ALPENA - Salvation Army Majs, Craig and Joan Stoker met as young teens while studying nature at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Joan had found a stone in a pit that she was unable to break with her hammer and decided to carry it back to the classroom. When Craig noticed her carrying the heavy stone, he offered to carry it for her - if she would carry the snakes he had caught in a pillow case. The two became inseparable from that moment on and later married.
The Stokers have been fixtures in the Salvation Army for more than 40 years and have been in Alpena since 2008. They have played a vital role in helping lead the local effort to help families who are struggling. Now they are retiring and moving back to the Grand Rapids area, but will continue to volunteer and continue their ministry efforts.
Joan said the time the couple spent in Alpena has shown them that the people in Alpena have compassion for one another, share and work hard for causes they believe in.
News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Majs. Joan and Craig Stoker have served Alpena with the Salvation Army since 2008 and have been critical components in helping those in need. Later this month they will retire, but promise to continue to volunteer in the Grand Rapids area.
"We have gotten to know a bunch of wonderful people and the volunteers that have come out for years have been huge blessings," Stoker said. "The people's willingness, excitement and passion to do the tasks to help those in need and work with the kids is amazing and to work with them has been a wonderful experience."
Craig said there is a mandatory retirement age in place with the Salvation Army and now that he has reached that age, it is time to move on. He said their last day in Alpena will be June 22 and then replacements will take over.
He said Maj. Kevin and Lt. Amy Cedarvall will be moving to Alpena and anticipates the local Salvation Army will continue to flourish under their care. Stoker said the couple is ready to take a break and focus their attention on the next chapter in their lives.
"It's time and it will be nice to have a little free time," Stoker said. "We have not had much for a long time. We will still be active in volunteering and helping people, except it will be more on our own time."
Joan said there are several Salvation Army causes she intends to support.
"We still have a lot of skills and experience to offer, so there will be many opportunities to volunteer," Stoker said. "There is a Salvation Army camp in Grand Rapids. There is the Salvation Army Kroc Center and other entities in the area that we can maker a difference at. We're hoping to continue to work with kids for nature programs. There are many things we will still be able to do and still be able to take a vacation and not have to worry about being home to go to work at (6 a.m.)."
Craig said recently they went to a regional conference for Salvation Army leaders. While there the Salvation Army presented them a special gift, one they will use often when in Grand Rapids. It is one that will stir memories of year gone by and help make the couple's lives come full circle.
Without knowing the history of how the Stokers met at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, the Salvation Army presented the Stokers a membership to their favorite museum. Heavy rocks and snakes not included, however.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.