Salvos’ humble history
SECOND-HAND RAAF HALL STARTED IT ALL
AS THE Salvation Army prepare to celebrate 150 years worldwide, the St Marys chapter is reflecting on its own unique history.
Major Tony De Tommaso has invited anyone interested to attend a free concert to be held by The Salvation Army Veterans’ Band on August 26 from 11am at the St Marys site on Morris St.
This is the sixth year Major De Tommaso has led the St Marys Salvation Army. He previously served at Arncliffe, Cootamundra, Cooma and Canberra.
“The first thing I noticed when I arrived here was the country feel, especially having come from Arncliffe,” he said. “It was impressive. I also found it had a large portion of people with a dependency on support agencies.”
He said despite the high dependency rate, many in the area are quite selfless.
“They can be the most giving, especially of themselves,” Major De Tommaso he said. “The Salvos has a great presence in St Marys, there is a high level of trust.”
It’s believed The Salvation Army has had a presence in St Marys from as far back as the 1880s, but the official history books date its beginnings in the area from 1955 when a women’s meeting, called Home League, began.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s the residential area of St Marys was developing.
The Salvation Army purchased land, with the hope of one day building a hall.
Lieutenant-Colonels Neil and Dorothy Young were captains with The Salvation Army at the time and remember its humble beginnings.
“In the local newspaper was an advertisement offering unused air force huts at Richmond air base by auction,” Colonel Young said.
“We had no spare money but we had an excellent divisional commander who said I could attend the auction and offer to buy one for up to
100. I attended the auction and got one of the best halls for 97.10. The hut was transported and it wasn’t long before St Marys had its own Salvation Army hall.”
Despite having a growing family and a congregation of their own at Penrith, Captains Neil and Dorothy Young remained committed to establishing a thriving Salvation Army at St Marys.
It wasn’t long before theywere ministering to 180 people per week and The Salvation Army declared it a corps (church) in its own right, with corps officer Lieutenant Ray Palmer appointed to the ministry fulltime.
Major Tony De Tommaso outside the original St Marys Salvation Army building, and right, the building being installed.