Salvation Army aims to become a hub of activity for all in New Kensington

There is a room for music, a room for clothes and a room for food.

It is planned that a library will become an indoor play area and offices will become a chapel.

It has been just over a year since Major Scott Flanders and his wife, Leslie, took charge of the Salvation Army in New Kensington and a little longer since the church and charity moved into the old Fort Crawford Elementary School on Third Street. .

The building has come a long way around this time. The air conditioning does not work fully, but the windows are no longer boarded up. Hallways are not filled with discarded and unwanted school district things.

Flanders, 50, from Dover, Del., Who has been a Salvation Army officer since 2000, remembers speaking at their welcome meeting in the school gymnasium, sweating in his uniform of wool.

“There was a light bulb that worked in the gym. There were no fans or ACs, ”he said. “I felt like I was in prison.

Scott and Leslie Flanders arrived at the New Kensington Salvation Army in August 2020, along with Lts. Matt and Stacy Stacy, to manage the transformation of the school into a community center. The Stacy’s moved to Punxsutawney in June to fill a vacant position.

Repair new excavations

New Kensington-Arnold closed Fort Crawford in 2014. The Salvation Army purchased it for $ 850,000, finalizing the purchase in November 2019.

The Salvation Army moved to Fort Crawford in July 2020, shortly after the sale of its old building, a former Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue, closed in June 2020.

Flanders said the Salvation Army wanted to put the building in order before moving in, but the old place sold out faster than expected. It now houses an event space, New Ken Social and Preserving Record Shop.

Under their predecessors, Captain Phillip and Lieutenant Angelys Davies, the Salvation Army had to move in before the building was ready for occupancy.

Two streetscape grants totaling $ 37,000 from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County have helped replace windows, repair the sidewalk and redo the playground, along with other embellishments, Flanders said.

As the air conditioning problem was difficult to solve, they focused on how the heater worked.

“We wanted to make the building appealing to the eyes,” said Flanders, of Lower Burrell. “We started to cut corners on these things.”

Other groups also use the space

Donna McLaughlin, also from Lower Burrell, has been the Director of Social Services for five years. The new location is more accessible, with more space.

“We are able to reach the community differently,” she said. “Down here, it’s a neighborhood. We have a group of neighborhood kids playing on the playground every night.

With the basic equipment in place, Flanders said it could focus on improving its programs.

The building has 16 classrooms, evenly spread over two floors. The Salvation Army uses the first floor for its operations and rents rooms on the second floor for groups and non-profit organizations.

This includes Project SEED, which gives New Kensington-Arnold students food to take home on weekends, and Westmoreland Community Action, which will use a room to expand its Head Start program.

“We are here for the community,” Flanders said. “We want to be one of the hubs of activity in the community.

On the first floor there is a room for a new music program for elementary school children, a pantry, a clothing room and a meeting place for men called “XY Fellowship”.

As they work to put programs and services in place, supply chain issues have delayed obtaining items such as appliances, shelves and cabinets. The start date of the musical program is uncertain.

“Covid has really hindered everything we are trying to do here,” Flanders said.

This pantry is different

This included obtaining and repairing pantry equipment, which works differently. Instead of giving people a box of food with things they may or may not want, it’s like a small grocery store, with carts, for people to choose what they want.

“They will come here with dignity and do their shopping on their own,” said Flanders.

It is open to anyone in need, with no income limit.

“If you are here because you need it, we will help you the best we can,” he said. “If we can do it, we’ll help you. If we can’t, we’ll try to point you in the right direction.

Wide variety of activities

A shredding event from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday will benefit the food market. Instead of paying for the shredding, people are encouraged to donate – diapers and baby wipes, baby food, cereal, and toilet paper are suggested.

Flanders has said it wants to start a cooking program to teach people how to cook, in part so that they can eat healthier. He is hoping it might be something that couples might consider attending on a date, for a “Rachael Ray kind of party.”

“We want to make the programs accessible to everyone in the community and not just to people in crisis,” he said. “We want to be a community center for the whole community, not just a segment of the community. “

The cloakroom is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Thursday. Donations are being accepted and Flanders said men’s clothing is needed at this time.

In the works

The indoor play area, the chapel and the new offices are among the future projects.

Planned for the space that had been the school’s library, the playground, Flanders said, will be aimed at younger children, providing a place for activities on rainy or snowy days. It’s three to five years from now.

The school gymnasium, or multipurpose hall, now serves as a chapel, where non-denominational services take place at 11 a.m. every Sunday.

The Flanders office is located in what used to be a copy room. This is part of the area they plan to turn into a chapel and relocate the offices.

Around $ 100,000 has been pledged for the $ 200,000 project, which Flanders says will be completed after funding.

Everything the Salvation Army wants to do with the building is expected to take six years at a cost of $ 2 million, Flanders said.

“We have so much potential here,” McLaughlin said.

This does not include the repair of the air conditioning, for which Flanders said they had obtained a quote of $ 261,000.

“It’s not a priority in my opinion,” he said. “We are here for the community, not for our comfort. We want our funds to be used to uplift the community. “

Brian C. Rittmeyer is an editor for Tribune-Review. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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