Territorial Kroc Center Highlight: Mississippi Gulf Coast Kroc CenterAn inclusive space where people are encouraged to make positive changes for the their spiritual and physical health, and it perfectly represents the best of what the Southern Territory Kroc Centers have to offer.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Kroc Center, under the leadership of Area Commander Major Jerry Friday and Director of Operations Danielle Emery, is a 52,000 square foot facility located in the very heart of the East Biloxi Community, at the historic Yankie Stadium. Although the construction and opening of this Kroc Center was delayed by Hurricane Katrina, the dedication of the community and leadership never wavered and is still apparent in its current operations.
Once a year, the MS Gulf Kroc hosts Taste of South Mississippi, an annual fundraising event benefiting the center’s critical youth programs as well as their Kroc Scholarships. Community members come and taste samples from local restaurants and bid in a silent auction. In 2021 Taste of South MS raised $11,200 and the funds supplied scholarships to the center and helped children attend youth programming. This year’s event was held virtually in April. In 2023, Taste of South MS plans to be back as a live event and aims to raise over $20,000.
For parents who want to spend an evening out together, MS Gulf Kroc offers the Date Night Child Care on top of their other childcare services, such as afterschool care. This program runs every Friday night from 4pm to 8pm, giving members an opportunity to go out while knowing their children will be fed and entertained with movies and games. MS Gulf Kroc also has a successful homeschooling program that puts an emphasis on the arts, as well as a grant for performing arts. There’s also the annual Kroc & Roll Sunset race, an event under the Mississippi Gulf Coast sun, promoting healthy living and exercise and giving a boost to everyday fitness routines. It’s also an opportunity to raise critically needed funds supporting youth programs for local children in the community served by the Kroc Center.
The Kroc team wants to encourage their community in whatever ways they can. Every year they promote a swim pass for non-members to come swim during a reserved time. This offering provides an opportunity for people to come and see what the Kroc Center is all about and get a taste of the way The Salvation Army can impact their lives.
One inspiring story to come out of the MS Gulf Kroc is that of Ray McIntire Jr. He overcame disease, depression, and grief to fight for what he knew he could achieve. Ray comes from a large family that likes to celebrate with good food, and he weighed over 500 pounds by the time he was in high school. With much of his family being overweight, he never realized his size was not normal until he lost his father and other family members to heart disease and other obesity-related heart conditions. Ray suffered from Blount’s disease, which left him bow-legged and wheelchair-bound for much of high school. The restrictions on his body led to Ray falling into a depression and gaining a lot of weight. After his father passed away, doctors refused to operate on Ray because of his obesity, and he finally heard the wake-up call to make some changes in his life. Taking advantage of a handful of fitness centers, including the Kroc Center in his hometown of Biloxi, MS, Ray continues to work hard and deal with his grief and mental health. He’s since lost 263 pounds.
The team of the Mississippi Gulf Kroc works hard to ensure that everyone that walks through their door is welcome. It is an inclusive space where people are encouraged to make positive changes for the their spiritual and physical health, and it perfectly represents the best of what the Southern Territory Kroc Centers have to offer.