Jim Shifler said his first contact with the Salvation Army was watching a bell-ringer trying to raise money on a frigid day. He thought to himself "what dedication."
He mentioned that memory Friday, when the Salvation Army broke ground on a new community center in Hagerstown.
"When I could afford to give some money to the Salvation Army, I tried to give them a pretty good check each year," said Shifler, a retired insurance agent.
Shifler, a Salvation Army advisory board member for 14 years, donated more than $600,000 toward the $1.8 million project. He also helped raise another $100,000 through his contacts.
"I had two people call me and say, 'I want to give $10,000,'" Shifler recalled. "I was so excited when the last one called me, I had trouble sleeping."
The 11,000-square-foot community center will be at 541 George St., near existing Salvation Army buildings, a few blocks from Burhans Boulevard.
The Jim Shifler Family Community Center, as it will be called, will have a gymnasium, a computer room, a game room and offices.
The Salvation Army also plans to renovate and expand its Transitional Housing Program for women and children and to buy a building for its thrift store.
Joy was in the air Friday among several speakers, from Salvation Army leaders to elected officials.
"This has been a journey that's been in the making for well over 40 years," Major Robert Lyle said.
"This community center's been a dream," said David Jeffery, a Salvation Army commissioner who has served in Hagerstown.
Jeffery announced that the Salvation Army's southern territory is donating $90,000 to the project.
Washington County Commissioner John F. Barr said he remembers discussions about a possible community center from many years ago.
Barr and Amy Whittington are co-chairs of the Salvation Army's capital campaign. Both said it's difficult to ask people for money, but the public has been generous for this project.
Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the community has many needs and one is transitional housing, so the Salvation Army's expansion will be appreciated.