OOB Camp Meetings: ‘Disneyland without rides’

By Robert Mitchell

Kathleen Veltsos, the new director of ministries at the Seaside Pavilion in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, found The Salvation Army kind of by chance not long after moving to the beachfront town eight years ago.

“I was out for a walk, and I had no idea about The Salvation Army, not even a clue, even though my family is from Old Orchard Beach,” Kathleen says. “We happened upon the corps and went inside.”

Kathleen and her husband, Jeff, met Majors Beverly and Bryan Smith, the former corps officers in Old Orchard Beach after relocating from Eliot, Maine. The couple got involved at the corps and Kathleen later worked as a seasonal employee at the Pavilion. She became the director of ministries last December when longtime director Cheryl Poulopoulos retired.

“I love the job,” Kathleen says. “I love the Pavilion. Everything is going well. The camp meetings are a little challenging, but I think they’re challenging for everybody.”

The Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings, scheduled from July 29-Aug. 1 this year, will bring thousands of Salvationists to town for Salvation Army Week. Besides the nightly meetings at the Pavilion, The Salvation Army will have a huge presence at the Pier in the middle of town with nightly entertainment July 27-30.

Part of Kathleen’s job is to book hotel rooms for camp meeting guests, including employees, bands, and many others affiliated with The Salvation Army. She will do so in between hosting and planning three concerts at the Pavilion in July alone.

“It’s like Cheryl used to say, ‘You’re spinning plates.’ It’s kind of like Disneyland without rides that week,” she said. “It’s so many people and everyone is pretty much on vacation. Some of them are working, but it’s still vacation-mode. That’s kind of what we’re known for—as a vacation spot. I think for a lot of folks, even those who are working, it’s just a different environment to work in.

“You’ve got the ocean breeze, you can smell it, then the fog will roll in later in the evening. It’s awesome. Because we’re an amphitheater, and we’re outside, it’s just nicer being outside than having to be stuck inside in beautiful weather.”

Kathleen, who holds a master’s degree in psychology, formerly worked as a counselor at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, Mass. She says her past training comes in handy in many areas.

“I think that’s the hardest part of the job—it’s dealing with people,” she said. “It’s not the job itself. It’s making sure everyone’s getting along and understands what needs to be done and being kind to each other.”

Kathleen and her husband are a “real team” as Jeff is the Pavilion’s facility supervisor.

“I love the grounds,” she said. “My husband I both love it. It’s so peaceful here. The ministry part of the job is really in our hearts. We might not be officers, but we love this place. We’ve rooted ourselves in it. The community is very important to us.”