‘Others are more important than us’: Kroc Center suspends programs to focus on emergency response

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho — The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Idaho continues to grow and while no one in North Idaho has tested positive, the men and women who run the Kroc Center want to make sure it stays that way.

The Salvation Army center is suspending its programs for its 14,500 members for at least the next three weeks in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus throughout the area. Members there make up about a fifth of the community and rely on the center for childcare, exercise and education.

Center director Kip Sharbono believes the risk of infecting or losing someone in the community to the virus far outweighs the financial benefits that come with keeping the center open. While he hopes members keep their memberships during the transition, he’s willing to accept the loss.

“We’re not a small entity and so we figured in order to flatten the curve and get ahead of this, and best serve our community, this was the best choice,” says Sharbono. “It is that fear of the unknown, but we have a unique opportunity to serve in this space and that’s what we have to be able to focus on, is others are more important than us.”

Sharbono tells 4 News Now a small group of employees will continue to work at the Kroc Center to man an emergency hotline until they have no choice but to work remotely. He says the Panhandle Health District is being flooded with calls from concerned neighbors, so he hopes an additional hotline will take some of that pressure away. Other employees, he says, will look to help other community partners, including Kootenai Health and local schools, to serve those in need of food, groceries, diaper or money.

“Six to eight weeks doesn’t sound like a lot but when it’s a paycheck, when it’s caring for your family, that’s where we need to be,” he says.

Sharbono says membership dues will go toward people in need, including the center’s employees.

Troy Braga and his family have been coming to the center since it first opened 11 years ago. He says his wife often utilizes the center’s daycare to get an hour or two to herself. He knows other families can say the same.

“They know their kids have a safe and educational place to be while they can get whatever they need to get done — done during the day,” he says.

Braga tells 4 News Now he’s never suspended his membership dues and he doesn’t plan on starting now.

“It would be great to be sitting here in, you know, six to eight weeks from now saying ‘hey, we got ahead of this and we were part of the solution instead of part of the problem,'” Sharbono says.