In Georgia, faith-based project isn't an issue
Elected officials have given land and government agencies have given money for many of the planned Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers. But concerns over religious freedom have played little role in those decisions, according to those invol...
Elected officials have given land and government agencies have given money for many of the planned Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers.
But concerns over religious freedom have played little role in those decisions, according to those involved with proposed projects around the United States.
The Salvation Army's history includes not only feeding and sheltering the poor, but preaching to "unchurched" people.
In Augusta, Ga., public involvement in a faith-based project hasn't raised many eyebrows.
The city donated about a third of the needed land for a $107 million center near the Savannah River. The people in the area have a strong religious tradition, said Derek Dugan, development director for the local Salvation Army.
"We have not seen that issue (of religion) in the donation of the land," Dugan said.
Religious sensitivity might be an issue for one center tenant there. The arts council in Augusta must ensure its offerings don't offend the landlord, a newspaper there reported.
Public money and favors for Kroc centers were common in other cities. The centers sometimes accompany other public improvements.
In Grand Rapids, Mich., the city spent $467,000 to execute a land swap. The city will turn over 8 acres for the proposed center site in exchange for a bike trailhead.
An $80 million community center and housing project in one of San Francisco's downtrodden areas included a mix of tax credits and federal and state grants. But public money went toward the housing, not to what will be an eight-story community center, said Joe Posillico, commander of the Salvation Army's San Francisco operation.
City leaders and aid agencies gave tremendous support for the project, he said.
The center, which will be built in place of a hotel dating back to the 1906 earthquake era, will serve thousands of children living in tenement apartments and many young people living on the streets. The Tenderloin neighborhood it will open its doors to at the end of 2008 is home to high drug use and a high concentration of pedophiles, he said.
While the Kroc Foundation provides much of the money for the community centers, millions must be raised by every community hoping to get a center.
In Georgia, for example, Salvation Army officials hope for donations from members of the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament.
In Green Bay, Wis., a corporate citizen stepped up to the plate, taking much of the discussion out of city council chambers.
Smithfield Beef Group, a subsidiary of the world's largest pork processor, donated 30 acres for the proposed Kroc Center there. Months later, the Salvation Army raised the $7.5 million it needed.
"That kind of got the ball rolling," said Smithfield Senior Vice President Steve Vanlannen.
The city of Green Bay promised to spend $500,000 on street, water and sewer improvements and will issue a building permit, but elected officials were not asked to invest substantially in the project.
The center will be located in an area that needs it, Vanlannen said. It is expected to serve the city's growing Hispanic population. Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt said religion was not an issue.
"We just really see them as providing a service," he said Friday. The city is asking for trouble if it doesn't provide services for people in need, he said.