Admittedly, Joey Cyr has some big shoes to fill in his new role as Penticton Salvation Army community and family services supervisor.
But as daunting as the task may be, the long-time local resident hit the ground running Tuesday, his first day on the job.
Cyr is taking on the responsibilities of director Christine Simmons who is currently on leave.
Like Simmons, Cyr hopes to become an advocate for those in the community whose voices might otherwise go unheard.
“Christine’s a great person, hard worker and everyone really appreciates her,” said Cyr, 40. “But right now, at this point, I’m just getting my feet wet and trying to wrap my mind around it because it is such a big task and there’s so much that goes into it.
“But I really am looking forward to making a difference for those in need.”
Cyr has one particularly important quality officials were looking for in the new position, according to Major Jo Sobool, the Salvation Army pastor.
“He has a heart of compassion and he understands the mission of the Salvation Army which is certainly going to make him a great asset to the community and the Salvation Army,” said Sobool.
“He certainly was the best candidate for the job and we appreciate all the experience that he is bringing.”
Cyr’s duties will be to co-ordinate and oversee all Salvation Army ministry programs, including family services, the food bank, community kitchen and gardens, Christmas hampers and local food drives.
He sees the role of the organization, with which he has been employed for the last three years, as filling in the gaps which traditional social services functions may not address.
“Especially in the moments of crisis we have a history of being there for people,” said Cyr. “I’ve worked with a lot of different multi-barrier youth and adults, people in times of crisis so I have experience in working with those in need.
“It just starts with compassion and letting them know that we’re here for them and that we hear them and we want to support them. Just really give them a sense that they’re not alone and someone’s willing to listen.”
He added there are often many reasons why, in times of trouble, people needing help wind up on the Salvation Army’s doorstep.
Much of Cyr’s first-hand knowledge has come from working at the Salvation Army’s men’s shelter which he feels has been a critical part of his life-skills training. However, he believes the real heroes are his staff and the tireless volunteers who give of their time.
“Those people are the real givers, they have big hearts and are on the front line so I just want to come in and support them and give them all the help I can,” he said.
“I want to make their jobs easier because they really are the face of the Salvation Army.”
Cyr’s first big task is co-ordinating the annual Christmas hamper drive which benefits as many as 800 families with a turkey dinner, gifts for the children and other necessities.
After that he plans to take a look at the many other programs with an eye to making changes and improvements for the greater benefit of the community and especially those it serves directly.