Strickland still in circulation

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 12, 2004

Now in his mid-70s, the Rev. Calvin Strickland is still in circulation as minister to senior adults at Valley Grande Baptist Church – as a volunteer. The position requires about 20 hours per week, he said.

Strickland has his health, his energy, a lifetime of accumulated wisdom and he’s devoting many hours a week to a work for which he has great passion – the care of older people.

He leads six services a month – four at the church and two in nursing homes. In addition to the services, he visits nursing homes regularly, and is available for counseling for those who need it – for old and young as well. He also helps with funerals as needed and with marriages, including referrals from the Dallas County Courthouse.

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Strickland began his working career in 1944 on the staff of The Selma-Times Journal as assistant manager of the circulation department of the paper. He remembered staying until 7 p.m. every day, handling complaints and then going by the post office with a bundle of that day’s papers to be sent special delivery overnight to subscribers whose paper had gone missing.

He left the paper in 1946 to enlist in the Air Force in which he served 23 years as an independent duty medical technician, retiring in 1968 as a master sergeant. He was in the first flight of airmen passing through what is now Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, which provides basic training for all enlistees.

Strickland said he left high school early and got his GED, so that he could enter the Air Force at age 17.

He retired from the Air Force in 1968 and went to work for the Dallas County Health Department for 3 1/2 years, and then for the Selma HCA Medical Center for 14 1/2 years, where he retired as director of medical services in 1987. He is also a licensed practical nurse.

Upon retirement from secular pursuits, Strickland began his ministry at Bethel Baptist Church in Jones in Autauga County and served as pastor there for 10 years, retiring in 1997.

At that point he chose to continue his pastoral ministry as a volunteer – first at Shiloh Baptist Church, Sardis, for five years, and then at Valley Grande Baptist Church.

At Shiloh Strickland was in charge of the WOO (Wise Old Owls) Club and continues with the Young at Heart men’s group at Valley Grande Baptist.

In both churches served in his retirement Strickland has been actively involved in every aspect of the lives of the seniors he serves, along with selected other church activities, time permitting.

Regarding senior ministry, which Strickland knows well, he said that even though “senior” technically applies to anyone 55 or over, in the church setting it’s hard to get anyone involved under 65, so that’s his target population.

“That group (65 and over) really needs ministry and help,” he said.

Strickland also finds himself attending to the needs of younger members of the congregation.

“Frequently I will be approached by younger couples who need help. The older people want my advice about their medical problems and the younger value my experience. I guess I’m kind of a grandfather to them.”

Strickland especially enjoys his ministry in area nursing homes where he visits people, some of whom he has known most of his life.

“They are so glad to see me,” he said. “It means so much to them to have a visit. I make their day.”

Born in Mobile, Strickland’s family moved to Selma when he was 2 years old and he has basically been here ever since.

He and his wife Verna moved to Valley Grande five years ago. Between them they had nine children, one of who is deceased.

They married 30 years ago after both their spouses died, he said.