Major Henry Gonzalez, the new Salvation Army Texas Division commander, arrived in Brownwood Thursday to dedicate this community’s new 5,600-square-foot “Center of Hope” service center in his first official ceremony since assuming the office.

But while hearing congratulations for making the modern facility possible, local Salvation Army supporters also accepted his challenge: raise $25,000 in the coming year to furnish the facility, and the Texas Division will match it.

“Brownwood is blessed because you have that ‘can do’ attitude,” Gonzalez said, relating the pioneer history of the county and how settlers overcame harsh obstacles because they believed in the future. “I know this spirit going to continue, because this place has history. The Salvation Army is very fortunate in this community because of your support.”

Gonzalez dedicated the structure at 403 Lakeway, next to the old service center site, as a “place of hope, a place of refuge and a home of strength… We dedicate this building to the glory of God and to the service of mankind.”

The center is home to Loaves and Fishes, a United Way member program which served meals to 18,469 people in 2007.

Serving will begin in the new facility on Monday, advisory board Chairman Joe Huff said.

“This is the result of actions and efforts of many, many, many different individuals,” Huff said in welcoming remarks. He mentioned the work of initial volunteers Dan Wright and Richard Hunter who started the work of Salvation Army here in the 1970s, but added, “I could go on with a list of hundreds of names.”

But last year, the center also helped 167 people with utilities, 86 people with rent and 6,213 people with other emergency assistance - a total of almost 25,000 individuals.

Also speaking at the ceremony was Brownwood Police Chief Virgil Cowin, who described his contacts with the organization that included unselfish assistance to service men and women.

“The Salvation Army is the No. 1 organization of its type in the world,” Cowin said. “We have so much to be thankful for, for what the Salvation Army has done.”

Lt. Col. Orville Salmon (retired) offered the invocation, and Police Chaplain and advisory board member Calvin Gray voiced the benediction.

Advisory board co-chairman Dan Elliott read Scripture, and told the story of how the Salvation Army came to his family’s rescue during difficult financial times 30 years ago.

“I just can’t thank the Salvation Army enough for what it gave me,” Elliott said.