The Salvation Army of Missoula will soon break ground on a $2.5 million, 12,000 square-foot Core Community Center just north of the intersection of Russell and South Third streets in Missoula. The new facility is expected to be completed by next June.

“It will have a fellowship hall, a community kitchen, lots of classroom space and our social services programs will continue here,” said Joshua Hamilton, who is the co-executive director of the Salvation Army in Missoula along with his wife. “It will have lots of office space and it will expand our ability to have people come in and receive services from all aspects, from the spiritual to the physical needs of the community. That’s what we want to meet at this community center.”

The new building is being paid for by the sale of the Salvation Army’s old center on the corner of Orange and Broadway. Hamilton, who holds the rank of Lieutenant in the Salvation Army, said that the old location is longer suitable to serve the approximately 1,500 people who come through its doors every month.

“It’s very tiny,” he said. “It’s a converted factory. So we thought, let’s build a new facility that really contributes to the makeup of this community and really contributes to this neighborhood, serving those who have a need.”

The difference will be night and day, he added.

“This new facility offers dignity to people who come in for services,” Hamilton said. “I mean, you go to our downtown location, it’s a dumpy location. It just looks as old as it is. But this one it offers dignity. It doesn’t feel ‘oh like that’s where the poor people belong.’ No, this is for everybody. This offers that dignity that everybody needs and everybody deserves.”

The new center was designed by CTA Architects and Engineers in Missoula. Lead architect Shane Jacobs made sure there is lots of glass, and the building doesn’t have an ugly back side.

“What’s neat about this new facility is that it’s for all families,” said Randy Rupert, the regional director of business development for CTA. “There will be child services, child care and afterschool programs. It doesn’t have to be one demographic of a family that needs a hand or a family that needs support. Regardless of your median income level or dollar level there’s going to be services here and a great facility.”

There will be a garden area near the main entrance on the back side of the building.

“I think Salvation Army is very cognizant and caring about how some people do need a hand up but they don’t need a handout,” Rupert said. “And they are just in a rough spot in life, and so technically they want to come in and have some privacy and have some services and I think this design will lend itself to that."

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The new center will only take up half of the lot, and the Salvation Army will be embarking on a capital fundraising campaign to raise $2 million more to build a gymnasium on the other half of the lot, which they hope to start building within the next two years. In the meantime, there will be open space that can be used for recreation.

The Salvation Army has been in the old location for 20 years, but Hamilton said the nonprofit has been in Missoula for 120 years. Although many people know the organization by the bell-ringers in the wintertime, Hamilton said they do a lot of work that flies further under the radar.

“Our main services are showers and laundry to homeless families or homeless individuals, or people who just need a hand up one day,” he said. “We do emergency food boxes, and we do spiritual care and wellness as well. Once a week we do a have a children’s service where we feed the kids a meal and do character building. It’s called Supper Club and we teach the kids manners. So we do character-building programs and actual social services. We try to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of everyone who comes through our doors.”

Last week, the organization served 373 people, and Hamilton said that weekly number might double in the winter. The organization relies heavily on donations.

Hamilton said he is unbelievably excited about the new facility and how it will become part of an underserved part of town.

“I’m super excited about it,” he said. “I saw these pictures and I thought, I’m building this, this is going to happen under my watch. It’s crazy to think about something like that. Somebody has entrusted a 26-year-old with $2.5 million to build a community center. It’s just awesome. My background is in civil engineering so I’m all for it.”

The Salvation Army already owns the senior living apartments behind where the new community center will be.

“The cool thing is we’re going to be able to have intergenerational everything here, with our seniors interacting with children interacting with adults,” Hamilton said. “And really this just highlights that we are a community center for everybody. Nobody else offers something for everybody. That’s what this community center is for, is for people to come recreate, play and worship together.”

Reporter David Erickson can be reached at david.erickson@missoulian.com.

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