A center of attention

The proposed Kroc Center would occupy land between the Augusta Canal and Broad Street near Chafee Park, and could open as early as 2010.

The local Salvation Army is going to need a really big red kettle.


And Augustans should be eager to fill it to the brim.

A little more than two years ago, the Salvation Army's Augusta Corps got word that funding had been set aside for a Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center in Augusta -- $60 million worth.

But the Salvation Army will need an additional $30 million from local sources to completely pay for the construction of the massive 112,000-square-foot social services and recreation complex, and to maintain an endowment to cover the center's operating expenses.

Consider the sheer scope of this project.

The Kroc Center actually will be an umbrella for several centers, devoted to family services, the arts, education and recreation.

Local arts groups will get rooms in which to practice and perform. Children will have an indoor playground. People seeking job skills and further education will have classrooms. Residents who want to be healthier will have exercise rooms and fitness equipment.

Golden Harvest Food Bank, Goodwill, Augusta Urban Ministries, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Area Agency on Aging and the United Way of the CSRA are just some of the 34 agencies and performing groups who will be the proposed occupants of this center. City and state social service offices also will have their place here.

It will be a one-stop clearinghouse to help Augustans lead better, more fruitful and more productive lives.

Furthermore, it will transform the upper part of Broad Street. If there is a local neighborhood, particularly a historic neighborhood, that is in dire need of a shot in the arm, it's Harrisburg, where this Kroc Center will be located. The positive, transformative, humanitarian aura of this undertaking can't be denied, and it has all the potential to be uplifting to a part of town that has long needed a lift.

Just how important is this project? The Salvation Army's national Kroc Committee has said that this project will be watched closely, because they seek to model future Kroc Centers after the one that's taking shape in Augusta.

Setting the standards others will follow? That's big.

And now that an architectural firm has been chosen to design the building, we now know that the center is likely to blend with the area's historical look. Since the Kroc Center will sit across the Augusta Canal from the old Sibley Mill, officials envision a center design that's modern, but built with materials that will allow it to blend in with its older surroundings.

In a few weeks, the Salvation Army will start seeking foundations, corporations and any other deep-pocket donors with Augusta ties. But here, in the most charitable country in the world, if everyone gave just a little, it could add up to something big.

If you have questions about the Kroc Center project, you can send them to kroccenter@ salvationarmyaugusta.com to get them answered.