Spokane’s extreme (library) makeover

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Corps community center receives gift that will empower others.

by Lisa Brodin Smith, Captain –

The Spokane Corps community center is enjoying a brand new library thanks to a grant from Target and the vision of local ABC news station weatherman, Mark Peterson, who helped the corps leverage those grant dollars. Patterning themselves after television’s popular Extreme Home Makeover team, Petersen and his “KXLY Extreme Team” came in and, with additional help and donations from the Spokane community, transformed a chain of four small offices in the community center into one splendidly decorated library full of books and educational equipment—and all in the space of four days!

“Between Monday and Thursday that week,” Captain Kyle Smith, Spokane corps officer said, “we saw $15,000 in Target ‘seed money’ expand into approximately $70,000 worth of professional design, manpower and materials, all blending into what has become an exciting and beautiful new space.”

The library, created by Gregg Johnson of LGD Designs, features hand-painted murals of trees, mountains and fields, custom-designed book shelves made to look themselves like leather spines of classic children’s books, and a cast iron gate symbolizing the “gate to a brighter future.” The most impressive feature, however, is a gigantic tree trunk reaching from the “forest” floor to a ceiling of metallic cloud lights. The earth tones of the carpeting, couches, chairs, cushions and ottomans all combine to make this space the favorite activity room in the whole community center. Children’s books, educational tutoring supplies, two flat-screen televisions for audio-visual learning, adult life skills course materials and parenting curricula stock the new library to provide relevant instruction for all ages.

“We knew the Extreme Team could help stretch the Target grant money and make the space special,” explained Petersen. “This is for the children. I know that when children have their own environment, their own unique and comfortable space, it gives them ownership and ultimately empowerment and the desire to achieve.”

Community impact
Since its recent completion the library has already been put to good use. Children enrolled in “The LINK” after-school program spend time in the library each day, reading and developing academic skills with the help of tutors. Foster children from “Sally’s House,” the corps’ emergency foster care receiving unit, enjoy story time in the evenings after dinner. Parents have the opportunity to enjoy a few minutes of reading/cuddle time with their preschoolers each week after Baby Song. The high school class discusses their Bible lesson each Sunday morning in what just could be the coolest Sunday school classroom in town. And perhaps best of all, parents and children of broken families are reunited in this comforting and healing space throughout the week as part of the Army’s supervised visitation program.

The final $10,000 of the grant award will be used to complete the curriculum collection needed to serve the more than 150 adults and children residing on The Salvation Army campus as well as corps and community center participants.

“We can’t thank Target and KXLY enough for this great gift!” said Smith. “It’s wonderful to be able to provide such a magnificent space where both children and adults will have opportunities to develop themselves academically, socially and spiritually, and where families will learn to interact with each other in new and healthy ways.”

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