By William Moore
TUPELO – Tupelo leaders will launch a $2.2 million capital campaign later this month to renovate and expand the Salvation Army campus.
“The facility is 30 years old, and it’s too small,” said former Tupelo mayor and current businessman Jack Reed Jr.. “Instead of making needed repairs and improvements over the years, they have been putting Band-Aids on the problems and using resources to fund their programs.
“We are starting a $2.2 million campaign that will give the citizens of Tupelo a facility they can be proud of.”
The project will double the size of the Red Star Lodge, which serves as a homeless shelter. The project will also upgrade the commercial kitchen and the gymnasium. The classrooms will be remodeled and a new computer lab installed. New playground equipment will allow the facility to better serve its youngest clients.
Officials started raising money quietly about three months ago and have already secured $1.2 million from private citizens, businesses and industry.
Reed, along with Renasant Bank chief executive officer Robin McGraw, North Mississippi Medical Services chief medical officer Dr. Dick White and Salvation Army commander Maj. Jeff Daniel, approached the Tupelo City Council Monday about contributing to the project.
“We hope to raise $1.7 million privately,” Reed said. “If the city could put in $100,000 a year for the next five years from the capital projects fund, that would put us over the top.”
The Red Shield Lodge is the only homeless shelter in Northeast Mississippi. The lodge is segregated into two dormitories with 11 beds for women and 13 beds for men. But there is no place for families to be together.
“Say a mother comes in with a 10-year-old son,” Reed said. “He can’t stay with the mother on the women’s side, and he is too young to put by himself on the men’s side.
“So what we see is families going back out into the cold to sleep in their cars.”
The new facility would address that problem by more than doubling the size of the shelter, Daniel said. The plan will add a 5,000-square-foot building with 20 men’s beds, 19 women’s beds and three family apartments.
“Once that was finished, the current lodge would be converted into two more family apartments,” Daniel said.
The Tupelo City Council plans to discuss the matter in more detail at a work session next week. Reed said his group plans to formally kick off the capital campaign Oct. 26 at 11 a.m. at the Salvation Army headquarters. Officials hope to end the campaign by Thanksgiving.