: his daughter, her husband and their three children live in Keene and work at the Salvation Army there, so they are close by.

He would also like to increase the size of the Manchester congregation. On his first Sunday, there were only eight in attendance, and that included two of his relatives, the division commander and his wife.

Now he draws about 20.

"God called me to this," he said about his profession. "It clearly is a calling. It's a wonderful role, but if you're not called, run for the hills."

How to donate

—Santa Fund donations can be made online at

—Donations also may be made by check to the Union Leader Santa Fund, c/o New Hampshire Union Leader, P.O. Box 9555, Manchester, NH 03108.

—Drop your donation in the Santa Fund box in the lobby of the newspaper at 100 William Loeb Drive, Manchester, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except for Christmas.


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