The Salvation Army will celebrate a milestone today as it cuts a ceremonial ribbon to open its $72 million Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in one of the most blighted areas of North Philadelphia. It’s a coup not only for residents of the Nicetown community but also for all the partners who helped raise $30 million in local matching funds to bring the ambitious project to fruition.
Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's restaurant founder Ray Kroc, gave the Salvation Army $1.5 billion to build similar centers around the country. But local officials had to raise matching funds for an endowment to operate the facility. Despite the sluggish economy, Philadelphia contributors pulled it off. Ground was broken for the center in March 2009.
Located in the 4200 block of Wissahickon Avenue, the center will employ 400 people, and offer academic, vocational, recreational, and social services to people of all ages.
Kroc wanted the centers to inspire people. This one should.
The 130,000-square-foot center will be the largest Salvation Army facility of its type on the East Coast. Its amenities include three swimming pools, a fitness center, a gym, an athletic field, and a community garden. As many as 1,000 people are expected to use the facility daily, but it won’t be open to the public until Nov. 1. A Kroc center is also planned for Camden. No doubt, they can’t wait.