Children no will longer feel chilled in the winter and sweltering in the summer when they visit the Merced home of The Salvation Army, where officers and volunteers this week celebrated the culmination of a two-year remodeling effort.
Facilities at 1440 W. 12th St. have been completely renovated, with fresh paint for every room; a new kitchen installed; a mold problem and water damage fixed; and a new chapel opened.
The previous lack of heaters and air conditioners had made it a challenge to serve children and families who look to The Salvation Army for activities, staff said.
“As soon as the remodel ended, we were more comfortable and able to teach the after-school program,” said Cassandra Amezquita, the army’s corps assistant.
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If the temperatures were very hot or cold, Amezquita said, the children struggled, and attendance would slip.
Salvation Army Capt. Joel Boyd said the remodeling was only possible due to support from the estate of Richard and Julia Wainwright, which left a generous donation. Richard Wainwright, a longtime developer and real estate professional in Merced, died in April 2014. Julia Wainwright, his wife of 65 years, died in December 2013.
On Wednesday afternoon, The Salvation Army held an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony, offering tours of the facilities to visitors.
Before the remodeling, Boyd said, several classrooms weren’t fit for the youth programs they offer. The renovations have allowed them to begin the after-school program, Linked.
“It’s been a night-and-day difference from then to now,” Boyd said.
Amezquita and her husband were appointed to run Linked. Tuesday through Thursday, the program offers kids in the community homework help, Bible lessons, snacks and physical activities.
“Atmosphere has been the biggest improvement,” Amezquita said. “Now, we are proud of the building as well as the services we offer.”
Another program launched was the Online Learning Program for Kids, with the help of laptops donated by Target. Every Wednesday, The Salvation Army teaches children basic computer skills for about 45 minutes.
Merced resident Sonia Alshami said she thinks The Salvation Army is a great organization because it reaches out to kids in the community. She said she had no idea of all the problems the building had, and is now thinking of volunteering to help expand the programs for kids in the community.
“I think it will be a very, very good tool for kids in a safe place,” Alshami said.
The organization also offers an evening Family Night, where community members can come for dinner and stay to enjoy activities Tuesday through Thursday.
Breakfast At Sally’s serves breakfast 7 to 8:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and more than 15,500 hot meals were served last year, according to Salvation Army reports.
Boyd’s wife and fellow Salvation Army captain, Kimberly Boyd, said that, as a parent, she always thinks of the cleanliness and safety of where her children are, and says that with the renovation, parents can feel more comfortable and safe leaving their kids there.
“We want to be a link to helping families become stronger,” Joel Boyd said.
The Salvation Army is always looking for volunteers to help out with tutoring, cooking and teaching life lessons to children. For more information or to volunteer, people can call 209-383-4225.
“We’re in South Merced, and we want to be their family,” Kimberly Boyd said. “We stayed here on purpose because we love this neighborhood and we want it to be better.”