The end of an era at The Salvation Army

Vi Bibee, family-services director for the Salvation Army, is retiring after 24 years.

Vi Bibee, family-services director for the Salvation Army, is retiring after 24 years.

She has helped thousands of families and individuals in Carson City get assistance in times of need.

After today though, others will seek a new face for help as Vi Bibee, family-services director for The Salvation Army, retires.

Bibee has been with The Salvation Army since it opened its first office on Carson Street on May 30, 1982. She left in 1995 when her late husband, Harry, was terminally ill with cancer. She continued to help with Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets in 1996 and 1997, then returned full time in 1998.

"I have worked with families who needed clothing, furniture, utility assistance, and helped in time of disasters," Bibee said. "Sometimes I'm here just to lend an ear.

"But I'm looking forward to retirement and playing with the kids and grandkids. I will miss all the wonderful volunteers," she adds, as tears well up in her light blue eyes. "I'm 68 years old, I have to start taking care of me."

Bibee has fond memories of the clients and said she is going to miss them all.

One client Bibee is particularly appreciative of is a man, who after receiving help, cleaned up his life and got a good job. Bibee said one day the man was walking by three transients who had thrown a picture into the Dumpster they were foraging through.

He eyed the picture and asked the men if they wanted it. They said, "no," and he quickly collected it and made a special trip to Bibee's office to give it to her. It is a simple picture of Jesus Christ, one originally painted by artist Gabriel Max.

"The man was a recovering alcoholic," she said. "He gave that picture to me in 1983 or '84. It goes with me everywhere. I am very fond of it."

She has not heard from the man since.

Over the years, Bibee has kept in touch with lieutenants John and Lisa Van Cleef, who came to Carson City in the mid-1990s.

"Vi is such a value to the community and The Army, it will be devastating to lose her," said Lisa Van Cleef from Portland, Ore., where she is women's ministry secretary for The Salvation Army.

"If I were Erica (Capt. Helton), I'd be very sad," said John Van Cleef. "Vi is, and has been, in that town a long time. She knows the people, the town, and taking care of them couldn't have been a better fit.

"I've learned along the way if I had any kind of success as a Salvation Army officer, it's been because of people like Vi, who do the front-line work for The Army. It's no exaggeration to say she has been the face of The Salvation Army in Carson City."

Capt. Helton is off on Thursdays and was not available for comment.

"I decided to retire after a lot of prayer and soul searching," Bibee said. "And the decision was made - I needed out.

"The Salvation Army will survive without me. They will still be here and the programs are still the same. But people change from time to time. I went through a double mastectomy and worked while going through chemo."

Bibee plans to volunteer and help others who are going through cancer.

"It's about surviving," she said. "I tell others don't have a pity party - you'll be the only one there. I also like to tell them (about my prosthetic breasts), 'If I want to, I can leave 'em in the drawer and be one of the guys.'"

Bibee has three children; Kimberly in Carson City, David in Las Vegas, Scott in Mission Viejo, Calif.; 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

She plans to spend a lot of time with her 7-month-old great-granddaughter, Audrianna, and great-grandson Tyler, 7. She likes to sew and intends on making many outfits, in pink material, for Audrianna.

Bibee will continue her volunteer work with Court Appointed Special Advocates, Kiwanis, Ormsby Association for Retarded Citizens and St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

• Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at or 881-1223.


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