Major Jan, Captain Frankie Zuniga say goodbye to The Salvation Army of Orange County

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, June 13, 2023

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Two community leaders — Major Jan and Captain Frankie Zuniga — are leaving their posts in Orange County following six years of local service to The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army Board recently hosted an event to celebrate the current leadership and wish them well on their journey to their next post.

The are staying in Texas to work in McAllen, and will be replaced later this month with incoming leadership.

The Zuniga Sendoff was well attended. Community members like Gisela Houseman, Butch Campbell, outgoing Board chair Karin McKinney, peers in the nonprofit industry and others enjoyed refreshments as they said “see you later” to the family who answered the call to serve in Orange six years ago.

The trained disaster team members were well positioned to serve Orange County when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in late 2017.

“We have had training and multiple years of experience; Captain Frankie was on one of the first Salvation Army canteens to go into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; one of the very first canteens,” Jan Zuniga said.

“It is something that we both have had previous experiences in our officership. We weren’t expecting it to happen to us. We were watching the coastline, and when we got here, we just took our experiences, listened to our staff and went straight to work.”

Pictured, from left, are Captain Frankie Zuniga, Gisela Houseman and Major Jan Zuniga. (Courtesy photo)

In the intervening years the Zunigas managed disaster relief, worship services, several food pantries, utility assistance programs, winter season toy drives and a host of other activities that benefited the community.

Jan credited local Salvation Army staff and community support for the success of projects like the new LSCO food pantry. She expressed to the community that there would be no interruption in services during the leadership transition.

“We have had some staff transition, but most people who get help know Ms. Bonnie, and Ms. Bonnie will still be writing utility assistance,” Jan said. “My staff is still working very hard to make sure the food pantry happens. We have partnerships with those in the community to still make sure those programs happen.

“Because of what we’ve done in the past six years; we’ve built resources that are not dependent upon us. What’s happened in the six years is that we have put partnerships and foundations to last beyond us. The way the Salvation Army impacts the community will not be dependent upon us.”

Emily Mellen of the Salvation Army board said Major Jan and Captain Frankie Zuniga have been a stabilizing force.

She said, to her knowledge, every year they have been here, there’s been a major disaster, most either hurricanes or tropical storms.

“They have been such an incredible essential lifeline to help our community get back on track,” Mellen said. “We’re going to miss them, but we know they’re going to do amazing things in McAllen. We’re excited to welcome the new family who will be coming.”

In McAllen, the Zunigas will supervise double the number of staff while managing a FEMA contract that provides four emergency shelters.

When asked to reflect on the promotion, the Zunigas acknowledged the professional significance while expressing what they deem of greater importance, what it means to live a life of service.

“One of the amazing things is that by serving in the Salvation Army, I have a freedom to minister no matter where I’m sent,” Jan said. “I’m not waiting for someone to give me the freedom to minster.  I agreed to serve in this role knowing that there would be service. It’s built up flexibility in our children. They are part of our ministry.

“(The move) hurts because we’ve built up a lot of friends outside of work, and this has been amazing place for our children to grow. God has seasons, and if we stay stuck in one season, we will never see the greatness of what he has beyond. So, it hurts to leave Orange, but we are willing to see what God does through the Army in Orange. The Zunigas are important but what the Army does is more important. We’re excited to see how God’s going to change us again and grow us again in this next season of our life.”

Katie Durio of Stable Spirit worked with them as they responded to 2017’s hurricane season. Her sentiments echo what other board members shared: she will miss the Zunigas and stands ready to support the new captains as they settle into the Orange Corps during 2023’s hurricane season.

The Zuniga send off was one of many held in Orange County to recognize the outgoing leadership. The Orange County Commissioners Court and Orange Rotary Club also commemorated the Zunigas’ years of service with special events.

— Written by Shari Hardin