Gowans dedicates Army’s Kroc Center

ARCHITECT’S RENDERING of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.


Gowans dedicates Army’s Kroc Center


“This is a miniature peace center,” said Mrs. Joan Kroc during the press conference held on the ice skating rink at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps and Community Center in San Diego, Calif.


MRS. JOAN KROC replies to the press as General John Gowans looks on.

“There are 47 languages spoken in this neighborhood. Here, children will learn of each other–that’s more important than this being a center for recreation.”

With a concern for all to live in peace, and for youth and adults to have resources to reach their full potential, Mrs. Kroc’s generous gift of $87 million to realize those goals became reality with the dedication and opening of the Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on June 19, 2002.

General John Gowans dedicated the center, with the support of Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards, divisional leaders Lt. Colonels Don and Debora Bell and the center’s executive directors Majors Tim and Cindy Foley. Also present were Colonels Don and Esther Sather, under whose tenure as (then) divisional leaders plans for the center first began.

Mr. Fred Rogers, creator and host of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” was a special guest.

After four years in the planning, and tens of thousands of hours under construction, the 12-acre family support, education, recreation and cultural arts center is now open to members and the general public.

Civic and community leaders including the mayors of San Diego, La Mesa, and Lemon Grove–all of which border the center–and more than 1,000 friends and neighbors joined in the celebration.


MR. FRED ROGERS wears his new sweater.

Dedication ceremony

Rogers, a personal friend of Joan Kroc, spoke during the dedication. “What a beautiful day in this neighborhood,” he said. “The Bible begins in darkness, then God said, ‘Let there be light!’ He didn’t condemn the darkness but created light. What a joy to be here celebrating this creation by Joan Kroc and The Salvation Army of San Diego.”

Lt Colonel Don Bell spoke of the center’s benefit to the community. “This is a safe and productive place for kids in the community to learn, meet friends and have fun.” He noted that while most of the building has been completed, “our obligations have just begun–to God, Mrs. Kroc, the community, and all who will enjoy the center.”

In appreciation for Rogers’ significant contribution to young people, Bell presented him with a navy blue front-zippered sweater–Rogers’ trademark on his show–that sported a red Army shield on the front.

Commissioner John Busby, national commander, introduced General John Gowans to the audience. “The purpose of The Salvation Army,” said Gowans, “is to save souls, raise saints, and serve suffering humanity. While it doesn’t give bouquets or lolly pops, it has a system of recognizing those who serve alongside us.”

Gowans then called Mrs. Joan Kroc to the stage, where he presented her the Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service, an international award honoring an individual outside the Army who has rendered distinguished service to the Army.

“It’s impossible for me to convey to you the respect and admiration I have for my wonderful friends in The Salvation Army, and for all who came to participate and make this happen,” she said. “I’m sure this is something Ray would have wanted me to do, and he would be happy and proud today.”

Her late husband, Ray A. Kroc, was founder of McDonald’s Corporation.

As he dedicated the complex, Gowans stated “The goal of the Salvation Army is that all can achieve their ultimate potential and become all they can possibly be: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We cannot know now the achievements that will begin here in a young person. Maybe a Scott Hamilton, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, or a Billy Graham will start out here.

“Every man, woman and child will go out of these gates better able to achieve what they couldn’t without its support–they will be able to be all that they can be.”

Community involvement

According to Project Director Art Stillwell, there are 48 schools within a three mile radius of the center and “none have facilities like this. There is an enormous potential for use by schools.”

Already, nearby schools and colleges have indicated an interest in using the facility for sports programs and educational projects.

Neighbors are enthusiastic as well. David Eckler, 57, of Lemon Grove, said “This is great for the community and is a terrific opportunity for the kids. They did an outstanding job!” Eckler says he will use the center himself. “I’ll try rock climbing and adult ice hockey,” he said with a smile.

Neighbors Conrad and Rosella Kincaid look forward to the corps’ opening. “We live just up the hill here, and I’ll be going to the corps.”

“We’ve lived in this community for the past 45 years, and this place is a wonderful addition,” said Walter and Minnie Renn. “I’ve had two heart attacks and a stroke–but the Lord is good, and these programs here will really help me.”

Neil Smith and Clark Mitchell stated, “We’re from the American Olympic Committee Center here in town and we’re really impressed with this magnificent facility. We’re looking forward to some liaison opportunities.”

Added Thomas Evans, “This is the best thing that has happened to the community in a long time!”

Of the $87 million donation by Mrs. Kroc to The Salvation Army, $47 million was designated to build and equip the facility and $40 million was placed into an endowment to help subsidize the community center’s annual operating budget.

Over 350 volunteers met for four years to plan the center’s facilities and programs.



A place for young and old to reach their full potential!

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps and Community Center includes:

Aquatic center –for water exercise, therapy and sports programs in three areas­a 25-meter pool, general recreation pool, and an enclosed warm water therapy pool.

Ice arena –National Hockey League regulation rink, for use in hockey leagues, open skating, group and individual skating lessons.

Gymnasium–a multi-use facility, the 56,000 sq. foot building contains a fitness area, professional-size basketball court (suitable for volleyball, gymnastics and badminton)

Recreation field, challenge course and rock wall–the 55,000 sq. foot field is bordered by a challenge course and 30 ft. tall rock-climbing tower.

Family enhancement center–housing the Army’s family services department and a Head Start Child Development Center, this building includes an indoor Skateboard Park and administration offices for the corps community center.

Performing arts center (opening late 2002) ­ a 33,000 sq. foot facility with theater seating for 600, the stage, orchestra pit, and scenic art facilities will accommodate Broadway-quality shows.

Education Center and Salvation Army Corps (opening late 2002) ­Adjacent to the performing arts center, the education center will consist of an Internet-based library, computer lab, study hall, and the offices of The Salvation Army Corps.

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a

neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?…

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood, a neighborly day for a beauty. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?…

I’ve always wanted a neighbor just like you. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day. Since we’re together we might as well say: Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my

neighbor? Won’t you please, won’t you please?

Please won’t you be my neighbor?

©1967 Fred M. Rogers


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