Salvation Stories

Among the First

Tanya was able to help people in tough situations find solutions for their troubles—just like other Kroc staff had been doing for her.

Lieutenant Tanya Pemberton and her husband, Lieutenant Timothy Pemberton, are likely among the first Salvation Army officers to come out of any of the 26 Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers across the country.    

An argument could certainly be made the Lieutenant Tanya Pemberton could be “first of the first”—the first Salvation Army officer to come out of the first Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center (San Diego, California).

What may be even more remarkable was the reason Tanya ventured into the front door of the San Diego Kroc in the first place—a free meal for her and her family.

“It wasn’t because we were destitute or something like that,” she says, “I just heard that on Wednesday nights a free family-style dinner was offered—no cooking, no cleaning, and no cost!”

Tanya saw this as a wonderful thing for a stay-at-home mom of two kids, who also felt the loneliness and isolation that comes with addiction.

“I got to meet other parents and their children. It was pretty amazing for me. I made it a weekly routine, and then after a few months the officer at the time called me at home and asked if I would like to stay after the dinner and help teach troops. I was amazed that they would want me to help; so I quickly accepted,” she says.

A few weeks after, her husband, Timothy, was able to get off work early to come to join his family for dinner at the Kroc.

“I remember waiting and waiting. I was so excited to show him the program and have him eat dinner for free as well, But that night he never showed up.”

That’s because Timothy instead stopped at a liquor store and got drunk. He was then involved in a DUI accident. Luckily no one was hurt, but he was arrested and had to spend time in the county jail.

“This is where the people at The Salvation Army stepped in,” Tanya continues. “They didn’t judge us. Instead, Captain David Leonard knew just what to do.”

Captain Leonard helped Timothy get a bed at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) there in San Diego.

“Captain Leonard even came to my house at 5 a.m. the following Monday after my husband was released from jail and took him to the ARC. He even waited with him during the intake process!”

Tanya states that this was the beginning of “our family healing.”

With Timothy’s income gone, there arose the very real spectre of Tanya and her children becoming homeless. Again, Salvation Army personnel sprang into action and secure for her and her children a place at “The Door Of Hope,” a transitional housing center run by the Army.

Part of the requirements for their stay at The Door was that she undergo one-on-one counseling. She also had to find a job.

“I told our officer, Captain Lisa VanCleef, that I had a nursing degree but I had never worked as a nurse because my husband was a great provider and I never had to work,” Tanya says. “And wouldn’t you know it; the social worker had just quit without notice the day before. The job was offered to me and I was so excited!”

Suddenly Tanya was able to help people in tough situations to find solutions for their troubles—just like other Kroc staff had been doing for her.

“For the first time in my life, I felt I was doing something worthwhile and honorable,” she admits. “I fell in love with helping people.”

During Tanya’s tenure as social worker at the Kroc, she met Josh Sneed, who eventually introduced Tanya to Jesus for the first time at age 29.

“I had never known anything about Jesus and thought people were crazy that believed in Him,” Tanya says. “Josh took the time to explain to me that faith in Jesus was not always easy. He gave me the reasons why he believed the Bible is real, and that started my journey of knowing Jesus as my Savior!”

Josh’s wife, Jessica, also worked at the Kroc center. Jessica runs regularly and got Tanya to join her in exercise.

“When I started here at the Kroc Center, I could not run across 50 feet, but I ended up running in a 5k and then training for a half-marathon,” she beams.

“I took Zumba, spin class, and water aerobics. As if that were not enough, Jessica taught me how to eat right. I kept a food diary and shared it with her on a daily basis to stay accountable to someone.”

All of the Kroc employees became her second family, she says. “It was like I had my own cheering squad and everyone was on my team. Each of them impacted my life in ways that I will never forget!”

During Tanya’s seven years of employment at the San Diego Kroc, she wore many different hats: bus driver, kettle coordinator, youth pastor, recovery pastor, Celebrate Recovery leaders, and ARC liaison. Tanya was especially a positive influence on her husband, who had also given his heart to Christ.

“Timothy did aa Friday night Bible study at the ARC where he found his sobriety. My children and I volunteered one night a week at the transitional living shelter where we used to live. And as a family we attended corps meetings at the Kroc and became teachers of the Teen Sunday School class.”

Timothy and Tanya entered the College For Officer Training in 2013 as members of the Heralds Of Grace Session. They were commissioned as Lieutenants in June 2015 and are presently serving in their first appointment as corps officers in Aurora, Colorado.

“William Booth said that ‘we will give them soup, soap, and then salvation,’ and that is just what was given to me here at the San Diego Kroc. (The staff) helped me mentally, emotionally, professionally, spiritually, and physically.”


Thanks for reading the War Cry. If you share your email address with us, we’ll let you know when our next issue is published.

Already a subscriber? Login.
Would you like the War Cry delivered to your door?
Subscribe in print.