$30M Community Center In Works

October 21, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Thirty million dollars can go a long way to help underprivileged children with recreation opportunities.

Grand Rapids is one of 10 Midwestern cities to be pre-qualified by the Salvation Army to have a Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. That funding has been set aside for the project pending approval of the proposal.

The Salvation Army wants to make sure no youth in Grand Rapids grows up without quality recreational opportunities, said Major Brenda Herivel, mission advancement coordinator for West Michigan and Northern Indiana. The $30 million funding is part of a more than $1.5 billion trust left to the organization by Joan Kroc, the late widow of Ray Kroc of McDonald's Restaurants. The trust is dedicated to building the community centers throughout the country.

"We have a large number of young people in our community who don't have access to decent recreational facilities. We want to help address that need," Herivel said.

The Salvation Army is eight months into developing a proposal for a Kroc Community Center in Grand Rapids, Herivel said. The center would be built with $15 million from the trust, with the other $15 million endowed for operation costs. The local Salvation Army would be responsible for raising $7.5 million to add to the endowment.

The first Kroc Community Center, which opened in San Diego in 2002, includes aquatics, an indoor skate park, fitness area, ice arena and other family and youth recreational activities.

With development for the center still in the early stages, there is not yet a plan for exactly what will go into the facility, Herivel said.

"We have so many things where we have laid good, solid groundwork, but we are waiting for things to come back to us," she said.

The full proposal for the facility is due in February. It will be reviewed by the Salvation Army's Central Territorial Headquarters and is expected to be returned by May. Herivel said the Salvation Army would like to see ground broken in early 2007.

The Salvation Army is looking for a 10- to 12-acre site in the city, and that is a challenge.

"Finding a site large enough in the city for such a center is difficult," she said. "We're working on that."

Location is important to achieving the center's goal, which is to provide quality recreation and educational activities for underserved youth, Herivel said.

"Those are kids who live too far away from other recreational facilities or don't have the money to participate at those centers," she said. "Our goal is to provide something to them."

While the facility would focus on youth, there would be programs for families and adults as well, she said.

Herivel said surveys have been conducted to determine the area's needs. One goal that the Salvation Army has for the center is to make it a culturally diverse facility. Herivel said the Salvation Army is still looking for more community members from diverse backgrounds who are interested in helping to develop the proposal for the center.

Other pre-qualified cities include Detroit; Chicago, Aurora and Quincy, Ill.; St. Joseph County, Ind.; Duluth and St. Paul, Minn.; Omaha, Neb.; and Green Bay, Wis.    

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