Biloxi Charity Receives $15 Million Gift

The Lundays Unit of the Boys and Girls Club is a home away from home for more than 200 children this summer. 18-year old Dejuan Hobbs has been part of the program for most of his life.

"Mainly, it keeps me out of trouble. There's a lot of trouble out in the streets, " Dejuan Hobbs said.

Hobbs and his friends could have new place to play, hang out and learn in East Biloxi. The Salvation Army wants to transform the closed Dukate Elementary school into a $22.5 million children's community center.

"It may be a 40,000 square feet facility. It will include a chapel, which will include classrooms, it will include a gymnasium, it will include a swimming pool, it will include outside recreational facilities. It will meet the needs of not just youth, but adults and families," James Osborne with the Salvation Army said.

The Salvation Army is getting a lot of help to buy the land, build the "Center of Hope" and operate the complex. The organization is receiving an additional $15 million donation from the estate of Joan Kroc.

"What a wonderful gift that is and we consider that a gift from God, because it's God's work we're about," Osborne said.

The Salvation Army must come up with $7.5 million in matching funds to build the center. It already has $4 million in the bank, and is trying to raise an additional $3.5 million from the community.

The Salvation Army must also submit a bid to buy the 7-acre property. It is appraised at $1 million. The Biloxi School District will award it to the highest and best bidder. That means there's no guarantee that the Salvation Army will get the property, but officials are pretty optimistic.

"They're going to open the bids on the 17th this month, and we hope on the 18th, we'll start tearing the building down," Osborne said.

There's a good reason why Salvation Army officials are so optimistic about acquiring the Dukate property. One of the conditions of the bid states that part of the land must be used for the educational welfare of children in Biloxi.

By: Trang Pham-Bui