A dream becomes reality

Published 9:31 pm Friday, January 3, 2014

When officials with the Salvation Army Suffolk Corps envisioned the facility that would become the new Robert W. Harrell Jr. Physical Health and Education Center, there was a significant emphasis on the “physical health” part of the proposed building’s mission.

One of the selling points for the facility for those who contributed to its construction was the fact that it would be a place where people from the community surrounding the Salvation Army’s Bank Street location could come for a bit of exercise.

Elderly residents from around the area would be able to take advantage of fitness equipment and exercise regimens guided by volunteers and health professionals in order to maintain their health, even in old age. Younger residents would be able to use the basketball courts and participate in leagues that would help keep them fit and — as important — out of trouble on the streets.

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But another important focus for the new facility is education, and a program set to begin there on Monday indicates that officials are taking that aspect of the facility’s mission very seriously.

Paul D. Camp Community College is set to begin offering a small variety of classes in the building. Two of those classes will begin on Monday, and two others start Tuesday. All of them were specially selected to mesh with the mission of the Salvation Army or with the special needs of the community that hosts the organization.

Courses on music appreciation and religion are an obvious fit for the Salvation Army. And courses on computers and college survival skills will be especially useful in a part of the city with a good mix of both elderly and high school ages.

The partnership between the Salvation Army and Paul D. Camp was in the works before the building even got off the ground, but the classes are the first visible step. Officials hope they will help students who live near the center get their education with lower travel costs and encourage others living near the center to pursue higher education. Some folks who lack their own transportation might even find the Salvation Army courses to be their first opportunity to take college classes.

The new community facility on Bank Street was always a big dream for the Salvation Army. It’s good to see so much of that dream becoming reality.