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Coeur d’Alene’s Mobile Kroc is supporting local schools at recess

Through additional staffing and programming at recess, The Salvation Army is meeting a direct need of the local school district—impacting some 3,000 students.

“To really impact the community around us, we needed to get outside of our four walls,” said Kroc Center Director Kip Sharbono.

In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Sharbono said The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center serves as a “faith-based community center” where families can gather for recreation, worship and support. “Regardless of where they stand on that faith-based spectrum, we get to meet their needs, whatever those may be when they come in,” Sharbono said.

By partnering with elementary schools in the area, the center’s Mobile Kroc program is providing recess support at no cost, offering staff support, activity programming and equipment.

“We have always been the most impactful when we are gap fillers,” Sharbono said. Rather than reproducing programs, Sharbono said the center looks to find “a need in the community that somebody isn’t addressing” through outreach programming.

Currently, seven elementary schools in the district have opted into the Mobile Kroc program, impacting roughly 3,000 students. Each school receives recess support at least once a month with the option of an additional support day every other month or a field day at the end of the school year.

The idea came after Sharbono said school representatives called recess time “chaotic,” with “no consistent rules,” often leading to fights on the playground due to limited staff and resources.

Assistant Center Director Stacy Barney said schools are noticing a “more healthy recess environment” as a result of the Mobile Kroc program’s support.

“It wasn’t about dodgeball for us,” Barney added. “It was about teaching and modeling behavior that kids weren’t seeing modeled in their own lives…That was the simple goal of Mobile Kroc.”

Additionally, each school is supplied with a Mobile Kroc game kit containing balls and cones for continued game use outside the program.

Kroc staff engage with students through a variety of team-oriented games. Courtesy Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center.

In 2016, the Mobile Kroc program began to take form after asking school officials, “How can we better support you?” Sharbono said. “The feedback we received was that we were the first entity in town that reached out and asked what the school district needed, instead of telling them what we were going to do.”

Ideas for Mobile Kroc ranged from activities for students during parent-teacher conferences to family fun nights at the center, offered free of charge. Ultimately, Barney said school officials decided recess support ranked highest among their needs.

“We’re not so bold as to assume we know what they need; we ask,” Barney said. “Every community might be a little bit different and their needs may be different.”

For some schools, there were specific requests. “We’ve gotten feedback that certain schools are hurting for positive male role models,” said Programming and Youth Development Manager Hannah Cooper. To address this concern, Cooper said they aim for a male staff member to be present at these schools on Mobile Kroc day.

“In Coeur d’Alene, people think it’s all resorts and glamorous and fabulous here—and there is lots of fabulousness here,” Barney said, “but we have the same struggles as everybody.”

Barney said participating schools “were primarily identified as low-income” with 40 percent offering free or reduced-price lunch for students through the National School Lunch Program, according to cdaschools.org.

By establishing rules for games, Kroc staff help get kids “on the same page” and “relieve a little bit of stress,” Programming and Youth Development Manager Hannah Cooper said. Courtesy Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center.

Sharbono said recess provides the “social engagement and community” kids missed during the pandemic. Research has found student interaction during recess can even complement the classroom experience, aiding in communication, problem-solving and collaboration.

Effectively-run recesses can help to improve memory and concentration while reducing disruptive behavior, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, CDC research has found recess to improve social and emotional development in children.

Sharbono said about 85 to 95 percent of students actively participate in Mobile Kroc days. In some of the more difficult schools, he added, administration reported: “upwards of 65 percent reduction in disciplinary rates on those days.”

Kroc staff serve as positive role models for kids. Courtesy Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center.

Through finding “like-minded collaborators,” Sharbono said Mobile Kroc has been able to expand and help address needs in other areas. “There’s a lot more opportunity to continue to grow,” Barney added.

This past year, Mobile Kroc began partnering with local churches to replicate the program outside of the Coeur d’Alene school district. “It’s been a real blessing partnering with them,” Cooper said. “They’ve done an amazing job keeping the spirit of the program.”


Do Good:

  • You’ve probably seen the red kettles and thrift stores, and while we’re rightfully well known for both…The Salvation Army is so much more than red kettles and thrift stores. So who are we? What do we do? Where? Right this way for Salvation Army 101.
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  • Ready for another story on Salvation Army youth programming? Read about how youth musicians built community through a weekend of music.
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Lou Buhl

Lou Buhl is an Editor at Caring, where she helps stories of passion, faith, and good-will find their way from word to print. In 2020, Lou received her bachelor’s degrees in journalism and french from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan before making the move to the west coast. Lou draws inspiration through the good work and untold stories of others. When not editing transcripts or interviewing sources, you’ll find Lou sitting by the beach with a good book, taking in the scenery.