PEKIN — With the opening of the Sam Leman Center, the Salvation Army Heartland Division has brought an Emergency Disaster Services facility to Pekin.
The Salvation Army invited area residents to celebrate the opening of the new center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday. State Rep. Mike Unes and Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman were among the dignitaries who attended the event. According to Sam Amick, emergency disaster services director for the Salvation Army Heartland Division, the building in which the new facility has been set up was an automobile dealership until the Leman family donated it to the Salvation Army.
“(The center) hosts our disaster units that respond (to emergencies) in 72 counties in central Illinois and eastern Iowa,” said Amick. “We have volunteer teams and staff teams that go out on fires, flood, tornadoes and whatever else people need us to do.”
Rich Draeger, Tri-County development director for the Salvation Army, believes it is fitting that the Sam Leman Center opened on the 18th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
“The Salvation Army was kind of right around the corner from the Twin Towers (of the World Trade Center) in New York,” said Draeger. “We even had people from our own division who went out and were able to help with recovery efforts. We certainly want to remember our first responders, all the people who lost their lives and the first responders who are still suffering from some of the after-effects (of 9-11).”
Draeger called for a moment of silence for those who lost their lives during the 9-11 attacks. Maj. Kelly Collins, Salvation Army Heartland Division commander, then led visitors for a short prayer before thanking area first responders, Tazewell County and city of Pekin officials, and the Leman family for their generosity, support and service to the community.
“This center will be yet another beacon of hope,” said Collins. “It is a facet of the worldwide Salvation Army, fulfilling our mission to save souls, to grow saints and to serve suffering humanity. Certainly, as we assist those who have been suffering a disaster, that is where we want to help with serving suffering humanity.”
Before cutting the ceremonial ribbon, Amick said that the new center will be an important training facility for the instruction of new Salvation Army volunteers, who are often the first relief team on hand in the event of disasters either man-made or natural.
“Many of the volunteers who are out here today have been to national disasters in Texas and Puerto Rico, as well as local disasters,” he said. “We provide hope to those individuals who have lost hope during a disaster. We will be training many more volunteers (in the new facility).”
After the ribbon-cutting, visitors were invited to tour the center and partake of light refreshments.