Not many people get a shot at spending $44 million.
Captains Jonathan and Vickie Harvey of The Salvation Army in Suisun City, Calif., welcome the challenge. And the burden that comes with it.
“My stress level is pretty high right now,” says Jonathan. “It’s a good stress because the end results will be huge.”
Those end results include the transformation of the Suisun City YMCA into a Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, built with $44 million—$22 million for construction, $22 million endowment for operating costs.
Joan Kroc, widow of MacDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, left The Salvation Army $1.5 billion to construct 27 such centers nationally. Each Kroc community also has to raise funds for ongoing operations.
The Harveys recently left an appointment in Yuma, Ariz., and found themselves the go–to duo for this mammoth project, scheduled for a Memorial Day opening.
When the couple left Yuma in 2010, they initially expected the California appointment would be a short one, and they would return to Arizona.
“Then, literally the day after I got appointed, we were told things were changing on the project,” Harvey says.
The YMCA center was already going to be converted to a Salvation Army community center. Six months after the Harveys arrived, however, they were told the project would now be a Kroc Center. Five buildings that had been pieced together through the years had to become one contiguous building.
“It was a jigsaw puzzle,” he says, with all the permits and residential area approvals part of an extensive checklist.
Yet, he says, “I’ve learned so much. A ton. The scale that we’re doing is brand new to us. We’ve developed programs in other communities and helped programs evolve, but this is the first [project] that we’ve gone from the ground up on something on a huge scale.”
Amazing, hurting neighborhood
Suisun’s community center is literally in the middle of town—“You can throw a rock into the yard of the person across the street,” Jonathan says. “We’re right in the middle of this amazing neighborhood.”
Amazing but not always pretty. That’s why he is happy that the Kroc Center will offer social services.
“People around us are hurting in multiple ways,” he says. “We might have a guy across the street hurting with alcoholism and folks down the street may have lost a job.”
“We have a lot of clients who are heartbroken who have to come through our doors and ask for help,” says Vickie. “A lot of people don’t want to ask for help. They can’t believe they’re in our building. But they’re here because they have a family to feed or have to have electricity turned off.”
She’s glad The Salvation Army is there for the community.
“It fills my heart with joy to see families with smiles,” she says. “They’re grateful for the help we give them.”
The center will be for all ages, Jonathan says.
“A senior signed up the other day because she has a real struggle with her knees and looked forward to the therapy pool. This is what’s important to her, and this is why the center will mean a lot of things to a lot of people.”
Jonathan sees two spots as his favorite center locations: the auditorium, “where I get to share the Word of God on Sunday,” and the cafe, “where I can’t wait to sit in a comfortable chair and just talk with people.”
Though building the Kroc Center does burden Jonathan with some tense times, don’t think this whole “wearing many hats” doesn’t have its benefits, especially the hard–hat part, which gets him grinning.
Finding their way
“I grew up around construction. My father was a contractor and had his own business,” Jonathan says. “It’s always been in my blood. I grew up putting little labels, ‘Harvey & Sons,’ on little trucks.” Yet, he adds, “God had a very different path for me.”
He grew up in a Salvation Army church (corps) in Halstead in the district of Essex, England.
“As a teenager, I don’t think I appreciated it fully,” Jonathan says of the Army. “I can’t say my heart was truly in it for a few years.”
Vickie grew up in the Army too.
“I have walked with Christ since I was 11 years old and was saved at a Salvation Army Youth Councils Weekend,” she says. She adds that it took a while to mature in her walk with the Lord.
“I knew I had to integrate God’s influence into my life to be in a healthy relationship with Christ, so I asked God to give me clear thinking in all things—my attitude and my relationships with family and others.”
As she grew, she learned from her parents and other godly people and eventually was called to be a Salvation Army officer.
The two met when Jonathan came to the United States 20 years ago to work at a Salvation Army summer camp. That’s when Jonathan’s life changed.
“When I saw some of the kids and their circumstances, I realized I was blessed, and I realized in that environment that I really needed God because I couldn’t do it myself. That led me in a path back to a relationship with God.”
Without Vickie and The Salvation Army, Jonathan says, “I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing.
“It’s who I am, being a Salvation Army officer. It really is who I am and I love it. We get to serve people and get to share the life of Christ with people.”
Of his current assignment, building a Kroc Center, he says, “I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.”
Vickie says she hopes she and her husband remain here for many years. “It’s good to stay in one place for a while.”
But even if the Harveys are not around in 100 years, they’ve taken action to make sure the Salvation Army’s work in 2012 won’t be forgotten.
When construction began, members of the Salvation Army congregation circled their favorite verses in a Bible, which was sealed in a steel box and buried as a time capsule on the Kroc Center property.