For 15 years, Mesa Salvation Army Corps leaders have envisioned and planned for a stand-alone social services center on their campus to better help what are now about 18,000 families per year seeking assistance.
On Saturday, ground will be broken for a $2.5 million building to be called the Salvation Army Mesa Community Center. Ceremonies start at 9 a.m. at the corps, 241 E. Sixth St., with Mesa Mayor Scott Smith among those taking part.
Besides space to carry out its social services, there will be a pantry from which food boxes can be filled to help low-income families, a waiting room, a commercial kitchen, a game room and a 4,000-square-foot multipurpose room for meetings, classes and banquets.
Lack of adequate space has long meant the Salvation Army has gone begging each fall for temporary, donated community space to sort and distribute Christmas toys and food to some 8,500 families.
"We have always had a struggle doing that, so, hopefully, we will be able to do that here as well," said Maj. Brian Jones, corps commander for two years with his wife, Gwendolyn.
Currently, the charity carries out its work in a 30-year-old administrative building. "It is functional, but it's cramped," Jones said. "There is no privacy for our clients."
"This way, each social worker will have an office where they can interview the clients in privacy," he said. "The pantry will be totally removed from the waiting area. Everything has been all together - in this great big room."
The current facility also has a child care center. Besides food, Salvation Army furnishes families with medical, pharmaceutical and dental health casework, and offers a youth camp program and other needs and support for low-income adults.
"We have had money in trusts over the years," Jones said. "We are finally going to get it up." Construction should be completed by March 2009.
Plans call for establishing a fine arts academy in the center for community music, dance and art classes.
"We are working at putting that together once the building is up," Jones said. Fine arts will be part of after-school programs. "We are really excited by for the potential that we have in that," Jones said.
In 1991, the Mesa Corps built a new chapel for worship services for its congregation. That was followed in 1992 with Silvercrest, a high-rise apartment building for low-income families. It is currently full, with 83 residents and a waiting list. For more information, call (480) 962-9103.