MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Salvation Army of Marion, Monongalia, and Preston Counties is operated by husband and wife, Lt. Sheldon and Lt. Nicole Greenland, both of whom are officers with the organization.

The Greenlands performing songs to raise money for the Red Kettle Campaign

In their roles, they help the most vulnerable with things like rent, utility, food assistance, employment, education, and the ministry they co-pastor. Their work is valuable, and they welcome all who need their help, but somehow being black plays a role in their work.

“Honestly, it shouldn’t,” Lt. Sheldon Greenland said. “It should not affect what we do because what we do is provide services to the least, the lost, the lonely, and to whomever requires assistance. We must note the realities of our country. As we could see in the past summer, we had this racial reckoning that just proves that there are inequities in our community, that there are struggles that we may face.”

Lt. Sheldon Greenland holding a thousand dollar bill donated to the Red Kettle Campaign

His wife, Nicole, agreed. She argued that many people see them as less than simply because of their skin color.

“Some people don’t see us as being valuable,” she said. “But for us to be who we are and where we are, we can now put a new perspective on those who might not think that we’re capable of doing what we’re supposed to do.”

The couple reflected on how their Jamaican heritage plays a big role in who they are every day and how people perceive them. They can both definitely agree that they don’t let how people perceive them from stopping the work they do in the communities they serve.

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“I love the heritage that my skin color comes with,” Sheldon Greenland said. “I am black history as we stand on the shoulders of giants, of people who have fought for great things, people who have fought for this country, people who have done remarkable things in terms of technology, in terms of every field of endeavor we can think about.”

Nicole also said she wants to honor the legacy of those who fought for her and her husband to be in a position of prominence.

“When I look in history and I see Martin Luther King has paved the way and now because he has done what he did, we are now leaders that we can pave the way,” she said. “We can be the shoulders that other people can stand on in the future.”

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Giving back to others as a means of service and an act of appreciation for the gatekeepers who let her in is important to Greenland. She said she, too, was once on the other side of the fence.

“I was on the other side of the fence, now, I am the person who can help those in need regardless of race, creed, or culture,” she said. “It feels very rewarding to me to know that I am able to do great things in my community.”

The Greenlands said they don’t think they can solve racial discrimination or inequities in their time, but that doesn’t mean they should give up. Instead, they said, they will continue to work hard for everyone who needs their help and to leave a legacy like so many people of color have done.

Lt. Nicole Greenland organizing food at the Salvation Army

“Our actions have major ripple effects in the culture, so those of us who carry the torch are not carrying it for ourselves,” Sheldon Greenland said. “We’re carrying it for those of our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our family, those who we may never even know exist. And it’s an important thing to step forward into being marker of excellence in this world.”

Greenland said he and his family are grateful that the Salvation Army leadership decided to send him and his wife. They were the first leaders of African descent and have lived in Morgantown for three years now.

“We love it here and we just want to see the Morgantown community rise,” he said. “Not just Morgantown but the entire West Virginia state rise to the occasion like we’ve risen to the occasion of vaccine rollout. We want to see more things like that that just champion the cause of West Virginia. We love it here and we want to see West Virginia just continue to thrive. We’re grateful for the opportunity.”