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Salvation Army's Hagerstown Corps bids farewell to leaders

Majs. Robert and Karen Lyle oversaw the fundraising campaign for the community center; renovations and repairs to the thrift store that made it look like a department store; and the addition of space for off-street parking

June 16, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Salvation Army Majs. Karen and Robert Lyle are leaving The Salvation Army's Hagerstown Corps to take charge of the Adult Rehabilitation Center in Baltimore.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

As he stood before almost 200 people, many if not all of whom were members of his congregation, Maj. Robert Lyle said two, maybe three men attended his first Sunday service when he and his wife arrived seven years ago to take over leadership of The Salvation Army’s Hagerstown Corps.

During a farewell luncheon for Majs. Robert and Karen Lyle on Sunday, Advisory Board Chairman Don Funk listed several facility improvements during the Lyles’ tenure, including the construction of the $1.8 million Shifler Family Community Center that housed the luncheon on George Street in Hagerstown’s West End.

Maj. Robert Lyle said leading the Hagerstown Corps was really about showing a group of people “that there’s more to being a church than coming on Sunday. You are the church,” he told the audience.

The Lyles are leaving Hagerstown this week, having been reassigned to take charge of the Adult Rehabilitation Center in Baltimore.

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The Hagerstown Corps new leaders will be Majs. Dan and Dawn Heard, who are coming from Florida, Hagerstown Corps officials said.

The Salvation Army usually moves majors around every three to five years, and tried to move his family two years ago, Lyle said in a phone interview after the ceremony. He said he prayed about it because his youngest son, Caleb, had two more years until high school graduation. They were allowed to stay with the Hagerstown Corps those two years.

Toward the end of the farewell luncheon, Karen Lyle and Caleb told the crowd they were heartbroken seven years ago when they got the call in South Carolina to come to Hagerstown.

Karen Lyle said she fought it “tooth and nail” because she thought the Lord had gone back on a promise made for her son, and that she arrived in Hagerstown with an attitude.

“And now my heart is broken and I have to leave,” said a tearful Maj. Karen Lyle. “Because this has become home to me and to my kids.”

“You are the best people, the best congregation, the best advisory board, bar none, that we ever had,” she said.

The Lyles’ eldest son, Joshua, is 21 and about to get married, Maj. Robert Lyle said.

Caleb Lyle, now 18, took about a minute to compose himself before he shared with the audience his reluctance to come here, reluctance that turned into gladness.

“It’s difficult because I’ve actually grown up here. I consider this my home,” he said.

During the Lyles’ seven years as leaders of the Hagerstown Corps, they oversaw the fundraising campaign for the community center; renovations and repairs to the thrift store that made it look like a department store; and the addition of space for off-street parking, Funk said.

The thrift store’s daily income is now more than $2,000, compared with approximately $400 when it opened in 1995, Funk said.

The Hagerstown Corps’ daily feeding program now nourishes 150 to 170 people a day, compared with 40 to 50 people earlier, he said.

The advisory board recently decided to continue with a project to renovate the women’s and children’s center so it can add about 17 beds, Funk said.

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