December 2015 marks the retirement of Ingle Farm Corps’ Alan Steven, who served as the director of the corps’ extensive social programs for 19 years.
Among his duties, the retiring director had oversight of the corps’ Burlendi service for homeless youth, as well as Ingle Farm’s ‘Muggy’s network’, which looks after up to 60 ‘guardianship’ youth for the state government at any one time.
Instrumental to the success of working with these young people, Mr Steven noted, is the corps’ Rev (Revolution) youth congregation, which offers acceptance, friendship, community and spiritual support.
Looking back at the corps’ history and passionate engagement with its community, Mr Steven said ‘the notion of having a corps running social services was radical. It still is to some.
‘Many corps back then would do a little bit of ER (emergency relief, food vouchers etc.) and have a thrift shop up and about. But to actually have government funding for homelessness services was unique, and we’ve continued to have small programs added and taken away ever since, mainly in youth services.’
It’s Ingle Farm’s unabashed focus on ‘others’, he explained, that connected with the corps’ 93 paid staff members: ‘Our best motivation for staff is the realisation that, as an organisation we are not going to give up on our kids. No way; no how.
‘The interests of a child,’ he added, ‘are first and foremost. The full focus is on the kid; every kid should be treated differently, with case plans written specifically for the individual. There is no sausage machine at Ingle Farm. We do what it takes to get kids through and we don’t give up on them at any point.’
Divisional commander Lieut-Colonel Ron Clinch said the success of Muggy’s was ‘because Alan Steven’s ran it; you knew the network is okay. Alan was that classic conduit; a person who links a corps and their shared program mission. That can be rare, sadly.
‘Ingle Farm works because they have blurred lines and no clear divide between corps and social,’ the lieut-colonel added. ‘That can be hard to fit into The Salvation Army system, but we’re happy for it to be that way.’
Corps officer Captain David Collinson said that a lot of Ingle Farm’s success at helping youth and the community ‘is the result of Alan’s faithfulness over the past 19 years. He has continually chosen and trained the right staff members; the best staff members for this place. He builds them up and hardly ever chooses a “wrong” person who doesn’t fit. It’s a real skill.’
‘The corps trains staff up in the Ingle Farm way – that’s a crucial part of our success, the inculturation,’ he added.
‘Kylie and I have been observing closely, trying to work out why this place is so effective and why integrated mission works so well here…staff members love working here; it’s a genuine connection with them as individuals and they are committed to the kids they work with to an inspiring degree. The social staff members’ catchphrase, taught over the years by Alan, is “We never give up” – very Churchillian, but it’s true. They don’t.
‘There are a lot of really dedicated retired people in the corps,’ the captain added, ‘and they do what they do because they believe in it. It’s not a question of “corps” or “social” – it’s The Salvation Army Ingle Farm.
‘We want people to have life in the fullest possible sense, materially, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.’
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