Local Salvation Army Director Marget Willer checks over a form from a client at the Salvation Army's Tehachapi Boulevard location. Gregory D. Cook/Tehachapi News
Thanks to a $100,000 grant courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian Foundation the Salvation Army, Tehachapi Service Center will be able to fulfill its mission of creating a community center at its new location at 538 E. Tehachapi Blvd.
According to Center Director Marget Willer, the community center will include an Internet cafe and reading room, complete with three new computers and three tablets that visitors can enjoy on new couches or laptop counters. The project will also include a 15 by 40 foot patio area for croquet, badminton, and a barbecue.
Although the center will be geared towards youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and will primarily serve as a center for after-school programs, Willer said all members of the community will be welcome.
Visitors will be able to participate in free and low-cost art and dance programs, and a number of retired teachers in the area have already committed their time for an after-school tutoring program, as well.
The Salvation Army of Tehachapi is also teaming up with the Tehachapi Unified School District, which will allow the organization to use Monroe High School's gymnasium to supplement the community center.
Willer -- who has worked for the Salvation Army for the last 15 years -- could not provide an exact opening date, but did anticipate it will be a couple of months, accounting for the construction permit needed to create an entrance from the building to the outside patio, and other red tape will need to be cut before the organization can proceed with its plans.
"It has really been a long-term vision," and it is finally coming to fruition, she said.
Willer said the grant will be enough money to set plans for the center in motion, purchase necessary materials and cover construction expenses. However, she anticipates the Salvation Army will need community support to sustain the center in forthcoming years, and added that organizations such as the Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions clubs have already pledged their support.
In large part, it was that community support which earned the Salvation Army the grant, according to Tracey Cowenhoven, vice president of The Bakersfield Californian Foundation.
"The Salvation Army included eight letters of support for this project, from a variety of community members, and that, along with their active volunteer base, made the foundation's board feel that the $100,000 grant would be well-utilized," Cowenhoven wrote.
The Salvation Army was one of seven finalists considered for the grant, including the Bakersfield Homeless Shelter, Bakersfield SPCA, Boys & Girls Club of Kern County, Critters Without Litters, Girls Scouts of Central California South, and the Kern County Museum Foundation.
The Bakersfield Californian Foundation has two grant cycles per year, one in May and one in November. Typically, they deliver multiple smaller-sized grants to many organizations at a time, but for their fall 2013 cycle, the members chose to hand out one lump sum to a single winner.
Willer said the Salvation Army currently has 50 regular volunteers, but estimates an additional 30 will be needed to operate the community center.
The 3,000 square foot center -- which in June was relocated from "E" Street -- currently hosts multiple food programs, including Senior Sack, Commodities, and Fresh Rescue, which serves up to 500 families per week.
The Salvation Army will host a number of programs for the holidays, including "Giving Tree," which delivered Christmas gifts to almost 900 children last year.