Opening of Kroc center called ‘a great day in Dayton’

In brief remarks Saturday, Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell recalled driving by the site when it was overrun with vegetation. He called the new facility “phenomenal.”

“This is a great day in Dayton,” Leitzell said.

The campus has a large worship center, banquet center and 128-seat movie theater. It also has an educational center and technology cafe, an outdoor court and a gymnasium and fitness center. The historic Duncarrick mansion at 1000 Keowee St. has been fully restored and now houses administration offices.

The campus is one of 25 Kroc centers being built across the country in disadvantaged neighborhoods, the legacy of McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc, who died in 2003. She bequeathed $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army to create places where children and families could find recreational, educational and cultural activities otherwise beyond their reach.

Amanda Latimer, granddaughter of Joan Kroc, said she attended a groundbreaking for the Dayton center two years ago, and now she marveled at the finished campus. She told those gathered in the 400-seat worship and arts center that her grandmother would have been thrilled to see the new facility .

Ron Brookey, a Harrison Twp. resident, was among those who turned out for the public dedication.

Brookey, who grew up two blocks from Duncarrick mansion, said his Boy Scout troop used to meet in a two-story stable next to the mansion when Katharine Kennedy Brown lived there. A retired coach and teacher, Brookey anticipates that the new center will draw people from all over the city .

“This is unreal,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”

He added that he wished that there had been something similar available to the children living in Parkside Homes, a low-income housing project that once stood nearby but since has been razed.

On Friday, Maj. Tom Duperree, who heads the Salvation Army’s Dayton command, stressed that while the Salvation Army serves the needy, the new Kroc center is open to all.

“It’s about mixing the classes so there’s no distinguishing between the two,” he said. “Where potential exists in a person’s life, we want to create opportunities for them.”

Membership rates vary, but the annual fee for a family of four is $120. Scholarships are available. For more, visit www.dayton.salarmykroc.org

“It’s just been a long time coming for our community, and we’re happy to open the doors to this grand center,” Duperree said. “It’s just a great opportunity to extend our reach into the community.”

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