The highlight of Richard Larson’s first day in Colorado Springs came in a Costco parking lot.
While loading a chair into his vehicle, a clerk offered to helped him out. Then a complete stranger in the parking lot offered to help load more things into his car.
“I was kind of shocked that I didn’t have to ask for help,” Larson said.
He hopes to channel the region’s generosity as head of one of El Paso County’s largest nonprofit organizations.
Larson, a major with the Salvation Army, took over in early July as the organization’s new coordinator for El Paso County — replacing John Bennett who is now working in Marshall Islands after three years in the Pikes Peak region.
The post means he is in charge of a bevy of homeless and natural disaster services across the county. It’s a job he knows well after nearly 20 years with the Salvation Army.
Larson arrived from Santa Clara County, Calif., where he helped run a homeless shelter and several programs aimed at senior and family services. He never helped out with any California wildfire relief efforts, but has nevertheless responded to several other disasters — including the 1994 Northridge earthquake and Hurricane Katrina.
After two months in El Paso County, Larson said he’s pleased with work being done at the organization’s R.J. Montgomery Center. But he also wants to see an increased focus on helping families stabilize their lives as they transition out of homelessness.
He also said that the Salvation Army must do more to help residents become more acquainted with its services. Too few people in the Pikes Peak region are aware of the Salvation Army’s work, he said.
“I think we have to be better at letting people know what we do and giving them an opportunity to help people through that,” Larson said.
Name: Richard Larson
Position: Salvation Army’s county coordinator for El Paso County
Family: Wife, Tammy Larson, who is the Salvation Army’s assistant coordinator for El Paso County; along with a son and daughter, both of whom are married.