Good news out of Camden

Photo Credit: Kroc Center – Camden

The Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center of Camden, NJ is set to open October 2014 in the most dangerous, poorest neighborhood in America, a place where 35% of families live below the poverty line.

This center (affordably priced at $200 annually for a family of 4) will provide a place to exercise (fight obesity), learn (after schools programs in arts & music education, hallmarks of The Salvation Army), and serve as a safe gathering place in the community, for the community.

The Camden Kroc will do more than create 160 jobs in a city defined by decay and brokenness.  It will create countless opportunities for healing, growth, and education.

Major Paul Cain took me around the 24 acres yesterday – acres anchored in hope for a neighborhood with the highest murder rate in the country. A place where “hatchet job” is not a metaphorical phrase.

On the ride from Philly to Camden and across town I didn’t see one gym. Instead, I saw lots of boarded up homes, lots of people sitting on the streets with nothing to do. Lots of hopelessness.

But where I see hopelessness, Major Cain sees hope.

As we drove around the former landfill, I saw dirt. Major Cain sees potential. I saw a dead end. Major Cain sees promise. I saw steel beams; Major Cain sees the baseball, basketball and soccer fields, swimming pool, client choice food pantry, day care center, pond, and solar panel field soon to come.

Major Cain says “it’s hard to find good news in Camden.” This Kroc Center is indeed good news. Good news built with bricks and concrete – but also with love.

Thanks to the generosity of corporate sponsors, political leaders  like Mayor Dana Redd, who have championed this project, and countless individuals devoted to seeing this thing happen – such as founder and donor, Joan Kroc of McDonald’s – is now birthing the 27th Kroc Center in the United States.

As it opens, we’re reminded that we didn’t build it. Collective generosity did. Wells Fargo, Campbell’s, the city of Camden, individuals who care – helped make this center a reality. It’s not ours. It’s God’s. The community’s. It’s not just for programs, it’s for people.

What happens within the 120,000 square feet of the Camden Kroc remains to be seen. But it’s built with love and the Salvation Army staff & officers vision as they live out a love that “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

There is good news in Camden, good news founded on truly Good News. Something the Cain’s and Rivera’s can tell you about.

 

Marcia Larson is a Board Member of The Salvation Army & The Micah Global Foundation. She received her B.A. from Vanderbilt and M.A. in French / Art History (NYU) and Public Policy (Texas A&M). She enjoys being a Twitter coach at Dow Jones / The Wall Street Journal. She currently resides in New York City. Her favorite verse is Micah 6:8.