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.
Read more about Ray and Joan Kroc Center at www.kroccenter.org
Wege Foundation’s Areas of Interests
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