Trading in the deep South for a home in the Sooner State, Salvation Army Capts. Patrick and Stacey Connelly, and their children, have officially moved into their roles as corps. officers of the Shawnee branch of the Salvation Army.

Trading in the deep South for a home in the Sooner State, Salvation Army Capts. Patrick and Stacey Connelly, and their children, have officially moved into their roles as corps. officers of the Shawnee branch of the Salvation Army.

Monday was their first full day on the job.

As per tradition, the Salvation Army routinely — every three or four years or so — repositions its leadership teams in different locations to maximize on the many strengths of the officers as a whole.

This marks a third move for the Connellys; their two previous terms — Hattiesburg and Laurel, Mississippi — were uncommonly close, within just 32 miles of each other. This time, traveling nearly 650 miles away from their families and neighborhoods for the past eight years, the Connellys have now officially begun serving Shawnee.

“This is my first time to live this side of the Mississippi River,” Patrick said. “We are excited to be here.”

The welcome to town has been refreshing, he said, as he described an unexpected embrace from local board members toward them and their children.

Their 2-year-old daughter Katherine will watch her older sister Madison, 5, begin her school career here as she enters Kindergarten in the Fall.

The Connellys also have one more loved one to account for on their journey — Rupp, their two-and-a-half-year-old Yorkie.

“He's a Connelly, too,” Madison said.

Stacey said the family felt loved since the minute they arrived to their new home.

That's not all they felt.

Patrick said they have been enjoying the cooler temperatures in the evenings and early mornings.

In Mississippi, with the heat and humidity, he said they couldn't eat dinner outdoors or be comfortable outside early in the morning.

“There, it's summer, and then there's some winter — which means rain,” he said.

Patrick said tornadoes are something the family is familiar with, though receiving severe weather alerts every day isn't. He said since they have been in town that has been the case.

“We're looking forward to having seasons,” he said. “The girls are see snow.”

Though the Connellys were barely through their first day of work Monday, Patrick said plans are already being formulated for ways to improve services at the nonprofit.

“We're reviewing all the programs and services,” he said. “We want to make sure people will get from us all the things they need most from us.”

“We have such and active and enthusiastic board,” Stacey said. ”The possibilities are endless.”

Patrick said a trait of the Salvation Army is its role of bringing awareness to things that need attention.

“We need to get to know what needs advocating,” he said. “We are only as successful as the community we serve.”

The Connellys said they want their time here to be spent very involved in ways to help the area — and with the support of the Lord and the community, they will.

One project on their radar already is the thrift store operated by the Shawnee Salvation Army.

“Some big changes are coming for the family store,” Patrick said.

He said there are many changes they have in mind that can improve the store's function as a fundraiser that won't cost anything financially.

“There's clearly an appetite for second-hand store shopping here,” Patrick said. “We want to make the most of it.”

Stacey said one of the things they'd like to accomplish is possibly adding donation collection sites around town.

“If a donor takes the time and trouble of loading up their car and thinking of us to donate to, we will take it,” he said, addressing the issue of picky collection policies of the past.

The couple experienced strong growth in generating income at the store at one of their former Salvation Army homes, Patrick said.

“The sales floor at our old store was three times bigger,” he said. “Clothing is a big seller; if it doesn't move quickly we will start discounting it.”

He also said receiving some donations that are stained and worn are not an issue — they can be baled and sold by weight, as well.

Some of the best-sellers they have found, Patrick said, are clothing, dishes and knick-knack items.

“We want to rotate items quickly and improve orientation of the store,” he said.

Stacey said they also plan to promote items and sales on social media at some point.

Watch for updates.