A dream fulfilled
by Sue Schumann Warner –
The day dawned bright in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, May 9, as that northern Idaho city became the West’s third to open a Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. More than 1,200 attended the dedication ceremony and over 4,000 visited the center during the celebration weekend.
Calling the Kroc Center “a beacon of hope and agent of change in an underserved community,” Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem addressed the crowd during the dedication and thanked Majors John and Lani Chamness, The Salvation Army, and the community for the new center.
“Your gift will provide for the community for years to come,” she said.
Amanda Latimer, Joan Kroc’s granddaughter, spoke on behalf of the family. She noted that it’s only been five years since her grandmother’s death, and shared that Joan “adored children…and chose The Salvation Army to be stewards of her gift.” That gift was a bequest to the Army in excess of $1.6 billion, to be used to build centers across the nation.
“It’s a wonderful thing what $38 million can do, and it’s all here for you,” said Western Territorial Commander Commissioner Philip Swyers with a broad smile. He later added, “It isn’t enough to take $38 million and double an endowment…what is enough is when we give the next generation the chance to grow and become somebody.”
In concluding, he stated “On behalf of this grateful Salvation Army we accept this building and give it to the community for the glory of God and betterment of his people…Coeur d’Alene, the best is yet to come!”
The facility cost $38.74 million to construct and received a matching endowment for operations; Kroc funding totaled nearly $80 million. The community raised $7.5 million to support the effort, which included a $4 million gift from the city to purchase the land and prepare the site, which had been a gravel pit.
Center of the community
Located in one of the fastest growing areas in the nation, the city previously had no community center; it is home to a large low-income population of families, children and seniors. “Forty-two percent of the kids in the school district qualify for free or reduced lunch,” stated Kroc Center Administrator Chamness, who noted since no other similar facilities in the area, “We will be the true center of the community.”
The community had eagerly been awaiting the center’s opening. On Monday morning there were 3,363 members—nearly 10 percent of the population of Coeur d’Alene.
“We’ve been waiting for years for it to come to conclusion,” stated Laura Corbin, as she waited in line at the membership counter with son Noah, 10 and daughter Bailey, 13. “My kids need a safe place to play.”