Bell recalls Joan Kroc’s ‘stealth philanthropy’

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by Donald Bell, Lt. Colonel – 

Lt. Colonel Donald BellJoan Kroc was a woman of compassion and concern with a deep sense of caring and a keen spiritual awareness. She often described herself as the “stealth philanthropist,” not wishing public recognition for her private acts of kindness.

Joan supported several non-profit organizations, including homeless shelters, public radio, and hospice facilities. Her favorite causes came to be Ronald McDonald Houses, the University of Notre Dame, the University of San Diego and The Salvation Army.

Joan was a pacifist and endowed peace centers at both the University of Notre Dame and the University of San Diego. And, of course, she gave over $90 million dollars to build and endow The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in San Diego. She often talked of replicating this center across the United States and asked us to draft guidelines for the types of communities within The Salvation Army that could support 20 additional centers across the country. Now that dream, too, will become a reality.

During the development of the center we became keenly aware of Joan’s sensitivity to people and her spiritual awareness. She knew that it would not be easy to acquire a large enough piece of property within San Diego without having to relocate people. She wanted us to be as generous as possible with relocation assistance. When we located an ideal 12-acre parcel, with two abandoned commercial sites and no homes, within the target area, and acquired it for less than half of the budgeted purchase price, her response was, “that’s the working of the Holy Spirit.”

When the Commissioners’ Conference came to San Diego for a National Advisory Board meeting, Joan invited them to her home for light refreshments and fellowship. As the evening was coming to a conclusion, Commis-sioner Raymond Cooper moved to the piano and led the singing of some great hymns of the church. Colonels Gary and Eunice Herndon sang and then Joan moved to the piano to accompany her close friend Phil Bifulk in a solo. At the conclusion the national commander prayed. It was the kind of evening Joan enjoyed.

Joan was fascinated with the many new friends she met in The Salvation Army. She shared meals with General Paul (R) and Commissioner Kay Rader, with General John (R) and Commissioner Gisèle Gowans, with Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards and Commissioner Linda Bond. Her first thought about the Army was that these people were too good to be true. After fellowship with the Raders, Gowans, Edwards, Bond, Bells, O’Briens, Foleys and others, she found that we are all real people and committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to serving others in his name.

My wife and I had the privilege of celebrating and weeping with this great lady. We celebrated the birth of each of her grandchildren and mourned the loss of a son-in-law during our time in San Diego. We celebrated the opening of The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center where General John Gowans presented Joan with the Order of Distinguished Auxiliary service, the highest award that The Salvation Army gives to non-Salvationists.

The Lord blessed Joan with great wealth, and as with those for whom much is given, much is expected (“And from everyone who has been given much shall much more be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Luke 12:48). Joan did not disappoint and spent many years giving most of her earnings away to others. Joan’s great desire was that her gifts would be an example to others. As a result of her actions, she hoped that others would step forward and with their personal resources give in support of the world’s greatest needs.

San Diego honors generous spirit of Joan Kroc

San Diego honors generous spirit of Joan Kroc

“The real gift is the Lord’s gift of Joan Kroc—to this community, to the people

One donor’s big dream came true

One donor’s big dream came true

A Henry Moore sculpture stands on the grounds of the Kroc Center “Two weeks

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