The Salvation Army of Atlanta’s needs mesh with those of volunteer retiree
By: Brad Rowland
After completing the last 20 years of a career in housing, community development, zoning and development management in North Carolina, James Diepenbrock relocated to the Atlanta area to spend more time with his grandchildren and two grown children. Diepenbrock became aware of The Salvation Army’s work through a connection during his time in Wilmington, North Carolina, and in the summer of 2019, he attended a disaster services training put together by the Georgia Division.
From there, Diepenbrock was connected with Chris Durand, director of management services for the Atlanta Area Command, and a fruitful partnership was formed through Diepenbrock’s heart for volunteer mission.
“Last summer, we decided to put together some disaster training classes at DHQ and Jim signed up to attend,” said Donna Roper, volunteer coordinator for the Atlanta Area Command. “He ended up doing so, and I was attending the classes as well. Afterward, he let me know that he wanted to get involved in other ways, also sharing what his background was. Looking at that, I put him in touch with Chris (Durand). He was eager to help, and it ended up being a perfect fit.”
In Atlanta and across the Southern Territory, The Salvation Army deploys a facilities management software called ARCHIBUS, which would apply, but not be limited, to Kroc Centers, area command buildings and shelters. The software is highly useful and functional, but the implementation can be labor intensive, particularly at the outset, due to logistics and data entry.
That opened the door for Durand and his team to carve out a dedicated volunteer position, which seemed to be a natural fit for Diepenbrock. Beginning in October, Diepenbrock began coming to the area command offices on a weekly basis, spending time with data entry that helps with workflow, preventative maintenance and the furthering of capital planning.
“It’s a God thing,” Durand said. “The timing just happened to be perfect and we really needed the help that Jim was able to bring. He’s been pivotal in this implementation, entering the data almost as quickly as we can give it to him. It’s blossomed from there and we are very grateful for Jim, his heart and the work he’s done.”
In a state of semi-retirement, Diepenbrock was on the hunt for ways to make an impact in the Atlanta community. He found a niche that was both enjoyable and functional with The Salvation Army, and Diepenbrock’s previous career experience proved to be a bonus.
“I enjoy hearing that it makes a significant difference and that the work is helpful,” Diepenbrock said. “This work also helps me keep my skills sharp, which I think is important for someone of retirement age. I think volunteering can be a spiritual calling, and it’s also an age and stage in life for me. The thing that’s really great about volunteering is the flexibility to invest where the need is and to be available where the need is; also just being free to explore many different options and be as helpful as possible wherever I can make an impact.”
Diepenbrock plans to continue the work, recently visiting Atlanta’s Red Shield Services Emergency and Transitional Housing Facility. When he’s not volunteering, Diepenbrock works on the campus of Perimeter Church in the Johns Creek community, and he also provides support services in the Atlanta community for adults with special needs and memory loss.
“I’ve long believed in the mission of The Salvation Army, and this volunteer role provides wonderful opportunities to serve and contribute to that mission with tangible significance,” Diepenbrock said. “We aren’t always fortunate enough to minister this way in our first vocation. I hope to encourage others age 60 and older, because it’s never too late to play a part and let the Lord minister through us using abilities with which he has equipped us over the course of our lives.”