Wilsonian to lead reworked Salvation Army

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


A familiar face will lead the newly reorganized Salvation Army of Wilson; a leader who has lived and worked in the community her entire life.

“Between my experience working at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club and living in Wilson, I plan to continue sustainable and holistic services to those in need through the Salvation Army,” said Montressee “Chon” Ferrell, service center director. “I am excited to do the most good for the people of Wilson.”

Ferrell graduated from Fike High School in 1996, attending classes at Barton College and Wilson Community College for nursing and business administration. When her now 13-year-old son was just 3, a lifelong friend — Charmaine Harris — told her about a part-time opportunity at the club for an after-school worker. The 40-year-old mother of two applied and got the position.

“I love the kids,” she said. “I’m a big kid myself, so it is all about the kids for me: the smiles on their faces, the laughter and the conversations. When I was growing up, I wanted a lot of kids, and each of these are my kids and the club is a big family for me.

“They are why I do what I do every day.”

Ferrell worked her way through the ranks at the club and within the Salvation Army, eventually becoming executive director of the club in 2016. She said as rumors swirled about potential organizational changes last year, she doubled down with her passion and commitment.

“When you hear the rumors and get questions from the kids, the parents and the staff, you tell them we’re not going anywhere and we’ll be here for the kids, but in the back of your mind, you just don’t know,” she said. “It made me want to push harder because the kids need this place and somewhere positive to go.”

In December, Salvation Army officials from headquarters announced the closure of the church, discontinuation of an officer assigned to the community and the creation of the service center within the family store for the social service programs. Ferrell said while she was one of the first to find out about the opening for a service center director, she was the last one to apply.

“I did not immediately apply for it because I was happy being executive director of the club,” she said. “I was doing what I wanted to do, but people kept urging me to apply.”

While going through the interview process, Ferrell discussed the opportunity with her husband of 19 years, so when the call came on Jan. 25, she was ready to accept. She’ll officially start her new responsibilities on Tuesday, and Maj. Bobby Lancaster will return to his life of retirement on Friday.

“We are excited to see how (Ferrell) will guide the vision and sustain and grow the Salvation Army of Wilson’s social ministry and outreach services,” Lancaster said.

Ferrell said her priority is becoming more involved in the community and rallying support for the Salvation Army of Wilson’s new image.

“I think it is important to build a stronger relationship with the community and that is my primary goal,” she said. “Community support is essential, and it is one thing I pushed for when I became executive director of the club. The club is now doing phenomenal, and I want to take that and apply it to the service center of the Army, continuing to build on that support and secure funding.

“Everybody is growing and prospering because we are all one and all working together as a team.”

The family store shuttered in January to allow crews to prepare for the transition to a service center. Officials said construction should be completed in the coming weeks, and the community will get to witness the reorganization firsthand.

“There were hard decisions that had to be made, but by making those decisions it hasn’t stopped us from serving individuals and families every day, whether it was through social services, family store and the club. Our services are a vital to the community, to the individuals and families,” Ferrell said. “The restructure is a commitment that we are going to operate in a manner that allows us to serve as many in the community as we possibly can, and to make sure we are good stewards of the money entrusted to us.”