by Ryan Nix
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Immanuel Baptist Church of Little Rock officially opened its new City Center to the public. Housed in the former Kroger on Shackelford, the City Center marks the culmination of nearly five years of planning and fundraising. Among the ribbon-cutting ceremony attendees were Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott and Governor Asa Hutchison.
According to City Center Director Traci Hogue, the new development allowed Immanuel Baptist to relocate and double the size of their food pantry and soup kitchen operations, referred to as the City Center Compassion and Relief Efforts (CARE) Area. However, while offering food and clothing donations to Central Arkansas residents is a vital part of the City Center’s mission, it’s not their only focus.
The City Center features 40,000 square feet of rental space. “We would love to rent the facility out for all kinds of business opportunities, receptions, meetings, maybe even weddings,” says Hogue. Beyond the meeting and classroom spaces, the City Center also contains an 800-seat auditorium. Hogue hopes the revenue from renting out their available space will augment the Center’s financial sustainability.
Beyond the CARE area and meeting spaces, Immanuel Baptist also plans to start a free monthly dental clinic and adult education classes later this year. “Within this year we hope to have volunteer dentists from throughout the area,” Hogue says. “We’ve also got two really large classrooms, beyond renting them, we’re looking at holding adult education and GED classes for our clients.”
Immanuel Baptist hopes the City Center will serve as a hub for augmenting, connecting and concentrating community service efforts. Or, as Senior Pastor Dr. Steven Smith put it, “Lord, us to establish environments that foster healthy, restorative relationships and opportunities to mobilize people in changing their worlds.”