The Salvation Army is celebrating the completion of a $5 million expansion and renovation project that has transformed its South End Corps Community Center and will allow the organization to expand reach in the community.
The 16-month expansion project built a two-story addition that allowed the organization to add more classrooms and activity rooms for children’s programs, space for a senior center, a social services wing, off-street parking, and a new chapel.
Energy efficient renovations, including new windows and a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, were made to the gym and the building overall, and an elevator was installed to improve accessibility.
The changes increase the center’s usable space by 40 percent as it works year-round with children, families, and others in need.
Overall, the organization provides 3,400 people with food, clothing, utility, and rent assistance, and other referral information throughout the year in the Boston area. It hosts camp and enrichment programs for 160 children a year, and during the holidays provides Thanksgiving baskets to 1,200 families and food, toys, and coats to 4,000 during Christmas.
“Numbers are good for reporting stats and measures…but numbers are also lives of people, faces who we serve, so we do the most good one life at time,” Major Gregory Norman, of the Boston South End Corps, told organization, business and community leaders at a ribbon cutting Thursday morning.
Norman said the expansion of the Washington Street building allows the one of the area’s busiest centers to expand its assistance programs as need increases and prices of food, clothing, and heat rise in a weak economy.
“I think there’s a tsunami of needs. I think the economy has a lot to do with folks coming to our doorstep for help…they come to the church for help and the Salvation Army is known for providing a helping hand,” he said.
The extended after school programs will offer more to keep children and teens occupied in the afternoons and evenings, said Norman, who hopes the programs will help curtail some violence in the city.
A man in his 20s was fatally shot in the South End Wednesday night. Three people, including a 15-year-old boy, have been charged with the murder.
“It definitely can put them in a safe haven. It’s an environment where they are supervised and safe, have fun, receive instruction, and just be out of harms way,” said Norman.
The space is also more accessible to seniors now that an elevator has been installed, and officials hope the new heating and cooling system and the additional space will make all visitors more comfortable.
“This expansion allows us to do more of what we need to do and in Boston the need is increasing,” said Major Ivan Rock, who oversees Salvation Army activities in Boston. “There are families and children who need not just food and clothing, but a good safe place, and that’s what this is.”