Facility placing new emphasis on fitness program
By: David Ibata
Jenné Shepherd, an Atlanta, Georgia, neighborhood leader, had been booking meetings for some time at The Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center – for a City Council candidates’ forum last fall, to name one – but it’s only recently that she discovered the facility had a fitness center with exercise machines.
“Last Saturday, I said wow, there’s an exercise room downstairs now,” said Shepherd, president of the Adair Park Neighborhood Association. “I told my husband we ought to join the Kroc Center – the rates are reasonable … and this is right across the street from where we live.”
Actually, an exercise room – with treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals, weight training and other equipment – had been in the center, at 967 Dewey St. SW, since it opened in 2009. But you had to go upstairs to see it.
Lieutenant Antwann Yocum arrived as senior Kroc Center officer in 2015 after his commissioning from Evangeline Booth College next door and realized “that for the center to thrive, we needed to give the fitness center more exposure to people coming in,” said Benjamin Scholes, the facility’s director of operations.
Lieutenant Yocum arranged to move the exercise equipment to a larger space downstairs, where it replaced reception desks and offices.
Now, it’s across from the community dining room, just down the hall from the chapel and next to the gym. Its former upstairs space is being turned into a group fitness room.
It’s part of a larger strategy to expand services to an under-served community.
“We’re looking to offer a lot more in the world of group fitness and personal training, something we haven’t historically done a lot of here,” Scholes said. On Jan. 20, the Kroc Center had an open house where people could view the gym and fitness center and sample the center’s group fitness classes.
“The population we serve often suffers from hypertension, high blood pressure and diabetes,” Scholes said. “Providing people with a cost-effective option like this should reap benefits for the community, health wise. That starts a snowball chain to improve quality of life in general.”
The center also plans to increase its sports leagues. “Traditionally, we’ve hosted a lot of men’s and women’s basketball programs. We’re looking to expand that to volleyball, and maybe dodgeball and pickle ball.”
These would be in addition to the center’s spiritual, cultural and empowerment offerings – from a Kroc Kids character-building program and summer sports and arts camps for children, to GED classes for young adults, to citizenship and English as a second language classes for recent immigrants.
The Kroc Center is in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood, a historic black working-class area south of downtown, and draws visitors from here and other in-town communities – Adair Park, Summerhill and Oakland City, to name a few.