Major Allen Otto told Macomb aldermen he has a lot of ideas and dreams. And one of them is to build a new, 10,000 square foot community center to help meet the community's needs.
“After long discussions with my advisory board and lots of prayer, the decision was to … raise the money, put up a handicap-accessible building that will do the things that we already do and hopefully be able to expand in areas that we’re known for that we currently don’t do,” said Otto.
“For example, disaster services. I would love to have a disaster service garage with a vehicle that’s sitting there waiting to not only do Macomb but also McDonough County.”
Otto told TSPR that an increasing number of people are using the services already provided by the organization, such as its food pantry.
“If I had my way and my dream, we would have a walk-through pantry so people could actually choose the items that they would eat. I would never eat a lima bean but there are people who love it so I’m a big believer in a walk-through pantry for the people that we serve so they can choose the food they would like to eat.”
Otto also would like the building to house a chapel that could be used as a multi-purpose room. He said it could serve as a dining room or a place where people could seek shelter during extremely hot or cold weather.
“And I think that if we had a handicap accessible building, there are people that are in wheelchairs or with limited physical ability that would come in for our facility. So I think we need it now more than ever before.”
The plan calls for construction of the community center on three lots: 505, 511, and 517 North Randolph Street. The city council this week agreed to rezone those lots from R-3 Two Family Residential to B-2 General Business.
Otto said the Salvation Army’s current Macomb facility at the corner of North Randolph and East Wheeler Streets was built in 1939, with an addition built in the early 1960s. The plans call for tearing down that building and turning the site into a parking lot for the new facility.
“And then it’s not another empty building that sits, which is one of my pet peeves.”
Otto said he must raise the money to build the community center before the Salvation Army will allow him to proceed with construction. He said the estimated cost is $2.5 million - $3 million.
“We don’t have money to put it up yet but we have a lot of people in this community who believe in what we do and want us to stay here,” Otto said.
“We’ll be doing fundraising, naming of buildings, naming of rooms. And there are people who want to remain anonymous who’ve already said that they want to make sure that the Salvation Army is here to serve for years to come.”