Kroc Center diverts focus from fitness to help
by Kaye Hult
As Wade Isley, corps ministry specialist with the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Coeur d'Alene, looked back at the recent months with COVID-19 at the center stage, he realized that the public view of the Kroc Center has transitioned.
The center opened in May 2009. People have perceived it as a state-of-the-art fitness facility from the beginning. Now that it has stepped up to help with the pandemic, people understand it to be the Salvation Army.
Until Idaho's shelter-in-place orders began to relax in mid-May, the Kroc Center was closed as a fitness facility.
The ministry staff, of which Wade is a member, the emergency management team, the advisory board and about 90 staff have participated in the effort to help the Coeur d'Alene community. In the emergency management team, he operates as the spiritual care officer.
The catalysts for the outreach efforts are Majors Don and Ronda Gilger, he said. The Gilgers are the senior pastors of the Kroc Church and executive directors of the Kroc Center.
As soon as the community began to set emergency operations in place, the Kroc team reached out to other local agencies and coalitions.
They forged partnerships with Coeur d'Alene Backpack, Community Action Partnership and the Post Falls Food Bank. They loaned staff to the Panhandle Health District Emergency Call Center, both the Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls Food Banks and the Emergency Operations Command (EOC) of the Sheriff's office. They joined the Homeless Coalition.
The Kroc Center building warehoused EOC supplies. Staff made cloth masks.
The center participated in the Kootenai United Food Drive at the Silver Lake Mall, providing 500 100-pound or smaller boxes of food. They provided personal protective equipment (PPEs) and hand sanitizer, made dinners for volunteers, and provided hygiene kits for homeless people.
Staff volunteered to make food deliveries to food banks, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and other Salvation Army Corps. They also assisted St. Vincent de Paul's operations.
The Coeur d'Alene School District used its building as a meal site.
A video board near the theater in the building flashes statistics. In mid-May, the board said 633 local families were fed and 1,125 masks were handmade. 3,762 individuals participated in online group exercises. The center fielded more than 450 prayer requests, and 1,321 items were supplied to emergency responders. Two hundred homeless hygiene kits were delivered. Employees provided 1,514 volunteer hours with local agencies, and 17,314 people participated in online worship.
Twenty-five Kroc employees assisted with 9,467 spiritual support calls with Kroc Center members, church members and others in the community, Wade said. Gift cards from Fred Meyer and Super 1 supplied $5,000 to $6,000 worth of food and fuel to people in need.
"It has been a good witness for the church," Wade reflected.
"Many things we were doing as a relief agency have now slowed or stopped," he said.
The Kroc Center has transitioned to helping with recovery. It also recently re-opened as a fitness facility, and is adding more activities and functions with each stage of recovery.
The Kroc Church has resumed in-person worship. Each week, the worship has become more relaxed. Wade said the center is following Center for Disease Control (CDC), Panhandle Health District and Idaho governor's guidelines. They take the pandemic seriously.
As corps ministry specialist, Wade is the administrative pastor of the church.
"I manage day-to-day operations, budgeting, social media, youth and church staff," he said.
"Now that the Kroc Center has changed to recovery mode, we primarily do casework with people through our voucher program," he said.
Vouchers help with five assistance components: rent, utilities, gas, pharmacy needs and food.
They work with clients to create a sustainability plan in case COVID-19 returns, he said. Planning for sustainability helps break chronic need and keeps the clients independent.
As part of recovery, staff participated in a six-week course, Redemptive Compassion, offered by Charity Reimagined and Love INC. Four staff and a volunteer are taking it.
"It is important to build relationships," he said. "People need to be involved and invested in what they seek to achieve to break their chronic need and bad choices. We help with emergencies, but we want to help clients change their mindsets and practices."
The recovery services office at the Kroc Center is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. People may walk in or call 208-763-0777 for assistance.
"I always wanted to be a missionary," said Wade, who grew up in Eastern Oregon, graduating from Enterprise High School in 2017.
That fall, he moved to Coeur d'Alene to live with his mother.
"I had medical issues with mold," he said, "but it became an excuse to not do anything."
He had walked away from his faith, too. A conversation with his stepfather within a couple weeks of moving in became a turning point.
He told Wade, "Your life is off track. You need to 1) find a church, 2) make new friends, and 3) find a job. If you do these things, then 4) it will all come together."
Wade played basketball so much at the Kroc Center that he was told he ought to be paid for it. In October 2017, he began working at the Kroc as a gym attendant.
"I was paid to play basketball with the kids here," he said. "It's a wonderful mission. It's all about building relationships with the kids."
In six months, he became a personal trainer. A month later, he was promoted to wellness supervisor which he did for a year and a half.
"When I started at the Kroc, I wanted this place to live up to its ministry potential," he said. "That's what excited me.
"My participation in ministry came about because of a conversation I had with Major Don while I was a trainer. I told him of my vision for the center."
Wade became youth ministry coordinator in October 2019. He was moved to corps ministry specialist in January 2020.
"I have had amazing mentors since I came to Coeur d'Alene," he said. "Each one was there for a different season of my life, to help with each next step. I met my wife, Keira, at the Kroc Center, went into ministry and put my life back on track, because my stepdad was honest with me."
Now in ministry, Wade has begun training in a nine-month, online ministerial leadership program at Fuller Theological Seminary. His studies include creating an action plan for moving forward.
He also realizes from his own experiences of using his problems with mold as an excuse for inaction how to recognize when others use their symptoms as an excuse.
"I can see through their eyes because I've been there," he said. "I have learned compassion and empathy for others going through rough times. I have learned to deal with my symptoms and make the best out of life, and can invite others to do that."
The Kroc Church recently instituted a new program called The Well.
"It expresses my vision for a spiritual fitness program for all ages—for everybody," Wade explained.
It meets about an hour and a half. The Kroc Talk segment is motivational. Round Table Time is for community building. Then 45 minutes are for Pathway Choice, which is comprised of classes in subjects such as nutrition and financial help, but also dodgeball or journaling.
The Well program is guided. It provides membership benefits to the 85 people who have gone through it so far, but it's free. About 65 attend weekly to grow in physical and spiritual health (fitness).
Wade hopes monthly Saturday guided hikes will take place in June, July and August. The program has led to center memberships, church memberships and new-found Christian faith.
"We will continue to help people," Wade said. "That's a key component of who we are.
As Major Don says, "We will never go back to being just the Kroc Center. We will always be the Salvation Army."
For information, call 208-667-1865 or visit www.kroccda.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2020