125 Years of Salvation Army History in Central Virginia; Serving Church Hill Youth Since 1920 - A Look Back
William Booth, The Salvation Army's founder, wrote in 1881 that he would "rely upon the honor of the troops to see that no child is shut out of a meeting on account of poverty, raggedness or dirt, but that the greatest love and care be bestowed upon the most wretched little ones."
With that in mind, serving young people has been a primary objective of The Salvation Army in Richmond since 1885, and organized youth programs can trace their roots in Church Hill to The Salvation Army's Church Hill Corps, which opened its doors in 1920 at 719 North 25th Street. For the next 25 years, the Church Hill Corps operated a boy's club offering recreational programs for area youth.
With diminishing operational funding, The Salvation Army officially closed the Church Hill Corps in July 1945. However, despite the lack of a Corps in Church Hill, efforts were made to continue a club presence there, and officers from Salvation Army Corps #1 at 906 East Broad Street, began operating an outpost in Church Hill to help address the service and program gap and continue meeting the needs of area youth. Four years later, in 1949, this Church Hill outpost was formally organized and became the Red Shield Boys Club.
On January 28, 1954, the Red Shield Boys Club merged with the Boys Clubs of America and is chartered as The Salvation Army Boys Club. Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, the Club offered structured athletic programs with football, wrestling, swimming and basketball as well as ping pong, music, crafts, journalism and photography. During those days, one of the Club's most successful programs was the Red Shield Golden Gloves team, with the team regularly winning awards and trophies for their boxing skills. The 1955 Red Shield Boy's Club annual report revealed that its annual operating expense was $23.20 per boy.
As a result of the successes of the youth programs in Church Hill, The Salvation Army began operating additional youth recreational programs at its Dunstan Citadel facility at the corner of Semmes Avenue and 12th Street.
Groundbreaking for a new state-of-the-art facility at 3701 R Street occurred in 1970, and the new complex opened in 1971. This $800,000.00 facility was renamed The Salvation Army Boys Club and Neighborhood Center and is the current home of the Club. In 1972, The Salvation Army opens a Girls Club and in 1987, the separate boy's and girl's clubs are officially combined in name, becoming the present-day Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club.
In 2007, a new School of Performing Arts program commenced at the Club and after many decades of absence, the Church Hill Outpost was reopened as well. Both programs operate from within the Boys & Girls Club. The outpost offers Christian programming for people of all ages, while the school offers no-cost music lessons to Central Virginia children in keyboard, guitar, percussion, woodwind and brass. Other elements of the performing arts include gospel choir, mime, sacred dance and drama instruction for various age groups.
Today, The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club serves thousands of youth every single year with a daily average attendance of more than 150 youth. As The Salvation Army celebrates 125 years or service to Central Virginia, our efforts in Church Hill have come full circle, but our mission remains the same, "changing a generation, one life at a time."