The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers were born out of a vision that all people should have access to resources that can help them reach their full potential.
The first Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center was established in San Diego in 2002. The success of the San Diego “Kroc Center” and her appreciation of and ultimate trust in The Salvation Army’s work moved Mrs. Kroc to bequeath nearly $1.6 billion to the Army for the purpose of creating similar facilities in similar neighborhoods throughout the United States.
To date, 23 Ray and Joan Kroc Centers are open and operating, 3 of which were partially funded via NMTCs; four more including the Camden center are in planning or construction phases. All of these centers equip men, women, and children with the tools to reach their full potential with programs to help improve skills, wellness, and lives while pursuing dreams that may have been out of reach before.
As the result of a competitive process TSA awarded Camden, NJ with partial funding to establish a Kroc Center. Camden is one of the poorest cities in the U.S.; a staggering 51% of the roughly 78,000 residents of the City of Camden live at or below the poverty line, the unemployment rate is 18.6%, and in 2010, 50.3% of the city’s children lived in poverty. The 120,000 SF Camden Kroc Center is located on an 85-acre remediated landfill. While the center will be open to all, it was Mrs. Kroc’s greatest hope that it would help young people to realize their potential through an offering of varied programs and opportunities. Thus, the center will include a full size gymnasium, an indoor competition pool and water park, black box theater, community gathering plaza, media center, learning center, culinary arts teaching kitchen, choice food pantry, early childhood education center, teen center, senior center, athletic fields, health clinic and more.
This extraordinary project will impact Camden’s families for generations to come. The new state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar Kroc Center will act as a source of neighborhood pride and serve as a catalyst for urban renewal, community integrity and increased property values. Estimates indicate that the center’s resources and programs will serve 10,000 members and host 350,000 visitors annually. The Kroc Center will create hundreds of local direct and indirect jobs and will invest millions of dollars into a community in desperate need of employment opportunities. Life skills and selected occupational training will also be offered to assist individuals as they explore employment opportunities. This better qualified workforce will then attract new employers.
TSA will operate the center and will recruit professional staff of approximately 160 full-time, part-time and adjunct staff. TSA will collaborate on programming with local organizations, including hospitals, child care providers, arts and cultural organizations, and community groups including Rutgers University, Rowan University, Camden County College, the Camden School System, Cooper University Hospital, and the Workforce Investment Board, among many others, to provide programs and classes that will meet specific community needs.