Flood defines new Salvation Army leaders’ first few weeks

Published 11:59 pm Friday, July 15, 2011

When Srikant Bhatnagar came to the United States in 1997 from India, he wanted to help as many people as possible.

Fourteen years later, he’s in Vicksburg with his wife, Indrani, continuing on that path — as the new captain of The Salvation Army of Vicksburg.

It “is a great organization, and people have great trust in it,” said Bhatnagar, who has been in town since June 22. “I know that, through this, we can do a lot of things to reach out to the people in need.”

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Since arriving, the Bhatnagars have been involved mostly with Mississippi River flood recovery. The water started rising around May 1 and on May 19 crested at 57.1 feet, 14.1 feet above flood stage. The water first fell below 43 feet on June 16. At least 3,200 people in Vicksburg and Warren County were displaced.

“I feel like, whatever we go through, we have a purpose to come together in love,” said Bhatnagar. “Compassion, passion, trustworthiness and bravery is our motto. Whether it’s heat, cold or water, our goal is to always be there.”

The Salvation Army set up a flood recovery headquarters at the former Blackburn Motor Co. building on Washington Street, all the while continuing day-to-day operations, such as the thrift store and meals for the needy, from the main facility on Mission 66. The agency also spearheaded a church service for flood victims.

Bhatnagar’s wife, Indrani, is a lieutenant within The Salvation Army.

“I love it here,” she said. “I grew up in a small community, so I think it’s great here. It is small — but a close family.”

Indrani Bhatnagar moved to the United States from India in 2002, and the couple married in 2007.

She said she became involved with the Salvation Army because she wanted to be a part of something good.

“One day, I felt my calling that God wanted me to become one of them,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute since.”

Before coming to Vicksburg, the Bhatnagars were stationed in New Orleans.

Herb and JoAnn Frazier led the Vicksburg Salvation Army for nearly two years before the Bhatnagars arrived. The Fraziers are now in Kissimmee, Fla.