Kroc Center the future of Salvation Army service on the coast

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The numbers are astounding. More than 120,000 coast residents were helped by the Salvation Army after Katrina.  The proof is in boxes of case files at Army headquarters in Biloxi. But more cases come in every day, as people continue to battle back from the wounds left by Katrina.

Major Alan Hill is in charge of coast operations.  He knows the Salvation Army can't do it alone.

"We need our donors to keep on supporting these efforts," Hill said.  "There is a lot people being given food and several thousand nights of shelter is being provided in our small shelter that we have now. So we know that's a real need and the Army's going to continue those traditional services for a long time to come."

Outside the Lee Street headquarters, the future of Salvation Army service on the coast is rising from the ground.  The Kroc Center will be something special when it's finished.  A waterpark, gymnasium, fitness center, a performing arts theatre and chapel will all be included in the 52,000 square foot building.

It will not only help revitalize east Biloxi, but the entire coast, said Major Hill.

"It's a Gulf Coast facility, and this will give a place for families, children, seniors. It's just going to be a wonderful facility that everybody is welcome to come and participate in.  It will be a fee based facility, but those rates will be very low."

Even with the good news about the Kroc Center, Hill said the Salvation Army has been punished by the recession.

"We have felt the pinch. I have cut this staff that I have here down to bare bones," Hill said.  "We have two accountants, all I have is a business manager and a person heading up the reception area."

But even with a small staff, the big hearts of Salvation Army workers and volunteers will continue to help in the coast's recovery.

The Kroc Center's price tag is just over $16 million. Most of the money for the center was donated by the Kroc Foundation.  Salvation Army officials hope to cut the ribbon on the center by mid-August of 2011.

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