$75,000 grant secured by Pa. Sen. Patrick Browne paves the way for much-needed upgrades 

 ALLENTOWN (October 22, 2020) — The Salvation Army of Allentown unveiled a newly renovated gymnasium today, as part of its long-standing commitment to the underserved youth of the area. 

The gym and community center have served the local community for nearly 100 years, offering a safe haven for teens and young people, keeping them out of trouble and off the streets. Thanks to a $75,000 state grant secured by Pa. Sen. Patrick Browne, much-needed renovations got underway in January 2020 before COVID-19 slowed the process in mid-March.

 “The gym had really begun showing extreme wear and tear from years of use,” said Deirdre Govan, Resource Development Manager for The Allentown Salvation Army. “The floors were buckling; the backboards and nets had definitely seen better days, and the walls hadn’t been painted in years. So many children, teens and young adults depend on this facility to give them a safe place to gather and interact with others. We just didn’t have funding for the facelift that this facility needed.”

When Sen. Browne heard about the need, he jumped in to find resources to get the renovations started. When the health pandemic began, however, the process slowed as CDC guidelines and new policies were put in place to ensure the safety of the workers and The Salvation Army staff. Eventually, the old flooring was replaced with new maple floors, two updated backboards were installed, and the entire space was painted for a fresh look.

“We are grateful to Senator Browne for this grant that is helping us with gym renovations in order to, once again, become a valuable space for the community,” said Major Ismael Correa, Commanding Officer of the Allentown facility. “The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed some of the work down, but in addition to what’s already been done, we are working on adding new light fixtures and refurbishing our bathrooms and showers.”

Major Correa, his staff and board members presented Sen. Browne with an award at the ribbon-cutting, and children in the Day Youth Program were on hand to thank the senator for his support. Social distancing measures were used at the ceremony.

“The Salvation Army is one of the pillars which the Allentown community’s foundation is built upon,” Senator Browne said. “Their Center City location is a place where families come together to watch their children play sports and, when needed most, serves as a collection and distribution point of aid for our most vulnerable neighbors. These gym renovations directly advance their mission of ‘Doing the Most Good’. I am proud to have been able to play a part in supporting the Allentown Salvation Army and the community they serve.”

Currently, children in the Day Youth Program come to The Salvation Army weekdays for help with their online schoolwork and to use the new gym for activities such as dodgeball and basketball.

Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it’s hoped that some of the programs that utilized the gym prior to the health crisis, will return. Before the renovations, The Children’s Home of Reading used the space for basketball. In addition, retired Pennsylvania Power and Light staff used it for noon-day basketball pick-up games, along with area teens. 

In December, the gym will be used to sort, organize and package toy and gift bags for at least 3700 children in need. Santa’s Helpers, corporate workers from the Allentown area, will spend time in the gym assisting workers as they seek to “Rescue Christmas” for families who are struggling financially during these tough times.

“We used to have basketball tournaments going in this gym a decade ago. I’d love to see tournaments come back to use this space,” Govan said. “If not, though, I know this will get used by youth and adults who have nowhere else to go, and we’ll be their safe haven. We will always be here for them.”

About The Salvation Army: 

The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware is a faith-based, comprehensive human service organization whose programs help individuals, families and whole communities lead healthier, safer and more productive lives. Since 1879, The Army has held a record of accomplishment stemming from its holistic approach to providing for the needs of the whole individual – physically, emotionally, economically and spiritually. The Army’s programming serves every zip code through 48 community centers and a network of volunteers throughout Eastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Delaware. Programs and services historically include: shelter, hot meals, counseling, early childhood development, recreational opportunities, music programs, after-school arts and educational programs, job training, activities for older adults, spiritual development, and drug rehabilitation.

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