Salvation Army’s ‘north star’ retires after 53 years

SUBMITTED PHOTO S.C. House Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, left, presents Annette Heath a certificate of appreciation for her 53 years of service with the Aiken Salvation Army. With them are Salvation Army Captains Amber and David Phelps. Heath, who started working at the Salvation Army on Oct. 1, 1962, retired Monday.

Known to generations as the face of the Aiken Salvation Army, Annette Heath, or Miss Annette as she is known, retired Monday after 53 years.

In recognition of her long service, fellow employees, volunteers, advisory board members and friends honored Heath at a special breakfast Monday morning.

During the program, S.C. House Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, an advisory board member, presented her with a certificate of appreciation from the S.C. House of Representatives signed by the Speaker of the House, James H. Lucas.

“In these times when people seem to change jobs like they do cars, Annette’s dedication of more than five decades to the Salvation Army and the people it serves is simply amazing,” Taylor said. “Her longevity is only matched by her huge heart of service.”

Heath also received a plaque from Aiken Salvation Army Captains David and Amber Phelps.

“She has been a bedrock for us, especially for the officers who move all the time,” David said. “When I got here a year and a half ago, everyone told me, if you need to know something, ask Miss Annette. She is a wealth of information.”

Heath said working for the Salvation Army has allowed her to “serve the Lord on my job” and through her “wonderful church family.”

“Every week I’ve been here, I’ve had an opportunity to help people and to serve the Lord,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful journey.”

Heath said she will miss the other employees at the Salvation Army, the advisory board members and “so many wonderful friends I’ve made over these 53 years.”

She said she’ll miss coming to work every day, too, but is looking forward to retirement.

“I’m going to try to retire and just relax a little bit,” she said.

A native of Graniteville, Heath started working at the Salvation Army on Oct. 1, 1962. Since then, she has worked with 16 different Salvation Army officers who moved in and out of Aiken over the years, David said. Many of them sent her email messages wishing her well on her retirement.

During her career with the Salvation Army, Heath worked in almost every area of the organization, David said. She was the office manager and oversaw human resources. She coordinated the volunteer bell ringers during Kettle Campaigns for the holidays and helped families and individuals apply for assistance.

Heath worked in the Toy Shop and helped with the Boys and Girls Club when it began. She remembers, too, when the Salvation Army built its shelter on Park Avenue, David said.

“She’s done everything you can imagine,” he said. “Every change that the Aiken Salvation Army has experienced, she’s been part of it. In many ways, the Salvation Army has been her life.”

David said coming to work Tuesday will be “strange” without Heath there to greet him.

“She’s going to be happy, and we’re going to be sad,” he said. “She really has been our north star, if you will. She’s been our constant.”

A native of Aiken, Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.