By Elaine Garrison
Community of Christ members gathered twenty-seven years ago, praying and pondering how to spread the concept and skills of peace to the next generation. The Children’s Peace Pavilion, located in a well-known section of the Auditorium on the Independence, Missouri, USA, campus, sprang from those efforts. Over the years, thousands of families, school classes, and community groups visited the exhibits in what technically was a children’s museum. To reach more people with the message of peace, a larger, more flexible home has been established near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and Temple Drive, a few steps from the Temple.
“We took the same concepts [used at the Auditorium] and expanded on that” said Andy Kroesen, PeacePathways executive director. “Some school districts didn’t want to send their students to a church building for a school field trip. … They’re still the same [peace] concepts. We’re still doing the same things. But now we’re in a neutral setting.”
The original section of the new Peace Pavilion building, recognizable by its arched roof, was constructed in the 1940s and was a Ford dealership. In an alcove off a hallway is a dumbwaiter from the era. It served an upper floor, where parts were stored.
More construction in the 1970s created offices, a cafeteria/kitchen area, classrooms, bathrooms, and otherwise rehabbed the building that became the Sunshine Center. Operated by a nonprofit and funded by Jackson County, the building first served special-needs preschool students and then any young student. Sunshine Center has a new home on East Salisbury Road and became part of the Independence School District.
The building sat empty for several years before it became PeacePathways’s property. Several hurdles awaited officials when they got the keys from Independence Square developer Ken McClain. PeacePathways now owns the building.
Because nearly each room in the former special-needs school was a classroom, each had a bathroom—eighteen in all. Some toilets were removed (there are still plenty of bathrooms), walls taken down, and doorways added.
Andy Kroesen, Ed Gensler, Marla and Dale Blevins, Roxy and Steve Kellogg, Andi and Jim Melham, and others re-created and enlarged the exhibits from the Auditorium.
Along with the executive director, five part-time positions and dozens of volunteers will staff the Pavilion to continue visits focused on the four concepts: Peace for Me, Peace for Us, Peace for the World, and Peace for the Planet.
The new Peace Pavilion is close to the Temple, Auditorium, and other Restoration sites, in addition to local Independence attractions. It is anticipated that post-COVID visits to all those areas will increase. The new visibility of the Peace Pavilion will attract many new visitors.