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Kroc Center Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

A place where dreams start

by Sue Schumann Warner –

Amanda Smith Latimer, Joan Kroc’s granddaughter, and five of her children join Majors John and Lani Chamness at the Kroc Center’s commemoration plaque. Pictured are (l-r) Ballard Smith (Amanda’s father), Isabel Latimer, Majors Chamness, Nathan Latimer, Scotty Latimer, Amanda, Troy Latimer (Amanda’s husband), Lauren Latimer, Serena Latimer and Carla Latimer (Troy’s mother). Not pictured is Megan Latimer, 5 months.

Three days of celebration, excitement, and vibrant community support preceded the official May 11 opening of the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center. Starting with a red carpet event on Friday, May 8 and ending with Sunday’s church service—with a dedication, ribbon cutting, and concert in between on Saturday—festivities reflected the center’s significant scope and focus. And by Monday 3,663 members had signed up, nearly 10% of the city’s population.

The West’s Territorial Youth Chorus, under the direction of Matt Woods, and the Seattle Temple Band, under the leadership of Bandmaster Stefan Wennstig provided music throughout the weekend and performed as featured guests at Saturday night’s community concert.

Red carpet reception
Some 425 dignitaries and major donors enjoyed tours and refreshments at Friday night’s elegant red carpet reception, capped by a musical evening in the performing arts theatre where Kroc Administrators Majors John and Lani Chamness welcomed guests. Major Lani starting the evening with a prayer in song; Major John expressed his appreciation for the strong support that had been given and said, “A lot of love went into this place…it’s a joy for me to welcome you into our home; it’s ours, let’s use it well!”

Lt. Colonel Doug O’Brien, Northwest divisional commander, introduced Salvation Army divisional and territorial leaders as well as Mayor Sandi Bloem, who thanked the crowd for supporting the center and stated, “You are the soul of this community and this place; your gift will give abundantly to generations to come.”

Territorial Commander Commissioner Philip Swyers expressed his appreciation s well, stating “Opportunities await for young and old alike here…we salute Majors Chamness, community leaders, friends of The Salvation Army, and those who made this possible. Here, in these grounds, you have enabled generations yet to come to pick up the pieces and become all they can be—all that God enables us to be.”

Concerts by Brian Crain and David Hunt; the Lake City String Quartet; and the Northwest Sacred Music Chorale revealed the theatre’s exquisite acoustics.

Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien closed the evening with the song and benediction, “Joyful, Joyful.”

Kroc dedication
Saturday’s dedication ceremony, emceed by capitol campaign and advisory board member Sandy Patano began with the flag raising by 455th Engineer Company Army Reserve from nearby Hayden, Ida., under the leadership of Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Miller.

“Welcome to our house!” exclaimed Chamness as he greeted the crowd. “It belongs to all of Coeur d’Alene. Now, the work of The Salvation has just begun.”

The crowd broke out into applause as he read the Army’s mission statement—The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.

Bloem thanked the community and the Kroc family, and called Majors John and Lani Chamness “the best of human capital; their belief in the community made the difference, and we celebrate them today.”

Swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Tom Malchow looked over the crowded gymnasium and stated, “This is where dreams start. Everyone who uses this facility can set a dream…I expect to see Olympians come from Coeur d’Alene!” After the event he delighted fans by signing autographs by the swimming pool, with his gold and silver Olympic medals on display.

Patano introduced Joan Kroc’s granddaughter Amanda Smith Latimer, who attended with her family and spoke on their behalf. She read a letter Joan has sent her on her 21st birthday: “Happiness can come from unexpected sources…a life of service is a happy one to live…dream of great things to come…be just and generous to those around you.”

Swyers brought laughter to the crowd as he reminded them that this magnificent facility had once been a gravel pit, and then read from Psalm 40. I waited patiently for the Lord… he brought me out of the horrible pit…the miry clay…and set my feet upon a rock. “That’s a reading for Coeur d’Alene, Idaho,” he said with a smile.

He noted that what was once a pit had become an environment where Ray and Joan Kroc’s mission and the mission of Salvationists could change lives. “Coeur d’Alene—the best is yet to come!”

Commissioner Pat Swyers closed the meeting in a prayer of dedication prior to the ribbon cutting.

A beautiful and wonderful day
Four hundred and fifty Salvationists and visitors streamed into the worship theater on Sunday morning, filling it to capacity. One youth, who had waited outside in the lobby with his family, was heard asking a uniformed Salvationist, “What is the Salvation Army?” His questions were answered completely.

“This is a beautiful and wonderful and festive day,” said Major Ben Markham as he welcomed the crowd. “I know some of you have your own church, and others are looking for a church home. I hope you’ll consider coming here.”

Major JoAnn Markham, associate officer, gave a greeting and warm welcome to all the mothers on this special Mother’s Day.

Within minutes, the Coeur d’Alene Corps had enrolled the first member of its cradle roll as little Seven Miller Sloan, just a week old, was brought forward by his parents to be dedicated. Majors Ernest and Juanita Clevett did the honors, with Majors John and Lani Chamness as flag bearers.

Preaching from Ephesians, Swyers reminded the congregation that we are children of God, sealed by his Spirit, and are a finished transaction known to him by name.

At the conclusion, Chamness shared some of the ways the corps will “be the Army” in this location—it will be a church that: loves God and others; is relational; prays; shares; serves others; worships; and is evangelistic. “It’s an Army,” he said, “that puts its faith in action…a church with its sleeves rolled up.”

How God has blessed us
The center opened its doors at 5 a.m. Monday morning, with members already standing outside the doors. Inside, the line for new memberships started right away and at one point there were seven stations processing them.

New members quickly got down to business: “There was a volleyball game going on with about 12 people, four basketball games with about 25 involved, at least 30 people in the pool area,” reported Major Ben Markham early Wednesday evening. “The fitness machines were almost completely full of people, about seven to 10 running or jogging on the track, a good dozen in the lounge area, three or four groups taking tours, and a few folks just wandering around and looking. It’s been like that all day.

“On Monday, an elderly gentleman came in and asked if he could have a look around and maybe take some pictures,” Markham added. “One of the front desk staff asked a volunteer if he could escort him. He took him through the center and the gentleman took several pictures. Their last stop was the theatre/worship area. As he started to take pictures there our volunteer noticed that he was beginning to cry. As the man finished with his pictures he said, “We’ve been waiting for so many years and now look how God has blessed us.”


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