Salvation Army chaplain retires after 50 years of service

published on 19 Jun 2015

A chaplain for our homelessness services in Edinburgh has brought the curtain down on 50 years of service.

Major Isabell Huggins retired from her role at our Regener8 drop-in centre and the Pleaseance Lifehouse.

She admits loving every minute of her time in Edinburgh and said helping service users turn their lives around had brought her the most joy.

Major Isabell said: "It has been a privilege to serve God and the many people who come to The Salvation Army seeking our help. I love working with them and seeing the turnaround in their lives."

The officer is originally from North Shields and revealed she fell in love with The Salvation Army at the age of 11 when her and a few friends went to an open-air concert in her home town.

At the age of 18 she felt God calling her to join the church and charity, and a year later began training to be an officer.

Major Isabell graduated from William Booth Training College two years later in 1965 and her first appointment as an officer was in Wales at Coedpoeth.

She married her husband Robert soon after and they were appointed to work on men's social services in Nottingham.

The couple had many more appointments across the UK before arriving in Edinburgh 19 years ago.

Sadly, Robert passed away in 2006 but Major Isabell continued her mission work, offering practical and spiritual advice to homeless men and women.

One service user Dawn Crawford praised Major Isabell for her dedication to service users and recalled the time the chaplain took care of the flower arrangements for her partner's funeral just hours before undergoing a major operation.

Dawn said: "She is an incredible woman and goes the extra mile for myself and all the service users in her care. She was there for me when my partner died and I'll never forget that."

Looking back at her early life, Major Isabell paid tribute to her old singing company leader Wilf Mercer who she says was her inspiration for joining The Salvation Army.

She said: Wilf and his wife Nancy were a major influence during my teenage years and even though they have both passed away, they are still an inspiration. Thanks to their spiritual guidance I have enjoyed great service and many highlights."

When asked which highlight shines brightest, Major Isabell says: "Attending the High Council and being there when Bramwell Tilsley was made the General of The Salvation Army. I was part of a team of helpers but we were all made to feel like equals among the Commissioners. It was the greatest thrill of my life."

Andrew McCall, Regional Homelessness Services Manager for The Salvation Army, said: "It has been an absolute privilege to work with Isabell. She is held in the highest regard by all staff and service users. She'll be sorely missed."