The Salvation Army began in London in 1865. Evangelist William Booth started a crusade to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute by going out into the streets and ministering directly to the people. More than 148 years later, our organization has spread around the globe, with services in 126 countries.
The Salvation Army began its work in Memphis on October 18, 1900. Captain and Mrs. Clarke were the first full-time officers. With the support of five local churches – First Presbyterian, Second Presbyterian, First Congregational Church, First Methodist and Central Baptist, the Clarkes were able to spread God's word and serve the poor.
Over the next several decades, The Salvation Army grew rapidly. The organization opened a "Men's Service Center", the "Evangeline Residence" for employed women of the Bluff City, a "Sally House" shelter for homeless men and boys, and a lounge service for service men and women called the "Red Shield Club." In 1943, The Salvation Army started operating a "Station Wagon" throughout the city. A forerunner of the mobile feeding canteen, volunteers used the wagon to serve hot chocolate, donuts and coffee.
In the late 1970s, Abe Plough chaired a capital campaign that led to the purchase of the former YWCA building at 200 Monroe in Downtown Memphis. The building's 100-bed dormitory space made it ideal for housing homeless men, women and children. The facility housed the shelters and the Memphis Area Command until the building was sold in 1997 to make room for AutoZone Park.
When the Monroe facility was sold, The Salvation Army needed a new home. The Kemmons Wilson family chaired a $7 million capital campaign that led to the construction of The Purdue Center of Hope, the social service center located at 696 Jackson Ave. The new facility was opened in August 2000, marking the 100th anniversary of service in Memphis. The facility houses the Memphis Area Command, three women's shelters, and emergency services.
Over the years, there have been several Salvation Army Corps (worship centers). In 1998 the Winchester Corps dedicated its new facility at 4741 Winchester Road. The Southside Corps merged with the Ben Lear Citadel in 2003 becoming the Ben Lear South Citadel. With the opening of the Kroc Center, Ben Lear Corps became the Kroc Corps at 800 East Parkway.
In 2005, The Salvation Army Memphis was awarded a Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. In her will, Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, gave a donation to The Salvation Army. The sole purpose of the donation is to build and maintain Kroc Centers across the country. The Memphis Kroc Center, one of twenty seven to be built nationally, brings together various economic groups and offers a variety of programs involving arts, education, recreation and worship. The Kroc Center opened in late February 2013 to great fanfare.