NORTH ADAMS -- Before Majors Ralph and Donna Hansen retire from the Salvation Army, the couple has been given one last assignment that involves taking the reins of the organization's local post.
The Hansens, who have been married for 44 years, arrived in the city about two weeks ago, and will serve as commanding officers of the corps for a year before retiring to Mississippi.
"It's exciting to be here," Ralph Hansen said this week.
He and his wife are avid motorcyclists, and have traveled through the area many times as part of touring groups.
"We like to do long-distance touring on bikes. We've been up Mount Greylock and Mount Equinox, so when they told us we would be coming to North Adams, we said, ‘yes,'" he said.
The Hansens will replace Lieutenants Russell and Cynthia Crowsen, who have been commanding officers of the post since 2008. The couple is now stationed at the Salvation Army's corps in Massena, N.Y.
The North Adams corps is at 393 River St. and is celebrating 120 years in the city this year.
Before coming to North Adams, the Hansens had previously been commanding officers of the organization's corps in Attleboro for about two and a half years. The also have been stationed in Hyannis, Fitchburg, Worcester, Hackensack, N.J., and Hornell, N.Y.
"No two appointments are the same," Ralph Hansen said.
When they were in Worcester, the focus was more on being a pastor; while in
Donna Hansen said the Crowsens did a very good job during their command, and she and her husband hope to build on their work, especially in the area of programming.
"Sunbeam, Girl Guards and Adventure Corps have been growing, and we hope they will continue to grow," she said.
Her husband said they have been asked by the division commander to work on local leadership and develop the corps advisory board a little more.
"We've already met with the mayor and have begun meeting with other local agencies," he said.
He said one of the things that came out of their conversation with Mayor Richard Alcombright was the need to develop local emergency disaster response resources, which is an area where the Salvation Army can be of assistance.
"We're looking forward to being involved in the community and helping meet its needs where we can," he said.
The Hansens have been officers in the Salvation Army for 32 years. They both began their officer training in September 1978 after each feeling a call from God to serve the religious and social organization.
"We were living in Mississippi at the time," Ralph Hansen said. "We packed up everything and had six weeks of yard sales. We had two of our three children at that point, and a dog. We loaded up our little Volvo, a moving truck and a little camper, and moved to New York to begin our training," he said.
Ralph Hansen, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., had been attending the Salvation Army church since he was 6 years old. He was first introduced to the organization by a neighbor who asked him to go to Sunday School with her.
"I had to ask my mom. She asked what church, and I remember when she heard the Salvation Army, she said, ‘I've heard of them. He can go,'" he said.
As he got older, he volunteered a lot with the organization and learned how to play guitar during that time, he said. He then introduced his wife, who had grown up a Baptist, to the church, he said.
"We're not afraid to give God the credit when things happen. I truly believe the Salvation Army was raised up by God to meet the needs of people," he said.
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