TAMPA, Fla. — The Salvation Army of Tampa and Hillsborough has a new command center and shelter following a multi-million-dollar remodel.
The Salvation Army cut the ribbon on Tuesday for the facility, which is on Florida Avenue in the Tampa Heights area. The command center will now be one of the nicest of its kind centers in the country and ABC Action News got an exclusive look at it before the ribbon cutting.
ABC Action News has partnered with the Salvation Army and their Angel Tree and Red Kettle campaigns for more than a decade now. If you’ve ever wondered where your money goes when you put your donation into one of those red kettles, this center is it. It will now bring all of Tampa and Hillsborough's Salvation Army services under one impressive roof.
“The only things that are the same are the outside walls and the inside pillars that you might see one behind me right now,” said Major David Swyers, the Tampa area Commander for the Salvation Army, as he showed us the new building.
Swyers told ABC Action News the old facility was nearly 50 years old, and the shelter was falling apart across the street. The old five-table cafeteria is now spacious and can double as a classroom or meeting room for residents. The new kitchen is night and day from the one they had before, as they tried to serve up to 200 people a day.
“I'm telling you if you walk into the finest kitchens in this town at any restaurant this is what it looks like,” said Swyers. He added that the layout of the space and offices has a flow for when someone comes in needing help whether it’s for housing assistance, a job, veterans services or just needing a place to stay.
The shelter is now dorm-style and there are no more bunk beds. Swyers told ABC Action News that the goal is to empower and not to make someone feel like they are in a shelter.
“Our goal at the end of the day is to have you for a period of time. At the end, I want to leave you better than I found you. I want to make sure you're time with us was productive so that when we say goodbye we part as friends who have helped you back into society,” said Swyers.
Swyers added that one payoff came during the construction of the building when a subcontractor caught his attention with a story that makes this new command center that much more special.
“He says 13 years ago I was an alcoholic. My family had left me. I had disappointed them. I was on my own. Rock bottom. What do I do? And I found the Salvation Army. And 13 years later I'm now back in the facility with the company I own working in this hoping that what I do will benefit the life of someone coming through like you did me so many years ago,” said Swyers.
It's not too often we see our dollar in a red kettle come full circle like that. Swyers said it makes you wonder how many more are out there that you just don't know about.
The move-in process for the new command center for The Salvation Army of Tampa and Hillsborough will take place over the next few days. The center will be fully operational starting on Friday.