Donation of $116,165 completes fundraising for second phase of Salvation Army expansion

You could say the call made Maj. James Sullivan's day, if not his entire year.

On Monday, Sept. 9, a longtime Salvation Army benefactor told Sullivan his family was giving the final $116,165 needed to start work on the Salvation Army's new social services center and youth recreation area in Gresham's Rockwood neighborhood.

The Weston family, which owns Weston Kia and Weston Buick GMC in Gresham, is donating the rest of the money needed to complete Phase II of the Salvation Army Gresham Corps & Community Center's Capital Campaign project.

With funding now secure, construction will begin in November. The project should be complete in June 2014.

A statement provided by Jan Weston, who operates the dealership with his brother Jay, humbly said the family "decided to help" after reading an article about the project in the Sept. 6 issue of The Outlook.

The article outlined how the Murdock Foundation had provided a $250,000 award to the Salvation Army Gresham Corps & Community Center's Capital Campaign project and that the gift would go toward starting Phase II of the center's capital campaign. Funding will pay to expand the center at 473 S.E. 194th Ave. to include a 6,500-square-foot social services center and an outdoor gymnasium that can be used for youth recreation. The next phase calls for turning the outdoor gym into an indoor gymnasium.

With $1.54 million needed to start Phase II, the foundation's award put the Salvation Army $116,165 shy of its goal, said Teresa Engel, Salvation Army spokeswoman.

Campaign 13 years in the making

The plan for a capital campaign for a new corps and community center began in March 2002. The Gresham Corps had outgrown its site in downtown Gresham and, facing a long list of repairs, began to raise money to build a new facility. Phase I was completed in October 2008 when the corps dedicated the new building in Rockwood, which is one of the neediest neighborhoods in the Portland area. Immediately after moving into the new building, demand for services increased.

Before leaving its downtown Gresham facility, the Gresham Corps provided basic food and clothing assistance to an average of 40 families. Last September, that figure had grown nearly 500 percent to an average of 200 families served every week.

By autumn 2010, the Gresham Corps began fundraising for Phase II to raise $1.5 million for a new social service center and covered gymnasium for expanded youth, sports and community recreational activities.

Last year, the Gresham Corps family services helped 38,000 individuals with services — a number that is expected to grow to more than 50,000 in the new facility,

But construction, although scheduled to begin in November, could not begin until the remaining $116,165 was raised.

That's where the Weston family comes in.

Major donor steps up

Jim Weston, who started the company in 1975, is a longtime donor, or as Sullivan puts it, "one of our favorite people."

Weston is a former member of the Salvation Army's advisory council whose support of the Salvation Army spans decades, Sullivan said. For the past 20 years, the Westons have loaned cars to the Salvation Army in order to pick up and transport donation kettles during the holiday season, as well as to get gifts to children on Santa's good list.

Although Jim has retired, his sons Jan and Jay now run the family business, Weston Buick GMC and Weston Kia. A third generation has even joined in as Jan's sons Jacob and Josh are learning the trade.

In recent years, the family has become a major sponsor of the corps' after-school program, which allows low-income children to take part in events and activities after school for just $10 a year. This fall, the family's dealership also hosted back-to-school drives, which supplied more than 200 children with pens, papers and everything else needed to start the school year right.

"Not only are they (the Weston family) helping the community, they're passing it on to their kids," Sullivan said. "What a great family. What a great gift. It's going to make a huge difference for all the kids who come here."

Phase II will include a commercial kitchen and dining room, providing resources needed to offer weekly senior meals. More storage and distribution space, including a walk-in freezer and refrigerator, will expand food variety and nutrition for clients, allowing them to make their own selections for their food boxes.

These improvements will give the Gresham Corps the capacity to serve up to 250 families or 1,000 people a week, as well as provide a wide variety of services.

While 86 children attend the after-school youth center every day, after the expansion, the corps expects to serve upward of 150 children a day, Sullivan said.

As for members of the Weston family, they just feel blessed to be able to provide the final funding needed to get the project going, Jan Weston said.

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