Salvation Army Ready To Invest In Biloxi

On May 26, the 62 year old Dukate Elementary School closes for good. It's last principal is Melissa Nance.

"We're sad about having to leave," she said. "But when you look at Nichols Elementary, we're really happy about going over to the new school."

The Biloxi school board has no plans for the old seven acre Howard Avenue campus, other than to sell it. That's where councilmen George Lawrence and Eric Dickey, and the Salvation Army enter the picture.

"It's going to provide a great opportunity for the citizens in east Biloxi," councilman Dickey said of the school.

Here's why. Almost five years ago, the Biloxi Salvation Army received what was then an anonymous two million dollar donation. We later found out it was from the late McDonald's heiress Joan Kroc.

The money had certain stipulations attached to it. It had to be used for a community center, with a swimming pool complex in east Biloxi. And it had to benefit children.

At first, John Henry Beck Park was the focal point of this community center project. Now, all eyes are focused on Dukate.

"What we have to work out with the administration, the Salvation Army, and maybe even getting the county involved is how are we going to do it," councilman Lawrence said. "That's the purpose of all of these things is for us to do the best we can for the children in the east end of town, and Biloxi."

So the two councilmen will conduct their own class later this month. They'll teach others about the Salvation Army's need to renovate this 62 year old building, once the students and teachers move out for good.

When Joan Kroc made her Salvation Army donation, she put in one other stipulation. She said the east Biloxi project had to have wide spread community support. That's one of the reasons why councilmen Lawrence and Dickey are meeting with area leaders.