Kroc Center celebrates 5th anniversary in West Pullman

Chicago Proud
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Salvation Army Kroc Center on Chicago's Far South Side is celebrating its fifth anniversary this week. It's the largest community center in the state and is located near Loomis and 119th Street in the city's West Pullman neighborhood.

Former Chicago native Michael Williams loves bringing kids from his neighborhood to the South Side. He drives them all the way from west suburban Oak Park to the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Center just to play a pickup game of basketball.

"The way it is in Chicago with the danger and summer's here now, it's a good place for kids to come to keep them busy and off the streets," Williams said.

This weekend the Kroc Center will mark its fifth anniversary -- not only as a state-of-the-art community center, but also as an oasis in the West Pullman neighborhood.

"Joan Kroc's vision for this gift was to bring the Salvation Army state of the art facilities in underserved communities. So, we're meeting the needs in this area that aren't met anywhere near where we are," said Major Marc Johnson, Salvation Army Kroc Center.

As the Kroc Center celebrates another anniversary, this week begins with a health and small business fair.

"It's very competitive, but i enjoy it. I get to meet a lot of people," said Bettye Blackmon, a vendor.

There's also a community cleanup day, and Father's Day activities. It's clear how much the center has become a welcoming respite for the community made up of families and seniors.

"If I wasn't coming here, I'd be sitting at home watching TV 24/7. It keeps me from being bored," said Acquanita Demus, a Kroc Center member.

The 160,000-square-foot, multi-million-dollar facility which sits on 32 acres - opened its doors 2012 and made an immediate impact. Officials say it generates an economic impact of over $14 million and created over 225 jobs for neighborhood residents, like Janelle Mason.

"When you live in the community, the job has a different meaning for you," Mason said.

The Kroc Center has a fitness center and a café along with a football field and tennis courts.
The educational, sports, and summer programs focus on providing a safe haven from the violence.

A soft-spoken Taylor Clark says she really like the center's pool, which is part of one of the larger indoor water parks in the city.

"The water slides are fun and the water feels warm," Clark said.
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