KROC TOUR WITH JENNIFER AND CAITLIN WEGE

Two of Peter Wege’s granddaughters, Jennifer Wege from North Carolina and Caitlin Wege from California, came to Grand Rapids in March to attend LaughFest, a fundraiser for the cancer-support group Gilda’s Club. The Wege Foundation has been a major LaughFest sponsor since the 10-day comedy festival kicked off in 2011.

While in town, Jennifer and Caitlin – whose father Peter Wege II is President of The Wege Foundation Board – wanted to see some of their family foundation’s work in action. High on their list was the Kroc Family Center they knew about, but wanted to see for themselves.

To build the center named for the founder of McDonald’s, the Kroc Trust gave the Salvation Army $45M – $30M for construction and $15M for endowment. But the gift was conditional: the Army had to raise a one-third match in local gifts. Grand Rapids’ collective generosity – typified by the Wege family – came through with $15 million to make the Kroc Center happen.

On a sunny spring morning, Captain Peter Mount, Kroc’s  Congregational Life Officer, and Operations Director Manager Kraig Smottlach gave the Wege sisters and two Wege Foundation executives the full tour. They walked them through the two-story, 105,000 square-foot building, from the chapel to the pool. The visitors saw how the facilities were designed to meet the Center’s mission of worship, education, recreation, and the arts.

Outdoors they viewed the 20 acres of playing fields, amphitheatre, fish pond, sliding hill, and 2010 ArtPrize  winning sculpture, Table and Chairs. Kraig knew Jennifer and Caitlin were particularly interested in the geo-thermal heating/cooling system their grandfather was responsible for. Pointing oa;;ut the system’s location under a green field, Kraig was happy to report that while they’d found some glitches in other mechanics, the Wege-inspired geo-thermal system worked like a charm.

The extra expense to install geo-thermal, Kraig explained, would be paid off in a few years. After that, the system will be paying the Kroc back through its huge savings in heating and cooling costs.

Throughout the tour, all four Wege Foundation visitors shared their enthusiasm for what they were seeing. Among other things, they were impressed by the numbers – 250,000 people through the doors a year, 4,500 weekly; 5,500 members; 761 different classes and 11 weeks of summer camp.

 

The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers: How they came to be

Majors Roger and Joy Ross, chief administrators of the Kroc Center, and Jaylen Jennings, a Kroc Leadership Academy student, are seen at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new family center. Neighborhood children like Jaylen are already attending Kroc programs taking place in their nearby grade schools: New Branches and Brookside.
Majors Roger and Joy Ross, chief administrators of the Kroc Center, and Jaylen Jennings, a Kroc Leadership Academy student, are seen at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new family center. Neighborhood children like Jaylen are already attending Kroc programs taking place in their nearby grade schools: New Branches and Brookside.

In 2002 when Joan Kroc, the widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, built a world-class family recreation center in a blighted part of San Diego, no crystal ball could have foreseen the impact of her gift. That original Kroc Community Center elevated the neighborhood and the endless streams of families who came there.

The transformation Joan Kroc saw happening in the lives of those San Diego residents, especially the children, moved her to rewrite her will. She wanted inner-city families across the country to have the same opportunity for sports, recreation, education, the arts, and worship. The only organization she knew that could make such a big dream happen was the Salvation Army.

When Joan Kroc died in October, 2003, her largest single bequest was $1.7 billion to the Salvation Army. The generosity of this historic donation stunned the Army. It also challenged them unlike any gift ever had. Her terms were strict. The money had only one purpose: to build 38 Kroc Community Centers from California to the East Coast.

She also made sure the Centers would be maintained as world-class operations. To guarantee that future quality, she stipulated all grants must go half toward construction and half for an endowment to operate the Centers. In addition, each community awarded a grant had to raise local dollars equal to half the endowment bequest.

Every penny of her $1.7 billion had to go toward the new Kroc Centers—none of it could be spent on any existing operations. In the same month of her death five years later, the first shovel of dirt was dug at 2500 South Division in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start the $56 million Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

Additional article – The Money Trail: Grand Rapids Kroc Center

Additional article – Wege Foundation Contributed to GREEN Kroc

Read more about Ray and Joan Kroc Center at www.kroccenter.org


 

Wege Foundation’s Areas of Interests

  • Environment
  • Education
  • The Arts
  • Human Services
  • Health Care

Ray and Joan Kroc Center’s Programs

  • LEED Certified/Geo-Thermal
  • Classrooms/Tutoring/Computer Labs
  • Performing Arts Auditorium: Music
  • Safe Playgrounds/Recreation/Mentoring
  • Fitness Center/Sports/Medical Clinic