The Salvation Army Kroc Centers (Or: Crying Poor)

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Image: The Salvation Army Kroc Centers mascot (McKroc?)

Watch out YMCA, the Salvation Army is moving in. Salvation Army “Kroc Centers” are being built all over the U.S. They are named in honour of the founder of McDonalds restaurants, Ray Kroc, and some of the money for them came from the Joan Kroc bequest (see previous posting).

The centers have swimming pools, gyms, basketball courts, artificial rock climbing, ovals etc. They have many children’s programs, ranging from birthday parties, to after-school supervision, and in some cases, school holiday programs.

Most of the centers cost between $100 million to $200 million to build. All up, the 50 or so centers cost somewhere over $5 billion. That would provide a lot of meals in soup kitchens.

The idea was to provide fitness and child care facilities for underprivileged neighbourhoods. However, not many of them would be able to afford the fees. For example, the Coeur d’Alene center offers personal fitness coaching for $30 per half hour. The Boston center’s fitness membership is $660 per years plus a $50 joining fee.

Community members and elected officials have since complained the facility is not affordable, accessible or well publicized. Some compared it to living near Disneyland and not being able to go in. “I’m frustrated and disappointed thus far,” said Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson. “It is open and serving the community. But is it affordable for people in the community?” asked Rep. Carlos Henriquez

It is reported that the centers always rested uncomfortably with some Salvation Army officials, who have a hard time reconciling the elaborate centers with the Army’s image as a frugal church that serves the needy.

The Salvation Army has hired Elevate Communications, a Back Bay public relations firm to promote the center.

The centers will rely on the general public for memberships. However, a clue to the nature of the expected clientele is given by Director, Steve Carpenter, who said that “The fear for some people is that it will bring that population there.” The people he was referring to were drug addicts and at-risk youths.

No, says the Salvation Army program director, Ty Cobb, the centers won’t be used to push their religion. “Kroc Center staff members won’t ‘bombard’ people with religion at the front door. Instead, the goal will be to build relationships with guests and then share their message about Jesus Christ with those willing to receive it.”

Maybe, one could argue, the Kroc Centers will make money to help the poor, and they were a requirement of the McDonalds bequest. However, local communities had to raise much of the money by traditional means, which detracts from other programs.

As of 2011, the total raised by the Salvation Army and its volunteers was $329 million for 23 centers. Eventually, it is expected that something like $700 million will be involved for all of the centers. Again, this would have bought a lot of food for the needy and provided many homeless people with shelter.

So far, the centers are only in the U.S., but it is possible they could be built in Australia, or anywhere else the YMCA operates.

The real point of this article is to demonstrate that the Salvation Army is big business and does not spend all of its money servicing the poor. In particular, it is meant to show that, in relation to compensating its victims of sexual abuse, its payouts have been peanuts compared to its wealth.

The Australia Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse should ascertain the wealth of the Salvation Army so it can consider the veracity or otherwise of any Salvation Army  to not be able to pay adequate restitution to its many victims.

As they say, the rich get richer, especially the Salvation Army.

Read more here:

Previous postings on the Salvation Army:

TOMORROW: Salvation Army Kardinia Children’s Home

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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