What would happen to your denomination if you received $1.5 billion with strings attached? Would it help you accomplish your mission?
That's the intriguing drama being played out with the Salvation Army and the communities which have received KROC Centers. The original plan from the Joan Kroc estate envisioned 30 KROC Centers around the US as community centers affiliated with the Salvation Army. The receiving community would need to raise half the funds and then be matched by KROC. See the 2006 story from a philanthropy perspective. The NY Times offered this update in 2009 as the economy struggled and some metropolitan areas gave up on the projects for lack of community funding support.
The nearby Augusta GA KROC Center broke ground February 2010 and held their grand opening August 2011. They are situated in the old mill village of Harrisburg. It's a neighborhood in town often in the news for one problem or another. The KROC Center has an impressive building with an incredible array of programming. Here are the early numbers from 2009 regarding the projected impact and later explanations to the public . Despite the media coverage there still seems be be some confusion even today. Questions still remain whether KROC is intended for the local neighborhood, which also houses the Salvation Army, and will meet the needs of the poor of that community. I've noticed many recent Facebook posts for our Augusta branch reminding everyone that SA is a church. That seems to somehow have gotten lost in the excitement. Will folk be as excited as KROC rightfully presses the church aspect of their agenda?
But back to my initial question. How does a ministry/denomination that seems to specialize in serving the poor and those hit by disaster juggle a programming approach to ministry using a community center/recreation approach and keep their focus? The local effort will soon unveil their First Stop social service approach as they gather various partners to meet the needs of the poor. But how will the poor and those needing social services mix with the middle class and those served by the community programming of KROC? Most church ministry attempts at this take a stronger lead with the spiritual component to help integrate various socio-economic or ethnic groups. Of course, we all know that recreation is a great and easy place to gather a great mix of people. Perhaps the program approach taking the lead is a good solution.
Across the U.S., and even here in Augusta, many of us are watching to see how the millions and billions of dollars from the KROC Foundation will impact the mission of the Salvation Army. The next year will be interesting as these answers will soon be revealed for the Salvation Army, our local KROC Center, and Harrisburg.