by John Wehrle
The Omaha, Neb., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center is celebrating five years of making its city a better place. Dedicated on November 6, 2009, and opened fully in January 2010, the center is on the exciting leading edge of Joan Kroc’s revolutionary vision to offer exceptional opportunities that would change lives. The center’s fifth anniversary presents an opportunity to assess progress, tell the center’s story and plan for even more success.
“As wonderful as the facility is, we know that what happens inside is what really matters,” said Major Cathy Thielke, officer for program development. “Programs are where our building’s potential and community need come together.” She continued, “Programs are the prime connection point with partners like the Omaha Symphony, Nebraska Shakespeare, The Latino Center of the Midlands, Omaha Conservatory of Music, Boys Town, and The Josh Collingsworth Foundation.”
Omaha’s Kroc Center now runs the largest adult soccer league in the area and just launched the largest indoor youth league. Soccer is poised for more growth this spring when the weather warms and the new lights on the outdoor field are turned on. Healthy Home Project, an Omaha Kroc Center original, helps families integrate time together, healthier eating habits and exercise into their busy lives, while Camp Kroc, the summer student enrichment program, has given hundreds of children a safe place to learn and play, as well as 20,000 meals in just the past three years.
Major Todd Thielke, senior Kroc Center officer said, “Knowing how fortunate we are to have great facilities, we provide access to the Kroc Center for an event or special meeting to a different Omaha non-profit each month, as well as hosting the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance’s monthly meetings.” The Omaha Kroc Center is an increasingly valued partner of government and non-profit agencies that work to improve this vital community, including being a South Omaha enrollment site and key employer for the STEP-UP Omaha summer jobs program.
The congregation also is serving a broad cross-section of Omahans, original Omaha South Corps members, neighborhood residents, and people who are moving forward after gaining stability in the traditional Salvation Army social service programs. Two of these are sisters, Betty and Amanda, who loved the open, warm reception they received at the Kroc Center so much that they are now adherents, their children are junior soldiers, and they are deeply involved in ministry and center programs.
In the past five years, Omaha’s Kroc Center has enjoyed nearly 1 million visits from members, people attending community and corporate events, future soccer and swimming stars—a huge cross-section of the metro area’s residents and guests from all over the world. Instead of an abandoned meat-processing plant where gang initiations and drug deals were starting to be the norm, this area of the city now has The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center, a modern facility with top-line equipment and staff dedicated to helping people grow in ability, confidence and potential.
“Joan Kroc knew that providing opportunities for all people to be healthy, happy and confident is better for kids, parents at work, at school and in a community in which all can succeed,” said Major Todd. “When people come to the Kroc Center, we work with them to discern their innate spark, to help them identify their talents, and then to create a program that develops their potential. We inspire growth.”