The Salvation Army’s Kroc Community Center, a one-of-a-kind family space in Omaha, was established in a 122,000-square-foot location where the Wilson meatpacking plant used to be located up until it was closed in the 1970s.
It was thanks to the generous support of philanthropist Joan B. Kroc, widow of Ray Kroc who was responsible for taking McDonalds to a worldwide audience, that the building opened its doors in November 2009, and it has not stopped receiving new members ever since.
The Kroc Center currently receives around 775 visitors of all ages each day, which is why the Kroc Enhancement Project began on July 7 during a ceremony headed by Mayor Jean Stothert, Senator Heath Mello, and Councilman Garry Gernandt.
This project contemplated building an additional space of 18,000 square feet at a cost of around $9 million dollars. MLC Construction believes this will take up to 12 months of work – the Kroc Center will continue to be open during that time. According to Cathy Thielke, Commander (Major) of the Salvation Army and the officer in charge of the Enhancement Project, the renovations began “because we realized that the size of the rooms for exercising were now too small since we have many people who take the physical fitness classes, and we simply didn’t have enough space for all of them.” January is even busier since people start the year with a list of things they want to do in the year, so a lot of people get their membership to improve their health. Thielke explained that it got to a point when “we didn’t have enough equipment for everyone, because the areas designed for that purpose could not fit any more machines.”
Once the Kroc Center is remodeled, the plan is for the area for physical activities to be “three times larger with a space to fit twice as much equipment” for training, on top of including a track for people to walk indoors.
Thielke added that the plans for the building would also focus on children thanks to a new Playzone for kids of up to 12 years of age. They will also add space for teenagers where they’ll be able to socialize thanks to new games. Adults will also benefit from extra space for them to mingle.
This is all because of the great success of the organization thanks to the many services it offers, as stated by Madeleine Moyer, Business Services Director at the Kroc Center: “We have programs for everyone, no matter if they’re 1 or 100 years old. Something that makes us different from other community centers is that we truly are a place for the whole family.
Moyer mentioned that physical education classes at the Kroc Center are available not only according to the age of those who participate, as is the case for Tai Chi, Yoga, and Zumba but also according to their fitness level. They also have other classes available such as POUND, which is only available in two other places in the city, an activity that combines cardio with physical fitness for all of your body.
Sports such as taekwondo, boxing, basketball, soccer and swimming are very popular with both male and female members, without forgetting about supporting the academic preparation of kids and teenagers.
“Something that makes us unique is that we have a computer lab for parents to bring their children so they can do their homework, or they can be used by someone who is looking for a job and who needs to use a computer and the internet to search for one,” said Moyer.
Immigration classes, English as a Second Language (ESL) or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate are also available at the Kroc Center since it collaborates with many agencies such as the Latino Center of the Midlands.
Art is crucial for the Kroc Center since it has an art studio where people can learn about working with pottery with renowned artist John Kevern. It also offers music lessons thanks to the support of the Omaha Conservatory of Music.
The spiritual development of its members is also important for the Kroc Center, as mentioned by Commander Thielke when remembering that Mrs. Kroc wanted her valuable donation to “help people in all aspects of their life, be that physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.” This is why the organization “has an active church for Sunday service and for people to participate in the ministry during the week.”
On that note, Moyer added that Mrs. Kroc “selected the Salvation Army because of the spiritual principles of those who are part of it” and because “she thought that each person has a gift and that some of us know what it is, and some of us don’t, but the Kroc Center is there for each person to explore their God-given talents with the education, physical fitness and, of course, the spiritual support we provide.”
To learn more about the Kroc Center, there are guided visits available at the center, and low-income families can be eligible for a lower membership fee. There are also opportunities available for those looking to volunteer or to get a job at the center. The next annual fundraising event for the Kroc Center will be the fourth edition of BaconFest which will take place on September 18 from 1-5 p.m.
The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center
2825 Y Street