POINCIANA – The supporters of the ongoing efforts to bring a Salvation Army center to Poinciana are facing a unique challenge in the months ahead — one that almost puts them in the position of working on goals at odds with one another.
First, the supporters are conducting a survey of residents of Poinciana to show if the support is there for bringing a Salvation Army office here.
That’s been the easy part, said Nestor R. Nuesch, a resident of Solivita who has been spearheading efforts to get the Salvation Army to expand from its current office in Kissimmee to a new one in Poinciana.
“We’re doing a lot of work on the survey, and we’ve got 200 people to participate so far,” Nuesch said. “The response has been very positive. Some people marked down that they will volunteer to help, some indicate they will donate money to make it happen.”
At the same time, as the survey continues to build up anticipation about the Salvation Army office, Nuesch said he also has to let residents know that it could be a while – possibly as long as two years – before this can become a reality.
“It will take a couple of years,” he said. “The biggest hurdle will be to get the money to build the facility we need.”
And keeping people excited and enthusiastic about this project – and at the same time patient that it is eventually going to happen – is the challenge.
Nuesch, a consultant for the Salvation Army, has been trying since last summer to find a way to bring the non-profit agency into Poinciana, a community of more than 84,000 residents that now lacks any social service agencies whatsoever.
Poinciana is split between Osceola and Polk counties, and currently Poinciana residents on the Osceola County side have to drive to Kissimmee to get access to social service agencies. For Polk County residents, they have to make the drive to Winter Haven. One dilemma is that the Salvation Army is a non-profit and can’t afford to pay rent on a local building, so supporters need to help raise the funds for a place where they can operate in Poinciana.
They also need to convince the Salvation Army’s regional headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., to invest in this project, he added.
“We’re still waiting, unfortunately, for the final decision by our territorial headquarters in Altanta,” he said. “First it has to be endorsed by the Orlando Advisory Board – which they did – and then it was sent to Atlanta, which is the regional headquarters. I did the preliminary work on that. The next step is they have to approve this formal planning study, which we’ll give to the Salvation Army in Kissimmee. Then we go from there. In the meantime, we’re doing a lot of work on the survey.”
Nuesch said he’s encouraged by the support shown for the project so far by local residents.
“There’s no question the need is here, the support is here,” he said. “The question mark will be the financing.”
Nuesch is a member of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, a group formed last summer to bring more jobs and economic development to the community. PEDA has also been supporting the Salvation Army efforts, and the alliance’s chairman, Nick Murdock, thinks Poinciana can speed up the process and make it happen much sooner than two years from now.
“I’m a little more optimistic than that,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to get things to go forward.”
That includes looking for financial contributors to help cover the costs of bringing the Salvation Army to Poinciana, he said.
“We just have to basically go through the formalities,” Murdock said. “We have to get all the approvals, but we’ll have the construction teams and financing will be all set up. I think it will go very quickly once we get that.”
Nuesch is also hopeful that PEDA can find financial support for this project.
“We have discussed this with Avatar” – the main builder in Poinciana – “and there are several sites that are possibilities for this,” Nuesch said. “We are even working on some floor plans and renderings to do an actual campaign to raise funds.”
On the other hand, he noted that the Salvation Army office in Kissimmee is struggling to meet people’s needs at a time when the economic downturn has hurt so many local families.
“We have to compare it to the fact that the Salvation Army has struggled for years financially, and we have to deal with that as well,” Nuesch said. “They do a lot of social work in Kissimmee because the need there is so great.”
But as Murdock noted, the Salvation Army office in Poinciana would include a thrift store and service center for family services that could offer everything from counseling and day care programs to music training for teens.
“It’s such a win-win for everyone in the community,” Murdock said. “It will not be a food kitchen and it will not be a shelter. We will not be attracting any needs from outside the Poinciana community.”
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