Illuminated Cross at Camp Paradise Valley

Retired Officers in SAROA Donate Beacon of Hope for Campers, Visitors and Boaters

Members of the Kentucky-Tennessee Salvation Army Retired Officers Association (SAROA) funded a lighted cross at Camp Paradise Valley on the shore of Dale Hollow Lake.

Beautiful Dale Hollow Lake is situated on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. It is considered to be an excellent destination any time of the year.  In fact, it was voted the #4 lake in the nation to “Float Your Boat” by USA Today and was #1 in the “Top Ten Best Houseboating Lakes in North America” list by Pick A Slip. For fishing, six of the top 10 world record smallmouth bass have been caught in Dale Hollow Lake, according to Bassmaster.

Lt Colonels Charles and Shirley White, along with other members of Kentucky-Tennessee Salvation Army Retired Officers Association (SAROA) saw an opportunity for The Salvation Army’s Camp Paradise Valley and Conference Center because it, too, is located on the Kentucky-Tennessee border and Dale Hollow Lake.

The retired Salvation Army officers donated a lighted cross as a beacon of hope to all who see it.  Its prominent placement on the shore of Camp Paradise Valley is a 24/7/365 testimony to the thousands who enjoy Dale Hollow Lake.

“I had been on the dock several times and boats routinely come into the cove.  Boaters ride around and try to see what’s down there.  I had one boatload come up and say ‘Is this a boat club?’ and I said, ‘No, it serves children who come to camp.’ So I thought a cross would really be appropriate so that when folks ride up, they can see what the facility is,” Lt Colonel Charles White said.

The cross’s message is transcendental.

The lighted cross was also illuminated by the moon at the August 24, 2018 unveiling ceremony.

“Even though the project began before the territorial leaders came into office – Commissioner Willis Howell is now the Territorial Commander – we already had this mindset to do the cross but it’s been reinforced by the Commissioner’s messages to determine the “why” of the things we do.  Certainly we think that having the cross there for people using the camp and people seeing the camp that they will understand that this is the purpose –the “why” – that Camp Paradise Valley exists.  It is to guide people to their savior Jesus Christ that they might have a relationship with him,” White said.

On the Friday of Family Camp, August 24, 2018, SAROA had an unveiling of the cross ceremony at Camp Paradise Valley.  For Lt Colonels Charles and Shirley White, it was an emotional ceremony.

“All of our children and grandchildren went to Camp Paradise Valley. Both of us, when we went to camp, there was not a Salvation Army camp. We had to use a state park down outside of Nashville, Montgomery Bell State Park. So when we came back to serve in Nashville, we were delighted to see the Army had bought property on the beautiful Dale Hollow Lake.  We supported the camp then as Area Commanders. Then, when we came back to the Division as the Divisional  Commander and the General Secretary, we continued our support of funding and various things. But as the Divisional Commanders, we did a camp campaign and raised over $8 million dollars for improvements at Camp Paradise Valley that included the chapel, conservatory building, the hillside, the septic system and many other things. So we’ve had a big connection to the Camp through all these years,” White said.

The Whites each have 53 years of service with The Salvation Army. Although they retired from active service in 2011, they soon accepted appointments in Nashville as the Area Commander and Associate Area Commander for two years. The couple then served a six-month term in the North and South Carolina Division.

The cross is highly visible across Dale Hollow Lake.

“We formed the Kentucky-Tennessee SAROA. We were discussing what we could do for the Division as a project from the retired officers and it was unanimous that we should do something for Camp.  We voted to make it something really significant, not just buying a piece of equipment or something that might have a short life span but something that would really stand out and be something that would relate to people coming off of the camp property of what the camp really stood for and what its purpose is.  After some discussion, we all agreed we would like to do a lighted cross. We discussed it with the Divisional Commander.  He was in agreement and so we started taking pledges and donations from the retired officers when my wife, Shirley, was the president of the Kentucky-Tennessee SAROA. She finished her term last November and I was elected president,” White said.

“We’d collected about $3,500 from retired officers, pledges and payments. We then talked with Victor Rutledge, the Camp Caretaker, about it and rather than outsourcing it, he figured he could do it. So we worked with him and purchased the piece of equipment that he needed to weld the aluminum frame. Victor constructed the cross and erected it and we’ve worked with him to do that. We believe the finished product not only sends a message to people on the Camp property but to the hundreds or thousands that go up and down Dale Hollow Lake when they pass by our cove and see the lighted cross. We wanted to have something that would signify what the camp stands for and what its purpose is to serve as a reminder to folks who come on the camp property – the campers, the staff and the adults using it – but also to the general public who might be passing by wondering what this complex is,” White said.

Unveiling of the Cross Ceremony with:

Bottom row (from left to right):

  • Major Jim Arrowood, Divisional Commander
  • Colonel Ralph Bukiewicz, Chief Secretary
  • Lt. Colonel Charles White, Pastoral Care Officer

Top row (from left to right):

  • Major Linda Arrowood, Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries/Mission & Ministry Development
  • Colonel Susan Bukiewicz, Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries
  • Lt. Colonel Shirley White, Pastoral Care Officer


Lt Colonel Charles White is quick to make it understood that it was a group effort with one person playing a particularly large role.

“It was a group effort supported by everyone.  However, Victor Rutledge gets the most credit.  SAROA had an idea and he’s the one who made it a reality.  He is the Camp Caretaker and his wife, Stephanie, books the facility and oversees the housekeeping staff for the Camp throughout the year. He did an excellent job with it and, in fact, saved us a lot of money.  That was the first aluminum welding project that he ever did and he did an outstanding job,” White said.

Camp Paradise Valley is a special place for the White family but it is what the Camp does for the children of Kentucky and Tennessee that make it so meaningful to them.

“Many of the children come from inner cities – Louisville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville, Knoxville – and rarely, if ever, do they get to go out and see God’s handiwork, his creation, so we think that the Camp in that respect introduces or brings them to a closer relationship with their Creator.  And certainly, the cross now will be a symbol that will demonstrate to them that God not only created them but loves them and is providing a future for them that is found in Jesus Christ,” White said.

The affirmative experiences at Camp Paradise Valley have a great impact on the campers.

“Of course, their relationships with counselors, the officers, and the staff while they are at Camp are certainly a great positive. The children seldom get positive reinforcement or encouragement or good direction probably in their home life.  It just shows them again that someone loves them and they have value and that they are important in the kingdom of God,” White said.

For the Whites, their service to The Salvation Army has come full circle as they enjoy their retirement in Owensboro, Kentucky.

“We both grew up in The Salvation Army here in Owensboro. We started about the same time but it wasn’t until our mid-teenage years that both of us felt God’s direction and calling to full-time service. Shirley is a bit older than I am so she recognized the calling before I had and had already made a commitment to become a Salvation Army Officer. I was actually working ringing bells in December in Owensboro in the snow on Main Street when the Corps officer came and invited me to get a cup of hot chocolate.  So, I was pretty thrilled with that and went with him.  He introduced the idea to me and asked the question, ‘Have you ever thought of becoming a Salvation Army officer?’ It was from that seed that was planted that God used and spoke to me. Later that spring at a Salvation Army youth rally that’s when a call was given and I went forward and made that commitment to follow Him in full-time service as a Salvation Army officer,” White said.

With the lighted cross, Lt Colonel Charles White and the members of SAROA hope many new seeds will be planted in the minds of others as they boat on the beautiful Dale Hollow Lake or visit The Salvation Army’s Camp Paradise Valley and Conference Center.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to for additional information.

Fireworks added to the festivities at the unveiling ceremony.

The cross and full moon shine across the Dale Hollow Lake.

The moon was full for the unveiling ceremony.

Lt Colonel Charles White speaks to the attendees about SARAO’s efforts to fund and build the lighted cross at Camp Paradise Valley.

The cross was illuminated during the musical and speaking presentations.

A close-up of the illuminated cross constructed by Major Victor Rutledge.

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