There's a new person heading up the Salvation Army in Dunkirk.
Lt. Daniel Gonzalez, 37, born and raised in Manhattan, is the new Commanding Officer for the Salvation Army. He has been here just over a month and is looking forward to making a difference in the community.
When his parents moved to Massachusetts, he faced some hard life struggles. Battling drugs and addiction at 18 made it very difficult for Gonzalez to get clean, but for the past nine years, he has been able to stay clean and away from addiction. He moved from Massachusetts to Rochester, and while living there he visited Buffalo.
OBSERVER Photos by Jennifer Peters
Left to right, Lt. Daniel Gonzalez, Dunkirk Mayor A.J. Dolce, Anthony Dolce, and Laura Gonzalez. Dolce and his son showed their support recently by joining other citizens to welcome the new commanding officer for the Salvation Army in Dunkirk.
"I decided while I was in Rochester to go to the Salvation Army Program in Buffalo," Gonzalez said. "I remained in the program for six or seven months and became a member of the Salvation Army in 2003."
After he graduated, he stayed in Rochester. He volunteered for about two years, but wanted to be more involved in the church, so he started teaching Sunday school and preaching.
"I felt the calling to being a full-time minister," Gonzalez explained.
He then went to the Salvation Army for Officer Training for two years and just recently graduated on June 10, and from there was appointed to Dunkirk.
He moved there with his wife, Laura, and their 9-year-old son, Nathan. Gonzalez also has two other sons, Alex, who is 16 and Anthony, who is 14.
"We are one mission, one message and one army," Gonzalez explained. "In this food pantry here, we do vouchers to help people. There was a lady with four kids, didn't know one word of English, so I gave her a bed, a couch, two dressers and a TV for the kids."
The Gonzalezes are in charge of the Salvation Army. They started with 20 members and now have 50 members and five volunteers. Apart from the 50 members, they have 25 teenagers and seven little kids.
"My parents were pastors, so I grew up in the Salvation Amy, too," Laura said. "I got my 2-year-degree as well, and now we are both pastors together at the Salvation Army."
"We really want to get our feet on the ground and have people realize that we are a church, too," Laura continued. "Our goal is to meet human needs and help as much as we can."
Both Lt. Gonzalez and Laura are very passionate about the Salvation Army and showing people that they are there to help.