After years of planning, residents gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new community center with songs, prayers and live music on Wednesday, Jan. 15.
Supporters and residents gathered to watch as officials broke ground on the Donald and Priscilla Hunt Red Shield Community Center located at 3000 Long Beach Blvd.
Captain Sergio Garcia of the Salvation Army began the ceremony by welcoming the crowd and expressing his appreciation for the supporters who helped fund the project, including the Port of Long Beach and Signal Hill Petroleum. Garcia continued by thanking one of the library’s namesakes, Priscilla Hunt, who helped fund the project through her donations.
“Instead of saying we can never repay you, I promise you […] that we intend to work tirelessly to be able to change lives and make an impact in Long Beach, Signal Hill, Lakewood and Hawaiian Gardens,” Garcia said.
During her speech, Hunt spoke about the value of giving and being a role model for her son and grandchildren, who were in the audience. Hunt described charity as “a way of life” and expressed her hope that the younger generation will continue her work.
“Money is only as important as the good it can do, and I have seen the Salvation Army do a lot of good,” Hunt said.
Hunt also announced that she would be donating an additional $2.5 million to the community center to help finish the construction and support any future projects. The donation is in addition to an initial gift from the Hunt family of $5 million.
A gift of $10,000 was also donated to the project from Supervisor Janice Hahn. The donation was presented by Herlinda E. Chico, a field deputy who was representing Hahn at the event.
The center currently supports the community by providing after-school programs for local youth, which the Salvation Army plans to expand after the second phase of construction is completed.
“Currently, we do after-school help,” Garcia told the Signal Tribune in an interview. “We started with one day a week and then we’re going to move it to two days a week. Once we have the full community center will be able to provide after-school help with homework, tutoring, music classes and sports for kids in the community.”
According to Garcia, the second phase of construction will also add features such as a gymnasium, a gardening area, a dance studio, a 40,000-square-foot athletic field and more.
The completion of phase two will add to the auditorium, senior center, and classrooms that were completed in 2017.
Officials hope to open the new facility in 2021 and are vying for a spring opening.