EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. — His thick New England accent made him stand out. His love for community and helping others will be his legacy.
After spending the last three years in Monroe County, Salvation Army in East Stroudsburg's leader, Maj. Gilbert Parkhurst is being relocated.
"To see the difference that God has allowed us to make here working with the community, staff, and donors to look and see the changes in people's lives has just been incredible," said Maj. Parkhurst.
Parkhurst will soon serve the people of Danbury, Connecticut.
People who work alongside Parkhurst agree his departure will be a big loss for the community.
"I was always able to call or text him, any day or night. He was always there for me and my family. I had the boss part of him and also the friend part of him, which I thought was really nice," said Candi Miller, the assistant food pantry director.
While the major has only been here for three years, he has a number of different accomplishments under his belt.
Just to name a few, he's handed out more than two million meals and has helped hundreds of people get from shelters and off the streets into permanent housing.
"We changed the program a lot. We brought on a case manager and housing locator. The exciting thing was that over the past three years, over 400 people have been housed. The real good thing was during the pandemic, the shelter never closed, and we were able to put 120 people into housing. It was just incredible," said Parkhurst.
The pandemic forced a lot of changes at the organization, too.
Dine-in meals at the soup kitchen adjusted to take-out only. Holiday dinner distributions and toy drives all needed to be done differently.
Parkhurst says it's been his greatest challenge to date.
"I have been involved in a lot of disasters. I have been to Hurricane Katrina, Ground Zero in New York, lots of hurricanes. When you go to those, you're there for a couple of weeks, and then someone will rotate in. You can bring help in from other areas. With the pandemic, you couldn't do that."
Parkhurst says despite the challenges of the last 15 months, he wouldn't trade his time here in the Poconos.
"I think we really made a connection, and that is the hardest thing to leave, you know. When you, when you make those connections in the community, and you have young people and folks up there in age saying we really don't want to see you leave, it makes it hard."
Maj. Parkhurst will move on later this month.
Maj. John Wheeler and his wife Martha from Pen Argyl's Salvation Army are expected to take his place.