Victoria Salvation Army commander changing posts
June 15, 2012 at 1:15 a.m.
Salvation Army Majs. Ernest and Denise Lozano plan one last stop before they leave Victoria on Monday - the city limits.
"When we say our final farewells, and I turn in my keys for the last time, we are going to drive to the edge of town, pull over and say a prayer blessing for this beautiful community," Ernest Lozano said.
"We have loved so many, cried with so many. We are never, ever going to forget our experience being here," he added.
The Lozanos, who have led the Salvation Army in Victoria for six years, are transferring to Longview.
Their last day on the job in Victoria will be Father's Day, with a special farewell service and luncheon planned.
"It's going to be hard on that last day. I will forever be grateful to have had the opportunity to serve in Victoria. If I could do it all over again, I would do it," said Lozano, the longest serving commanding officer in the more than 50-year history of the Salvation Army in Victoria.
What the Lozanos have done is oversee an organization that works to assist some of society's most needy people.
The services include a homeless shelter, evening meals to the indigent, disaster relief, thrift store, senior and youth meetings, a community Thanksgiving meal, Christmas assistance programs and church services.
During the Lozanos' tenure, the Salvation Army has made about $350,000 in facility improvements, including the thrift store and chapel expansion and renovations of the men's shelter. An area that will serve as a women's shelter also is under construction.
Ernest Lozano deflects any personal credit, preferring to praise his staff, area charitable foundations and the community.
"My thanks go to the community. My thanks go to our donors, those who supported us during difficult times," he said. "It's in difficult times that more people turn to us and seek our help. The only way we can do it is through the generosity of the community. This community has helped us make such a positive impact in the lives of so many.
"I've also had a great staff. The people working with me have been incredible," he added.
Denise Lozano, who handles the organization's programs and women's ministry, said, "I enjoyed myself here. This community is very generous and loving and we're going to miss it."
Doc Bartlett, former Salvation Army men's shelter director and current social services case worker, said Ernest Lozano has been an effective commander.
"He is fair, compassionate and supportive," said Bartlett, who has been with the Victoria Salvation Army about eight years. "He supports his people. He always looks out for the best interests of his employees and the people we take care of."
"He made some changes for the betterment of the Salvation Army so we might operate more efficiently," Bartlett added. "He made things that worked well, work better."
Lozano said his philosophy was learned from a former higher-up in the Salvation Army.
"He taught me not to try to make everything perfect," Lozano said. "But work on making an area that was a five, a six. Make a seven an eight. Try to make a place better than you found it."
Time in Victoria
The Lozanos, who celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary on May 23, "found" Victoria in 2006 and were thrilled with the appointment.
"It was always our dream appointment. It was an answer to a prayer," Lozano said. "I had friends who served here in the middle '80s. They said, 'This is a beautiful community. I hope one day you get appointed to Victoria.' That planted a seed in my heart."
"For many, many years I had the desire to come here. I felt strongly in my heart that this was God's place for us," he said, "never realizing all that would happen while we were here, especially in 2010."
During the couple's first three years in Victoria, they had several deaths in their families including Ernest's brother. But 2010 would prove to be most memorable.
In 2010, Lozano had heart surgery, his daughter and his son both got married and the couple also took a cruise to Alaska for their 30th anniversary. On Dec. 27, 2010, they became grandparents.
"I experienced so many milestones here in Victoria. I can't believe six years have passed. It has gone by so quickly," he said. "I consider our six years here an unbelievable, unique experience that will stay with us.
"Am I going to tell you it's been the easiest path, that there haven't been any challenges or difficulties? No. There are always challenges and difficulties.
"What I am proudest of is the opportunity to have been a contributing member to this community," Lozano said.
Lifetime of service
Lozano has spent almost half a century in the Salvation Army.
"I've been in the Salvation Army since I was 5 years old," said Lozano, who turns 55 in July. "My mother took me to the Salvation Army church in Harlingen and I've been a part of it ever since."
Among his memories is time spent in Oklahoma City after the bombing of the federal building in 1995.
"I still have two pieces of brick from the Murrah building," said Lozano. "They serve as a reminder."
The couple became commissioned officers in the Salvation Army on June 4, 1989.
Their appointments have included an eight-year stay in Plainview, where Ernest was also the longest-serving commanding officer.
On to Longview
The couple is excited about the move to Longview.
"We don't get promotions or more money after attaining the rank of major," Lozano said. "We get more responsibility, which is the next step up. We're excited about the prospects of going to Longview. It's got a solid Army foundation.
"It's going to be a new, fresh opportunity. I will try to build on the foundation that is there and make it better," he said.
"I've given six years of blood, sweat and tears to this community. It's made me a much better person, a much better servant for the Lord Jesus Christ and more prepared to serve in Longview."
The current officers there are the same ones the Lozanos followed in Victoria, Capts. Guy and Delores Watts. They are being transferred to Harlingen, Lozano's hometown.
Coming to Victoria will be Capts. Mark and Laura Martin, currently in Pampa, where the Lozanos served from 1991 to 1993.
"We will pray for our successors. I have known them for many years. They are good people," Lozano said. "They are excited about the ministry opportunities that await them here."
In Longview, Lozano said he plans to maintain his doctrine of helping others.
"Never take your eyes off Jesus. You can't do it on your own," he said. "He is my shepherd, but I've been sent to be the shepherd of my flock.
"We need to be a beacon of hope to those out there lost and adrift. It's the greatest job in the world. It's a calling."