HELLO, OCALA! Meet your neighbors: Majors Phillip and Lynn Irish

Majors Phillip and Lynn Irish of the Salvation Army during the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon at the Salvation Army on Northeast 14th Street in Ocala on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

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Posted March 17, 2023 |

Majors Phillip and Lynn Irish were appointed to move from a small suburb near Jacksonville, Florida, to the Marion County Salvation Army post in June of 2022. Typically, the organization moves officers (pastors and administrators) every three to four years, he said. 

The couple, who are from Ironton, in southern Ohio, met when his family attended services at the small mission-oriented church where her family were members. Phillip was employed as a producer/director for a radio and television station. Lynn is a registered nurse. When they met, she noticed he had an earring and thought that was “cool.” 

Lynn said when they were in the small town of Ironton, they were involved in a tri-state setting. They lived in Ohio, worked in West Virginia and went to church in Kentucky, all within close distance of their home. The church in Kentucky was a small Salvation Army church, which Phillip’s parents attended. The couple became very active in the work of that church. 

While Phillip was teaching a Sunday school class at the Kentucky church, a Salvation Army high commander for the Kentucky/Tennessee area, who was visiting the church, strongly challenged him, asking to know why he and his wife were not enrolled as cadets in the Salvation Army officer training program. 

That program requires both husband and wife to be in the program with the intent to become joint leaders, or “majors” in the Salvation Army. They determined this was God’s will for them and “sold everything, packed up the kids, and moved to Atlanta, Georgia,” Lynn said, and were enrolled as cadets in the Salvation Army College for the two-year officer training. 

After completing the training, they were commissioned as captains, in which capacity they served for 15 years before achieving the rank of majors. Their first appointment was in Nashville, Tennessee, where they served for four years at the Salvation Army church. 

Since that time, they have served in Hopkinsville, Kentucky; Mobile, Alabama; Orlando, Florida; Citrus County, Florida; and in Clay County, Florida, near Jacksonville. 

Their four children include daughter Morgan, who is married and has a son, Charlie. They live in Maine, where her husband, Eddie, is the Salvation Army divisional music director for northern New England. Daughter Madison is 26 and lives in Ocala. Daughter Maysun, 18, will graduate from high school in Ocala this spring. Their son, Merrik, 16, is in high school in Ocala. 

“When we came here, our mission for Ocala was to re-establish our full service into the community in the post-COVID environment,” Phillip said. 

Services here never stopped during that time but, moving forward, they plan to enhance the programs that are available, they shared. 

Lynn said one vision is to rebuild the youth program, which is her area of focus. 

“This is in process now, and there will be an ongoing emphasis in this area,” she added. 

They emphasized that “Ocala is extraordinary in that this is a very loving community and church. Everyone has been uniquely welcoming.” 

Lynn added that “Ocala is a quiet, big little town. It’s not crazy busy like Jacksonville or Orlando.” 

Phillip explained that “first and foremost, the Salvation Army is basically a church. Sharing the word of God is the motivation for everything else the corps does because of the love of God.” 

The broad spectrum of services offered in the community is driven by the needs of the community, he explained. Church services are held each week, as well as Sunday school, mid-week Bible study and small groups for men, women and children. 

The Irishes said that community involvement of the Salvation Army, in addition to the well-known Red Kettle program during the holidays, includes: 

• Emergency Services – Assists families attempting to keep homes and jobs by providing help with food, clothing, furniture, utilities (as funds are available) and housing. 

• Center of Hope – Provides daily meals to thousands of homeless and low-income people every year. 

• Emergency Shelter – For homeless individuals and victims of tragedies, the Center of Hope provides shelter for women, men and families. There is a 40-bed capacity. 

• Transitional Housing – Six safe and secure family rooms at the Center of Hope are offered to those who have become homeless through loss of job or because of tragedy. Three meals a day are provided, along with laundry facilities and limited transportation. While living there, adults are encouraged to work or further their education to secure permanent housing and employment. 

• Counseling – Professional staff work to help individuals find long-term solutions to their issues. Appointments are made for further evaluation, counseling and the medical clinic. 

• Family Thrift Store – Raises money to enable the Salvation Army to provide household goods and clothing to those in need. 

• Holiday programs – Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are provided for those who would otherwise go without. Food baskets, toys and clothing are provided to individuals who are unable to provide for their families. 

• The Angel Tree Program – Provides gifts and clothing through donations for Christmas presents for children in families who could otherwise not afford to give their children a Christmas celebration of any kind. 

• Youth programs 

• Senior housing – A HUD property administered by the Salvation Army, the Evangeline Booth Apartment complex, has 64 apartments for low-income seniors. 

The couple emphasized, “We are happy to be here to see what the Lord will do while we’re here.” 

Phillip quoted Salvation Army founder, William Booth, who originated the organization’s motto, “This, and better we’ll do.” 

The Salvation Army’s main facility is located at 2901 NE 14th St. in Ocala. To learn more call, (352) 629-2004 or go to salvationarmyflorida.org/ocala 

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