The Jacksonville Salvation Army is getting ready to relocate in hopes of needed expansion.
Captain Chris Clarke says the Salvation Army has signed a purchase contract with Turner Painting & Construction for the former Gamble Campus Center, located at the corner of Each Beecher, Lurton, and Hardin Avenue.
Clarke says it will allow the Salvation Army to greatly expand space and programs: “We are excited. This is a much bigger building than we currently operate at 331 West Douglas. We are excited about the potential that we have to grow our programs to offer more services, even if there is an opportunity to bring in other, similar organizations that help other people. We will have additional office space to look at accommodating those folks.”
Clarke says the new building will allow them to serve the large influx of people in the community they’ve seen over the last year, especially with their food programs: “The number of households coming to us for food has tripled, whereas a year ago, we were serving 50-70 families a week with a week’s worth of groceries. Now, that number is more around 150-200 families. We’ve been working hard to bring in new food donations from the community. We’re so thankful to stores like Wal-Mart, Aldi, and County Market who have been donating for years. We’ve now been looking outside of our region. We have volunteers who are driving as far away as Peoria and Springfield to pick up donations that we’re able to acquire. Over the last 12 months, we’ve been able to provide 600,000 pounds of food to the community. We see the need is still yet increasing. We are looking at the potential of getting our food pantry to providing a million pounds of food per year.”
Clarke says that they are going to have to do some construction on the Gamble Center in phases, primarily to make it more ADA-compliant and to fully outfit it to the Salvation Army’s needs: “There are a few ground-level entries to the side. We will be utilizing those when we first open our operations there. When we first move in, we will just be utilizing the first floor. Then, we will be working on making the building to where we can utilize it fully, especially as far as taking care of those handicap accessible issues, doing a lot of construction to the building of course with general maintenance and looking at everything that’s there and making sure that the building is going to last us for decades to come. Also, we’ll be making construction improvements to where we can better utilize the building for all of our programs and services.”
Plans are for the building to house new programs including plans for an art center, a maker space, a recreation/teen center, and new programs for children, seniors, and families to help combat cycles of homelessness and poverty. Clarke says the current building at 331 West Douglas Avenue will be put up for sale. The location has been the Salvation Army’s headquarters since September 1955 when it purchased the property from the Jacksonville Assembly of God Church in 1952.