S.A. duo moving to West

Photo by Ron Leir Lt. Maurice and Capt. Sherry Moukouangala and their children, William, 4, and Elise, 6.
Photo by Ron Leir
Lt. Maurice and Capt. Sherry Moukouangala and their children, William, 4, and Elise, 6.


The Corps Officers of the Salvation Army of Greater Kearny are headed west.

Capt. Sherry and Lt. Maurice Moukouangala have received new “marching orders,” to take command of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Division of the Southern Territory of the Salvation Army.

They will say their goodbyes to the West Hudson/ South Bergen community they have served the past two years at a “public farewell” on Sunday, June 21, at 10:45 a.m., from the Kearny headquarters on Beech St.

One week later, they will be moving in as the new Corps Officers of the Tulsa Citadel in Oklahoma.

“It’s the same work, same calling,” said Maurice.

But there will be a big difference in the size of the population they will be serving at their new assignment, he said. “On the ecclesiastical level,” Maurice said, “the congregation will be, conservatively, about double that of Greater Kearny – about 80 to 90 adults and children.”

Additionally, Sherry and Maurice noted, the need for social services will be compounded by their target audience. “Many people there rely on the Salvation Army for resources,” Maurice said. It runs the Center of Hope, a Tulsabased shelter, feeding and social services center for the homeless which can accommodate up to 350 people.

And, in a church and Corps context, the Tulsa Citadel has an active brass band – something that Maurice, as a musician himself, had hoped to develop in Kearny – a multi-instrument Praise and Worship Band, a “very active” Women’s Auxiliary and a Men’s Club which was recently feted as Men’s Club of the Year for the Region.

For Sherry, the move carries a personal resonance: She’ll be re-connecting to her roots. “I grew up in Bartlesville, a suburb of Tulsa, and my mom Linda is still there,” she said. And her sisters, Tina and Kim, are not far away, living in Hot Springs, Ark.

Tina and her husband Jonathan have been active with the Salvation Army’s Southern Territory since 1993, Sherry noted.

Maurice said the couple has “mixed emotions” about their imminent departure from Kearny which he characterized as “a wonderful community. It has good people who love and support the Salvation Army.”

In particular, he said, members of their Advisory Board, chaired by Ellie Nakrosis, have been invaluable in lending a hand, whatever the situation required, whether it was the Christmas kettle drive, the annual dinner (this year’s affair raised $12,000 in proceeds), the food pantry and on and on. “We were very blessed to have them,” he said.

Joann and Charles Dolan, for example, “have their finger on the heartbeat of the community” and always know where to go to provide a service or secure a needed item, he said. “I also want to thank our neighbor Laurence Mach for welcoming us our first day in Kearny and being always willing to help.”

Maurice also credited Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos “for being a big support to us.”

“Those are some of the people we will never forget,” he said. “Living and working in the Kearny community has been a very good experience for us and our daughter Elise, who is 6, has enjoyed attending kindergarten at Roosevelt School.”

Looking back over their two-year sojourn here, the couple said that one of the high points was the connection made with the local high school students through the anti-hunger Canstruction project that led to the students donating food to the Salvation Army pantry. “We hope that relationship will continue,” Maurice said.

Many of the people who applied for food from the pantry were immigrants from Central and South America, he said. “Many are on a waiting list for a green card and, since we have been here, we know of three from Central America who became U.S. citizens. A lot of the immigrants we have come into contact with are living with family members who have figured out the ropes.”

Shelly and Maurice said they were also pleased with the community response to the Salvation Army-sponsored programs in English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction and a computer class for adults and senior citizens.

“Our biggest disappointment,” said Sherry, “was that we lost the $15,000 ESL grant that we had been getting from the Hudson County CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) program. But we are counting on our Division Headquarters and the community to ensure that the program will continue.”

A separate CDBG grant that subsidizes the pantry program has been renewed, she noted.

Nakrosis said the Moukouangalas will be missed. “They truly loved being in Kearny and it will be sad to see them go,” she said. “Both did everything they could for the Salvation Army here. They increased the amount of money we received from our kettle campaign, they worked very hard to get our food pantry going, particularly with their efforts to solicit donations of infant and baby products like diapers which are very expensive now, and the roof of our building has stopped leaking after they got a contractor to fix it.”

And Nakrosis added, “We’re looking forward to working with our new Corps Officers,” Lts. Hwang and Seoyoung Lim, the current leaders of the Montclair Citadel.

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