The Kroc Center in Ashland
When the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Ashland, Ohio, opened its doors a decade ago as the Eastern Territory’s first Kroc Center, it became the face of The Salvation Army in Ashland. Still, city residents wondered what this new facility would offer.
“We were a whole new experiment for The Salvation Army and debuting in a small community like Ashland,” says Debbie Cooper, the center’s business manager. “Many saw the Army shield and thought this was a building only for people in need. Our challenge was to show what we were capable of.”
Even today, people who walk into the Ashland Kroc Center expecting just a community facility or just a church are shocked to see what a Salvation Army Kroc Center offers. Along with the more common features that are a staple in Army corps (churches), such as daily meal services and a food pantry, the Kroc Center also has a working spray park, and a basketball court that can double as a roller–skating rink for birthday parties or host dances by the Kroc Center’s own Big Band musical group. The center also has an indoor field house for winter soccer leagues and bounce house space for families with toddlers.
“There’s something magical about our field house,” says Cooper, who has been a part of the center since it opened. “Anyone who walks into it is amazed. It’s special to see green turf ready to be played on—even during a cold harsh winter.”
In the summer months, the center’s splash park is open to the public and is ready to be enjoyed by families for whom summer vacations might be too expensive. The spray park is an attraction that one would find within a public park and maintained with taxes. For the center, it’s a “thank you” gift to the community for investing and believing in The Salvation Army.
Cooper says that the center’s upcoming 10–year anniversary will be an opportunity to reintroduce it to the community.
“Our anniversary weekend is going to be called ‘Back to the Future’,” says Cooper. “We are looking back at our 10 years, but also looking forward to what we have coming. This version of the Kroc Center has run its course; it’s time for the next phase and the next 10 years.”
Even as a weekend party location or an escape from the summer heat, the center will continue to meet the need of every member of the community, regardless of social class or income.
“We have our social services department in front of the building, so that anyone who needs help has access to it as soon as they walk in. We will always make sure the Ashland Kroc is a good steward of the mission of The Salvation Army,” says Cooper.
“But just because you don’t need help feeding your family, it doesn’t mean that you can’t come in to enjoy what we have to offer. There is something for everyone inside a Salvation Army Kroc Center.”
by Hugo Bravo