The Kroc Center’s 12th anniversary celebration ends with Angel Day

For 12 years, the Kroc Center MS Gulf Coast has been an oasis in the community, helping people meet their personal, spiritual, and health goals.
Published: Sep. 17, 2023 at 8:03 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The Salvation Army wrapped up its week-long anniversary celebration for the Kroc Center with Angel Day.

For 12 years, the Kroc Center MS Gulf Coast has been an oasis in the community, helping people meet their personal, spiritual, and health goals. Inside you’ll find basketball courts, exercise machines, pools, a waterpark, even a performing arts center.

Area Commander Major Jerry Friday is proud to help highlight everything the facility has to offer.

“Today being Angel Day, we invited everyone from the community to come free of charge and experience the facility. Especially, those people who were recipients of our Angel Tree last December. We mailed every child an invitation to come and enjoy the Kroc Center for free,” Friday said.

The center bears the name of Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s franchise founder Ray Kroc. As the story goes, Mrs. Kroc was visiting Biloxi many years ago and was moved by what she saw when she drove through a neighborhood on Division and Lee Streets. From that point, Friday said, she made it a mission to create a facility to help give back.

“This location was hand-picked by Joan Kroc herself. She right away gave the Salvation Army of Biloxi a million dollars,” Friday said.

She’d eventually donate $2 million to build the center. And despite delays from devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, it opened its doors to the public on September 19, 2011.

Today there are 26 Kroc Centers located around the country. Their amenities are free for low-income households. And each year in Biloxi, several scholarships are also awarded to help even more people enjoy the center.

Terrain Cheeks just moved to the coast from Atlanta. She was happy to receive an invitation to stop by.

“I feel like it brings the community together. It gives an opportunity for the kids to just have fun, have a good time, and it’s free,” Cheeks said. “It’s beautiful. I love it. I’m grateful for it, absolutely.”

Sunday was also the first time for Ian Newton and Rain Zeiger to visit. But after using the amenities, they say it won’t be the last.

“It’s really nice. I like how they have gyms, a pool, pretty much everything,” Newton said.

Friday said the center will always be a place for everyone, regardless of age and socio-economic background.

The next big, free community event for the Kroc Center is Kroctober Fest, happening October 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be a fun-filled day with trunk or treat, an epic costume contest, and bouncy houses for the kids.

And applications for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program are opening up in October. Of course, WLOX will share all the details on how to apply when the time comes, so stay tuned.

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