Dispelling misconceptions about the Kroc grant


Recently, an article in the NonProfit Times was critical of The Salvation Army, suggesting that it should have negotiated for different terms with the Joan Kroc grant, that it was slow in developing Kroc Centers and that The Salvation Army was drifting away from its mission.

First of all, critics who state The Salvation Army should have negotiated different terms with the grant fail to understand that this is not a grant but proceeds of a very specific trust. The Salvation Army has no choice but to observe the trust restrictions or turn down the gift. The trust is very flexible stating only that the funds will be used to build youth centers and fund them with an endowment. This is a very shrewd strategy to develop facilities in needy areas and provide partial funding. But the need for additional funding provides an opportunity for the communities to “buy in” and participate in the operation, thus proving “ownership” of the facilities and programs. There is never negotiation in accepting an estate or trust gift. The benefactor’s stipulations have to be observed or the gift cannot be accepted.

Secondly, the expenditure of $250 million dollars should not be taken lightly nor should it be expended recklessly. State law requires prudent observation of legacy investment and expenditure and the process thus far has carefully looked at community needs, income levels, population trends and needed services. The San Diego Kroc center was five years from the first discussion to the dedication. It is expected that at least three of the proposed Kroc Centers will be completed in less than five years. Both Salem and Coeur d’Alene are targeting groundbreaking for next summer with construction taking just over a year. The process allows for thorough examination of the need, the facilities and the projected program.

The Western Territory has the advantage of being able to take advantage of the learning and experience of the San Diego Kroc Center. There are over 225 job descriptions that have been created, five operation manuals and numerous other documents that are part of the planning process. It is certainly to the advantage of The Salvation Army to approach this prudently rather than rush into the opening and be unprepared.

Finally in response to the suggestion of mission drift, there are four principles that have been central to the planning process:

Goal # 1—To advance the mission of The Salvation Army
Goal # 2—To reflect the vision of Joan Kroc
Goal # 3—To use Joan Kroc’s funds and other resources to develop Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers expeditiously and in a fiscally responsible manner
Goal # 4—To use Joan Kroc’s funds and other resources to respond to local needs on a sustained basis

The dual goal of focusing on the vision of The Salvation Army and Joan Kroc has blended into what will be superb corps and community centers. The territory challenged locations to locate the corps chapel in a prominent position and that has been achieved in the designs. In each location, the corps chapel is central and prominent so every individual coming to the center will be aware that our relationship to God is just as important as our relationship to each other. The centers are available to individuals of all faiths but to those needing spiritual help or not having a spiritual home, the staff of The Salvation Army Kroc Center will be available to assist those in need.

Critics who state that we are drifting away from our mission speak from a position of misunderstanding in that they see us only as a social service agency and fail to realize that we have many youth centers, day care centers, camps, senior housing, transitional housing, AIDS housing and other programs—all share our central goal of presenting the gospel. I like what the National Commander, Commissioner Israel Gaither stated in a recent article,

“We have a social ministry and we have the ecclesiastical ministry and we have to ensure that they are integrated. We don’t divide a person and say we’re going to split you off and just serve the human side. The cup of cold water, the place to stay, a kid going to camp, a senior citizen helped in their home can’t be separated from the spiritual side.

“I often describe The Salvation Army as [author] Langston Hughes did when he wrote about a butterfly with two wings. If one of those wings is broken, it ceases to be what it was born to be. The Salvation Army is the same.”
If we fail to make the gospel available in our activities, we have indeed brought about “mission drift.” If we fail to witness to the transforming power of salvation, we have drifted from what should be our first love. That is a specific challenge in every program of The Salvation Army.

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