Camden Kroc Center provides hope for the future


Laura Kane ('11), Eastside Editor-In-Chief


            It is hard to imagine that teens living only a town over are struggling to pay for basic necessities and fearing for their safety, while simultaneously the average East student is worrying about how he can find enough time to finish his homework.

            The city of Camden, located only a couple of miles away from Cherry Hill, has one of the highest crime rates in America. Data collected by neighborhood states that “one’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime” in Camden is one in 11. Camden’s alarming crime rate stems from the poverty stricken lives of the people who live there. 53.6 percent of Camden residents live below the poverty line; that means 40,987 people are living on incomes less than $22,000.

            Determined to bring a positive light into the city, the Salvation Army is building a state of the art 120,000 square foot facility located in the Cramer Hill section of Camden. Since 1865, the Salvation Army has been serving the less fortunate. In 2004, Joan Kroc, the heiress to the McDonald’s fortune, donated 1.6 billion dollars to the Salvation Army. However, Mrs. Kroc had specific instructions to be carried out with her donation. 50 percent of her gift would go towards building 30 brand new community centers in poor neighborhoods throughout the country. The rest of her donation would be used for the initial endowments to sustain the center. After reviewing proposals from 28 cities in the eastern division, Camden was selected to receive 59 million dollars for the community project.

            The Kroc Center will be located over 24 acres and will serve up to 350,000 people throughout not only Camden, but Burlington and Gloucester counties as well. The center will be the home of a plethora of service-orientated programs, such as food and utility assistance. Also, the center will have a competition pool, numerous gyms, a chapel, learning center, performing arts center, and day care center. The center not only will be the ultimate safe heaven for those in the community, but a source of hope for the many underserved families and individuals.

            Although Mrs. Kroc’s donation lays the foundation for the center, her gift was not meant to be the sole provider. In addition to Mrs. Kroc’s gift, other contributions total over 21 million dollars. However, local support is needed to pay for the remaining 11 percent of the 90 million dollar project goal. Over the next three to five years, Joan Kroc crops hope to raise 10 million dollar to start building the center. Looking only to support the community, all money raised will be donated to the center.

            To learn more about helping to transform a neighborhood, visit the Salvation Army’s website.