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Two years after opening, Kroc Center is community fixture

Tue, Jul 15, 2014

Two years after its opening at 1250 W. 119th St. in Pullman, the Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Center is fulfilling its benefactor’s vision for inner city kids while also providing a safe haven for family activities and for universal physical fitness, says Major David Harvey, the center’s administrator.

RJ the Kroc mascot with two participants

RJ the Kroc mascot with two participants

“Mrs. Kroc saw in the city of San Diego that the violence, poverty and challenges of kids in urban set- tings was because the kids didn’t have the same opportunities as kids in the suburbs,” Harvey said of the widow of the McDonalds Corporation founder who bequeathed the money for Kroc Centers across the nation. “No matter how much passion you have in music, you can’t compete with someone in the suburbs who has the opportunity to be trained since they were 6 years old.”

The Pullman location is the 19th of 27 centers across the United States endowed by Mrs. Kroc, the widow of the McDonald’s Corporation founder; it is also the nation’s largest, at 160,000 square feet on 33 acres, Harvey said. Its 92 programs range from fitness to aquatics, indoor and outdoor sports, arts education and music: both music literacy and instruction in piano, brass, woodwind and percussion instruments.

Harvey pointed to a 20 percent in- crease in test scores at the neighborhood’s Higgins Elementary Community Academy, 11710 S. Morgan St., which is no longer on probation. He credited its principal and after-school programs the Salvation Army has been able to provide, from homework help to music, arts and dance.

And 21 high school
students who completed
a yearlong ACT tutoring program at the Kroc
Center were enabled to
 accept full-ride baseball scholarships to schools
like Notre Dame, Arizona State and the University of Michigan.
They also practiced on
the Kroc Center base-
ball fields. In the past,
their scores were not
high enough to accept
this financial aid. The 
Chicago White Sox paid 
tutoring and Kroc Center membership fees for
13 students and honored
them in a special ceremony at Cellular Field
that was reminiscent of
the professional draft, Harvey said.

Salvation Army employee playing tug of war with area children.

Salvation Army employee playing tug of war with area children.

The popularity of swimming – and the diving boards, two water slides and vortex water tornado – has been a big surprise, given expressed fears of the water. Roughly 800 individuals with no water expertise have taken classes so that they can complete at least one lap in the pool.

The health benefits have been especially important for senior citizens in an neighborhood of high diabetes, obesity, blindness and heart dis- ease, Harvey said. The Kroc Center provides 72 fitness classes – some exercises done in chairs, as well as tai chi, water exercises and boot camp – and has drawn 900 senior members, far more than the 50 predicted in an early marketing study.

“We’ve seen people move from wheelchairs and canes to be able to move around without them because they are gaining strength from these classes,” Harvey said. “They’ve had an attitude change as well because they are no longer in an apartment but with others. They want to live longer for their grandchildren and they bring their grandchildren with them.”

Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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