The recently opened Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Chicago is a state-of-the-art community and social service facility set on 33 acres on the South Side of Chicago. A major focus of the Kroc Center is to provide children in the community with a wide array of activities and services for people of all ages. About 2,500 community members are expected to use the Kroc Center daily, most of whom will be CPS students and parents of students.
Eighteen Kroc Centers across the country have been made possible by a generous gift entrusted to the Salvation Army in 2003 by Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. The newest location--the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center at 1250 W. 119th Street in Chicago—recently celebrated its grand opening on June 16 and 17, 2012. More than 4,000 people attended the festivities, including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
The facilities at the 160,000-square-foot Kroc Center feature a Family Life and Education Center, Academy of the Arts, Sports Training and Recreation Center, and an Aquatic Center. Some of the services offered at the Kroc Center will include: classes and educational workshops for people of all ages, state-of-the-art performance and exhibition spaces where children will be able to showcase their artwork and both an indoor and an outdoor sports complex.
The Salvation Army has already made a difference in CPS schools in the community. Over the past five years, their team of instructors and program officers has run a wide range of arts, educational, sports, afterschool programs and summer camps for students from four CPS schools near the Kroc Center: Thomas J. Higgins Elementary Community Academy, Johnnie Colemon Elementary Academy, Rudyard Kipling Elementary School and Songhai Elementary Learning Institute.
Principal Mabel Alice Alfred of Thomas J. Higgins Elementary Community Academy explained some of the ways the school has been connected with the Kroc Center. “In 2007, they first approached me with plans for the Center, and invited me to partner with them on several exciting projects. As a result, we hosted a variety of programs within our building since that time, sharing our space with the Kroc Center team, while the Kroc Center provided a wealth of resources, such as music instructors and band equipment,” said Alfred.
As part of this effort, the Kroc Center project team started a summer camp at Higgins Elementary school four years ago. While at camp, students from Higgins built a garden, which they plant and harvest themselves. The garden has become a centerpiece for the community; many members of the community of all ages enjoy and protect the garden, and take pride in it.
Principal Alfred is in discussions with the Kroc Center about expanding the Higgins school campus over to the Kroc Center to offer a greater variety of classes to CPS students. The Kroc Center has wonderful resources like a full art room with a pottery wheel, performance spaces, a culinary arts program, a rooftop garden.
Principal Alfred said of the community center, “The center is amazing. The possibilities that it’s going to bring to the children and the families in this community will be amazing. Places like the Kroc Center are so important because it’s providing a world of possibilities for children who would otherwise not have them. It allows children to dream beyond their wildest dreams. The Kroc Center has resources that we really need so we are very excited to continue our partnership with them. It’s been a true blessing—we are a better school because of that center, truly.”
Learn more about the Kroc Center here and be sure to view photos from the opening last month on the right.