In careful stages, Kroc Centers begin reopening

Photo Credit: Chris Bailey

In careful stages, Kroc Centers begin reopening

By: David Ibata

A first step in what could be a gradually advancing, post-coronavirus return to normal took place Monday, May 4, at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Augusta, Georgia. The facility was the first of seven Kroc Centers in the Southern Territory to reopen its building.

Members have begun returning to the Kroc Center after its closing March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s been slow, but steady,” said Major Douglas McClure, Augusta area commander and senior Kroc Center officer. “The first day was kind of tentative, but people have come every day, and things have been slowly growing. We had 51 people here Wednesday.”

Augusta will be closely watched by other centers as they prepare their own re-openings, said George Burkhardt, territorial business technology project manager for the Kroc Centers. There will be ample social distancing and sanitization to ensure the safety of staff and visitors. Initially, only Kroc members are invited. Everyone will come in a certain door and have their temperature taken.

“If you have a temperature above a certain level, they’re not going to let you in” – fever being one of the telltale symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, Burkhardt said. “That’s to protect everybody, employees and members.”

After Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-at-home order expired April 30 and the state began allowing businesses like health clubs to reopen, The Salvation Army in Augusta worked with the Richmond County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office to ensure compliance with public health sanitation and safety measures.

The Kroc Center created two-hour blocks through the day for exercise machine usage. It asks members to set up appointments online, in increments of 1 hour 45 minutes; this allows staff 15 minutes between visits to clean and sanitize areas where people had been working out.

Furniture and equipment have been rearranged to ensure six-foot separations – taking every other treadmill or elliptical out of service, for instance, or moving some machines to the main gymnasium. Other areas, like the swimming pool, group fitness rooms and the child watch space – a supervised play area where parents can leave their kids while they exercise – remain closed.

Major McClure said, “What’s surprising to me is the number of what I’d define as older people coming to the Kroc Center. I think they feel comfortable, that they like what we’re doing in taking the necessary steps to keep them safe.”

It’s hoped that the pool can soon reopen, and that the children’s summer day camp program can launch toward the end of May. The 12-week camp is among the center’s most popular offerings. “Right now, we’re trying to see what the need level is, and whether it’s doable with our current configuration,” Major McClure said.

Augusta, Burkhardt said, “is doing their best to go over and above the requirements for social distancing and make sure everybody’s safe.”

Kroc Centers are following the lead of public officials in their jurisdictions.

“At this time, each Kroc Center will reopen in phases in response to the phases directed by their city ordinances,” said Melissa Williams, territorial Kroc marketing manager. “There are no dates in the foreseeable future as to when all programming will resume, as each location will continue with safety restrictions in terms of capacity that maintain safe distancing.”

Every center will voluntarily reduce the number of people allowed in the building at any one time, and will ask members to reserve times to visit, Williams said. Equipment has been repositioned to ensure safe distancing; hand sanitizing stations, set up; and staff, directed to wear masks and gloves.

In Greenville, South Carolina, the main building of the Kroc Center is closed, but its outdoor tennis center opened Friday, May 1, to Kroc tennis members only. They are limited to casual play and private and semi-private lessons.

Facilities will be cleaned throughout the day, and instructional equipment will be sanitized after every use, according to the publicly posted reopening guidelines. Sanitizing sprays will be used frequently by staff and available to players in restrooms, though visitors are advised to bring their own hand sanitizers and disinfectants to use on the courts. Showers and locker rooms are closed.

The Kroc Center in Memphis, Tennessee, in an email to members, announced an initial reopening Monday, May 11.

“Although we are reopening our doors, we will not be resuming programming as normal right away,” the center said. “We will adhere to 25-percent capacity restrictions, limit our program offerings and time allotments, structure time for additional cleaning, and more.”

Elsewhere, the Biloxi, Mississippi, Kroc Center may open with just its summer camp May 25, while the Hampton Roads Kroc Center in Norfolk, Virginia, is looking at a June 10 opening, Williams said. No opening dates have been announced yet for the Kroc Centers in Atlanta, Georgia, and Kerrville, Texas.

“THQ is providing any support necessary as requested by the Kroc Centers,” Williams said. “We are happy to be valuable resources and helping hands as each Kroc Center navigates challenging new decisions in order to keep their staff and members safe while maintaining best practices for their business needs.”


Salvation Army truck driver honored to do his part

Salvation Army truck driver honored to do his part

By: Philip Burn

As a truck driver for The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Dallas, Texas, Richard Alvarez typically spends his days collecting donations of furniture, clothes and household items from the homes and businesses of generous donors. But for the last three weeks, Alvarez has been delivering much needed personal protective equipment in his Salvation Army truck to hospitals and essential workers in Dallas.

“I was proud to be asked to deliver PPE for of The Salvation Army,” said Alvarez. “It’s good to know what I’m doing is helping staff in hospitals and other locations who look after people and save lives.”

The Salvation Army is partnering with the Texas Division of Emergency Management to provide transportation of essential PPE in cities throughout the state. Deliveries are made to strategic locations including hospitals and other essential services directly affected by the increased demands caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alvarez has a deep appreciation for places taking care for people in their time of need. He is a graduate of The Salvation Army’s 180-day rehabilitation program and vividly recalls walking through the doors of the Dallas ARC on Feb. 5, 2017. “I came in broken and in desperate need of help,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about The Salvation Army other than they rang bells at Christmastime and I saw them on Thanksgiving Day with the Dallas Cowboys. But walking in here on that first day, I knew it was the right place for me.”

The day after completing the rehabilitation program, Alvarez was hired as a full-time truck driver responsible for collecting donated items and stocking the Dallas-area Salvation Army Family Stores. “My mom shopped at the stores when I was growing up,” he said. “It’s now come full circle. Instead of shopping in the stores, I’m now the one stocking them.”

Social distancing protocols and shelter-in-place orders have resulted in the temporary closure of The Salvation Army Family Stores, putting significant financial strain on operations. As a result, most of the work force were laid off. Alvarez is one of the few remaining drivers, working less hours and at a reduced rate.

“I might be making less money right now, but I can put gas in my car, pay my rent and look after my kids. God will take care of me,” said Alvarez. “I really believe in the ministry of The Salvation Army and am thankful for all they have done for me. The PPE delivery is a great way for me to give back during this crisis. Each day I put my armor on and do my part.”


Salvation Army makes beautiful music, virtually

Salvation Army makes beautiful music, virtually

By: David Ibata

Music has been an integral part of The Salvation Army from nearly the very beginning of its ministry. But with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing actual instruction and rehearsals, the Southern Territory is taking “virtual” teaching and performance to new levels.

Consider the Territorial Music Institute. While the physical TMI has been canceled, a virtual TMI is planned the week of July 27-31, said Nicholas Simmons-Smith, territorial music and creative arts secretary. Each day, a Morning Manna time of worship will be followed by master classes, instruction in all disciplines with worldwide experts, private lessons, and fun evening programs. Details to follow.

“We don’t expect kids to log onto Facebook for eight hours, but maybe if we can provide them with an hour of meaningful worship, or a chance to log on and have a conversation with Philip Smith, that would be fantastic,” Simmons-Smith said.

Additionally, some divisions have announced the cancelations of their summer conservatories. Others still hope to meet, though there are many unknowns. Everyone has a plan for virtual online lessons through the summer, in one format or another.

“We’re seeing all the divisional music directors suddenly switching around and making changes and pushing things out online,” Simmons-Smith said. “We’ve kind of oversaturated Facebook with resources. There’s so much, you can’t possibly consume it all, but we feel it’s better to have more resources out there than not enough.”

Churches unable to meet have had to put their weekly worship services online – a daunting technological challenge made more so by the fact, most smaller corps had little prior experience with audio/video (A/V) production and internet streaming.

To help them, the territorial Music Department has been pushing out prepackaged content through the “Church in a Box” portal on Ministry Toolkit. Here, the praise band transMission recently released a new single, “Unfailing God.” Assets include audio and accompaniment tracks, chords, lyrics, sheet music and a video.

MTK is continually adding content, such as band and songster lyric videos, transMission and Sing Praise music, said Laura Dake, Ministry Toolkit administrator. “We’re hoping these resources will help corps officers plan for their Sunday worship,” she said.

At the divisional level, Texas has been using the popular conference software, Zoom, for weekly songster rehearsals since April 1. It’s an example how a big dose of creativity is vital to keeping everyone connected.

“All our divisional programs like youth councils, music rehearsals, concerts, and ministry trips were canceled for April and May,” said Matthew Broome, divisional music director for Texas. “We’re trying to figure out ways to stay in the forefront.”

Texas also mapped out a month of weekday social media programming for April. A brass lesson streamed on Monday; a guitar lesson and A/V training, on Tuesday; and devotional video, on Wednesday. Thursday included another guitar lesson along with a new song for praise bands to learn. Friday ended each week with creative arts tutorials for dance and drama. A similar schedule has just been released for May.

A tougher challenge is coming up with an online substitute for the summer conservatory, which was to be in June and July at Camp Hoblitzelle. Children 7 to 11 years old would have attended a junior conservatory for one week; and young people ages 12 to 17, a senior conservatory for four weeks.

“We’re not able to meet in person this summer, so I’m proposing a one-week virtual junior conservatory meeting once or twice a day, then a two-week virtual senior conservatory with two to four classes a day, including some private instruction as well,” Broome said.

There’s concern about regular participation and accountability for the online program.

“During April and May, we’ve been putting out videos that people can consume whenever they want, and we don’t really know which locations or participants have been using them,” Broome said. “For the summer, we’re looking at Google Classroom and other apps, where we put up content and tell students what they need to do each day, and teachers and students can gauge their progress.”

“This is just an unusual time where all of us are learning new things. We’re trying our best to reach the folks we normally minister to.”


It’s still Easter in Charleston, South Carolina

It’s still Easter in Charleston, South Carolina

By: Major Frank Duracher

The calendar says it is May – the third month of self-quarantining – but to struggling families in Charleston, South Carolina, it’s still Easter. The Christian holiday most loved for rebirth and renewal remains a positive symbol of hope amid economic and emotional despair.

That is because of a massive donation from World Market of Easter candies, unfilled baskets and decorations.

“At first we had volunteers make up Easter baskets to distribute to our corps members and their families,” said Captain Jason Burns, corps officer. “We also took care of our Boys & Girls Club members, as we continue to stay in contact with our kids throughout this crisis.”

But that effort hardly put a dent in the amount of candy on hand.

“So, we went on making baskets for families in the community.”

The captain said that families struggling with quarantined school-aged children have been very receptive to the extended holiday celebration.

“It seems that the parents are just as happy and their children to receive this treat,” he said.

Post-Easter distribution was through the local Department of Human Services, where that agency’s Child Welfare Division made sure every foster care child received a basket of candy.

Captain Burns and his staff then contacted other partner agencies through which many other children were reached with Easter joy. Following that, local companies contacted the captain to take care of their furloughed employees with children.

With pallets-full of Easter candy still remaining, candy is distributed to families and individuals coming daily to the Army’s administrative building for hot meals and food boxes.

“It seems a ‘favorite’ among many of our homeless men are the dark chocolate bunnies,” Captain Burns said with a chuckle.

Even Captains Jason and Bethany Burns and their staff and volunteers have been loving this extended Easter celebration. Playing the part of the “Easter Bunny” has been providing great delight during the half-month following the actual Easter holiday date.

“It’s been wonderful to know the know that the donation to us by World Market has brought so much joy to so many during this time of extreme chaos and seclusion because of the coronavirus,” Captain Jason said.


Anonymous donor gives $250K to Salvation Army in Savannah

A $250,000 gift from an anonymous donor in Savannah, Georgia, will help support such Salvation Army services as program bags to residents from the Senior Women’s Ministry. Major Karen Egan delivers a bag to an individual at home. Each bag contains a devotional, history of Arbor Day, games about Arbor Day, May flowers, a small gift and a variety of canned food.

Anonymous donor gives $250K to Salvation Army in Savannah

An anonymous donor has given $250,000 to The Salvation Army in Savannah, Georgia, to make urgently needed repairs to its Community Center and to apply toward its emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Savannah CEO newsletter, the Savannah Community Foundation announced the gift from a donor-advised fund, $150,000 of which will go toward roof repairs at The Salvation Army Community Center on Bee Road. The 27-year-old building is being used as an additional shelter, separate from the men’s shelter, to ensure adequate social distancing for homeless women and children.

It also houses children’s after-school programs, the corps rehabilitation program for those seeking to be free of drug and alcohol abuse, a summer day camp, a senior citizens program, adult fitness and children’s music classes, and worship services and Sunday School.

“This amazing donation gives us the opportunity to make substantial improvements to the infrastructure of our community center,” said Major Paul Egan, Savannah Corps officer. “We will be able to run much more efficiently for months and years to come.”

The remainder of the donation will support The Salvation Army’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The Army has been providing rent, utility and food assistance, along with emotional and spiritual care, to households whose breadwinners have been laid off or furloughed or have had their working hours reduced due to the virus.

Lt. Colonel William G. Mockabee, Georgia divisional commander, said, “This generous donation continues to motivate us to do the most good as we use the resources as well as meeting the needs of the people that come to us. This will help to significantly change people’s lives.”


New transMission release celebrates our ‘Unfailing God’

New transMission release celebrates our ‘Unfailing God’

By: Brad Rowland

Since emerging from a Territorial Youth Institute in 2002, transMission has been producing music and resources for the USA Southern Territory. During that 18-year period, 10 different projects have been recorded, with more than 100 songs or arrangements. Albums usually arrive in a regular cycle, with new material released in record form every two and three years. The schedule called for an album release in 2020, and while the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the full release of a new record, the decision was made to release a single, titled “Unfailing God,” in late April.

“What we started to notice as the album production continued is that a lot of the songs and themes led to God’s faithfulness,” said Chris Hofer, territorial music education production specialist. “It seemed timely when the COVID-19 outbreak started happening.”

Rachel Wiley, assistant divisional music director for the Georgia Division, and Jeff Cain combined to pen the words to “Unfailing God,” and the song immediately became something of an anthem across the territory. The choice to release the song first also wasn’t an accident, with the theme of God’s faithfulness permeating through the decision and the release itself.

“We thought this would be a great time to look at one of the songs on the record, especially with this record being centered on a theme of faithfulness,” said Joshua Powell, territorial contemporary music specialist. “God is faithful to us through all generations. He is faithful to me in my life, and we’re also looking at our faithfulness to him as well.”

“Especially in that first week when we started quarantining, we thought it was a good time to have something meaningful and hopeful to put out into the world,” Hofer said. “There seemed to be this overwhelming feeling of anxiousness and worry all around us, and we thought it was a great time to get this song out there and hopefully lift people up as a result.”

All of transMission’s resources, including charts, lead sheets and accompaniment tracks, are available at the group’s dedicated website. In addition to those resources, the challenging times influenced by COVID-19 also led to the creation of an additional element, with the choice to release a lyric video along with the single itself. The reasoning behind that choice was two-fold, with consideration to speed of delivery and implementation.

“When you go to release something, even in the best of times, it takes a couple of weeks to show up on the major streaming platforms,” Powell said. “Right now, that timeframe is even longer. We wanted to get this out quickly to help people and decided to release it in video form to make sure we could do that.”

“Within only a couple of days, some of our divisional music and arts personnel were using the lyric video to enhance their resources,” said Bernie Dake, assistant territorial music secretary. “That is so encouraging to me, and the feedback has been tremendously positive as people become acquainted with the song, the video and the message behind it.”

Corps and divisions across the USA Southern Territory have already implemented the lyric video in virtual services, allowing for worship that can be shared with the backdrop of high-quality music and an aesthetically pleasing visual experience.

“The lyric video is designed to create another resource that is slightly different and for people to be able to utilize it during this time,” said Hofer. “I think the visual part of it helps to enhance it and, with so many corps producing virtual services right now, it is something that can be inserted quite easily.”

“We’re seeing that people are using many of our tracks and having them as background music for well-produced videos,” Powell said. “That is encouraging to see, and we want people to use the resources in the best way they see fit.”

In the near future, transMission plans to release two additional singles in advance of the full album release, and the “Unfailing God” single is now available on all streaming platforms. The record, currently untitled, is expected to arrive late summer, but there are numerous resources already available for consumption. Many of the previously recorded materials have been utilized during this challenging time.

“The tracks and charts, especially during this time, have become important to our divisional music and arts employees in particular,” Dake said. “They’re trying to encourage folks to participate virtually and we’re trying to help with these resources.”

“In an era that has a lot of uncertainty about jobs, about health and all kinds of things, this was the song that really came forward to us,” said Powell. “God is truly unfailing. He knows our story. He’s planned our way, and he has a plan for us.”


Memphis Kroc Center provides care for kids of first responders, medical workers

Memphis Kroc Center provides care for kids of first responders, medical workers

By: David Ibata

The joyful sounds of children at play returned to the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Memphis, Tennessee. The Kroc Center has – very carefully – opened its doors to the offspring of first responders and health care providers.

“There’s definitely a need,” said Kenyota Ward, youth development director for The Salvation Army Memphis Area Command. “For us, it’s an honor to be able to play a part in helping responders and health care workers help others.”

All Memphis-area schools and many daycare operations closed in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kroc Center suspended programming March 16; it’s been staying in touch with members online and is a hub of community feeding initiatives.

In April, Ward said, “we found out several businesses were going to be permitted to offer emergency childcare, so we reached out to the Tennessee Department of Human Services and asked how we’d go about making this work in our facility.”

Working with state and local authorities, the Kroc Center on Monday, April 20, opened for full-day childcare for children ages 5 to 12. Twenty-five kids came the first day; by the end of the first week, the program was nearly at its 50-child capacity. The service will conclude May 8 as the Kroc Center prepares to open its other programs on Monday, May 11.

“It’s going great,” said Major Marion Platt, Memphis area commander. “It’s definitely a popular program in our community.”

Childcare is free to parents, thanks to the generosity of a local donors. “What we are doing from a development standpoint is letting donors know they have the opportunity to help; they can sponsor a day or a week,” Major Platt said.

The Kroc Center spends about $7,500 week on staffing and two meals a day plus snacks for the children, the major said. Three weeks are planned and paid for; a decision will be made in May how and whether to continue.

Public health officials guided the Kroc Center as it modified cleaning practices, adjusted check-in and check-out procedures and scheduled space and staffing to ensure social distancing among youngsters.

Every morning, children are checked in outside. Both they and adult staff members have their temperatures taken, and a brief questionnaire makes sure no one is coughing or showing other symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

“The kids then clean their hands and come inside,” Ward said. “Their personal belongings remain outside, and we disinfect them before bringing them inside.”

Children are broken up into small groups, and their days are carefully scheduled “so we don’t have too many in the same place at the same time, doing the same activity,” Ward said. “As groups rotate around, staff makes sure areas are cleaned for the next group. There’s a thorough cleaning before and after program times. We’re making sure all our kiddos are kept safe, and our staff as well.”

The center, with its Kroc Academy, tries to meet the educational needs of kindergarteners through 7th graders. They work on math, science and language arts. “We have learning packets for each child, computer time in the computer lab to finish their assignments and computers available for game play, with space between the children,” Ward said.

The children also have arts and crafts, and physical activities – though these are limited “because we don’t want kids too close together. We do different version of relay races. We’ve been trying soccer and kickball.”

And every morning, there are devotions and a Bible story.

“We try to keep the kids active and help them have fun,” Ward said.

The Kroc Center also is serving families, streaming its worship services; offering online fitness classes for members; doing on-site food distribution in partnership with the Mid South Food Bank; and working with local restaurants to supply meals for the FedEx Disaster Response Unit (canteen) to take to homeless residents.

Memphis and Kerrville, Texas, are the first Kroc Centers in Southern Territory history to offer full-day childcare, doing so for the children of first responders and medical personnel – and in Kerrville, of city officials and essential workers as well – in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Melissa Williams, Kroc territorial marketing manager.

“Kerrville’s been doing this from the beginning” of the novel coronavirus crisis, Williams said.

Every Kroc Center in the territory is streaming worship services, offering online fitness classes, making food distributions, conducting daily call-ins for short devotionals and worship music, and undertaking extensive cleaning and maintenance, among other activities, Williams said. Memphis and Kerrville, though, are the only two that have partially reopened their buildings.

In Memphis, Ward said, “just having the kids here is really a blessing for us, to provide to them a normal life again. Before our program, a lot of them were stuck at home, away from school, isolated from their friends. Here, we’ve been able to put a little bit of normal back into their lives.”


Bible study

Bible study

By: Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet, and a light for my path. – Psalm 119:105 NLT

In these dark days, it is comforting to know that God has provided light so that we can see where we are going. In this column, we are exploring ways that we can deepen our walk or relationship with God.  We continue to develop roots that will sustain us through the storms that will come our way.

Our first and foundational doctrine says that, “We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and that they only constitute the divine rule of Christian faith and practice.” All Salvationist soldiers know this in our heads and repeat this with our mouths. But if we never open, read, study, meditate and listen to what God says to us – then we don’t really believe that God has inspired his Word and that it is our only guide on how to live.

A problem in our Army (and the Church) is a lack of Biblical knowledge. God has revealed, or unveiled, himself to us by the Word – Jesus Christ – who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:16) and his Word – Old and New Testaments – that “is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

We will not grow in our Biblical knowledge by only hearing a sermon on Sunday morning. In order to develop our spiritual lives, we need to encounter (read, study, meditate on) God’s Word daily.  Fortunately, we live in a time when there are many ways available to study God’s Word. With the wide range of translations and paraphrases to reading guides, commentaries, devotionals, etc., we have no excuse for neglecting God’s Word. I would encourage every corps to make sure there are multiple options available for your soldiers to study together the Bible every week.

When Joshua was promoted upon the death of Moses to lead God’s people, he was told, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so that you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:8). God has made it very clear that he has something to tell us and that we need to listen. The Bible is a precious gift from God that we have not earned but is freely given so that we can know him better. Don’t pass up this opportunity to grow in the Lord, establishing roots deep in the soil of his love by digging deep into his Word. You will be abundantly blessed.


Salvation Army shelter serving as community hub

Salvation Army shelter serving as community hub

By: Major Frank Duracher

The Salvation Army’s emergency shelter in Hickory, North Carolina, has become a laser point for the community to receive desperately needed assistance due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Here in Hickory, our emergency shelter is open, and we are feeding those (confined) in our shelter as well as providing to-go boxes for those not in our shelter but hungry,” said Major Matthew Trayler, corps officer.

Explaining that residents living near the shelter have been coming by for hot meals, the shelter kitchen’s output dramatically increased from before the crisis to about 175 meals daily.

“These to-go boxes are offered three times a day to anyone not staying in our shelter,” said Major Rebecca Trayler, “which means we’re currently serving an additional 80 hot meals.”

“We are still assisting with food and clothing through our social services as well,” Major Matthew added.

Those distributions are processed via an interview over the phone. The recipient is given a pickup time, and upon their drive-through arrival, the family representative signs the necessary paperwork and Salvation Army volunteers load their car with food boxes and perishables.

Sunday meetings are being streamed on the corps YouTube channel (The Salvation Army of Greater Hickory), as well as a live interactive Bible study on Wednesday nights (6 p.m.) where Major Matthew interacts with online viewers via chat.

“We’re also putting daily inspirational quotes and scriptures on our Facebook page,” Major Rebecca said.

During Holy Week, each family received its own set of “Resurrection Eggs” with instructions, jellybeans with a Jellybean Prayer attached, a “Roads to the Cross” prayer stations guide and a copy of the Easter War Cry.

For additional family fun on Easter Sunday, distributions during Holy Week included cake mix and icing and candy-filled Easter eggs for all household members.


Kroc Centers use downtime to launch capital projects

Kroc Centers use downtime to launch capital projects

By: David Ibata

A Salvation Army pool equipment contractor was on his way to work on the filtration system at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Kerrville, Texas, on April 6 when he got the phone call no one wants to get: A family member he’d had contact with had been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.

“He called and told me he’d already made the decision to turn around and go home,” said Ross Wheeler, territorial Kroc Centers capital renewal manager. That delayed the launch of capital projects across the South while the contractor self-quarantined, but that’s OK.

“It put us two weeks behind schedule, but we didn’t put any staff at risk. I was thankful for that,” Wheeler said.

The seven Kroc Centers in the Southern Territory, closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, are taking advantage of the downtime to launch projects that otherwise would have had to be scheduled around day-to-day health and wellness programs serving adults and children in their communities. All have been doing deep cleaning, painting and other sprucing up.

“All sorts of great things have happened in the time the buildings have been closed,” Wheeler said. “A lot of projects the facility manager couldn’t get to because it was hard to find downtime when the building was occupied, like floor finishes, can be done now.”

“These actions and tasks speak to the dedication and pride that the Kroc Center facility managers have to serve in their roles and their communities, and ultimately to support the mission of The Salvation Army.”

At the territorial level, plans had been made to repair and replace pool filtration equipment at the six Kroc Centers (other than Atlanta, Georgia) with swimming pools. The project was to go through September; the project requires each location’s pool to be closed three to five days at a time.

The original execution plan had the months of June, July and August blacked out, as these are peak times for swimming pool operations.  With the closures that came in the wake of COVID-19, though, all that changed.

“Kerrville’s new filter is going in this week,” Wheeler said in an April 27 phone interview. The focus of pool filter installations moves to Memphis, Tennessee, the following week; then Biloxi, Mississippi; Greenville, South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Norfolk, Virginia.

“We’re really at the last bit of downtime associated with the coronavirus, we hope,” Wheeler said. “In the event we miss this window of opportunity, we will coordinate with each Kroc Center to identify the next best opportunity to shut pool operations down for a three- to five-day period. Under normal circumstances, the ideal time to execute large capital projects is after Labor Day.”

All the work except at the Hampton Roads Kroc Center in Norfolk should wrap up by June 1. Being last, and if it’s reopened to the public, that center and the new pool filter will wait until the next best opportunity.

Elsewhere, while the Kerrville and Memphis Kroc Centers are mostly closed – they are partly open for day programs serving children of first responders and medical personnel – they will start replacing their building automation/HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) control systems the week of May 4.

“Again, we had looked at some point in the future to plan the projects, but when we saw the downtime coming, we asked the local Kroc operations team and the contractor if we could go with a more aggressive schedule,” Wheeler said. “In Memphis, we reduced the controls project installation time by 50 percent. We were probably looking at a month to do it under normal circumstances; now, we can do it in two weeks.”

Safe practices are being followed, such as ensuring distance between individual workers and proper personal protective equipment.

“We approach these capital projects very cautiously,” Wheeler said. “A lot of our facility managers are already working on other building repairs and interior finish projects. I didn’t want to cause a directive coming from the territorial level that did not align with the policies and protocols being made at each specific site for the execution of a capital project.

“If the local team is not comfortable or unable to support a capital project, we simply defer the proposed project to a future date that the team can comfortably support.”