Joan Kroc’s gift
Nationwide, work is underway on the new Kroc Centers—the fulfillment of Joan Kroc’s dream.
by Don McDougald –
(L-R) Major Cindy Foley, Phil Bifolk, Joan Kroc and Amy Reagan attend the first Pumpkin Patch Party at the San Diego Kroc Center in 2002. Five hundred facility members and community neighbors attended the party. Amy Reagan is Mrs. Kroc’s granddaughter and was the Fitness Center coordinator at the time.
Joan Kroc believed that all participants in a Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center should have a chance to excel with an awareness of the breadth of opportunity and an absence of envy toward any other child of like age. Superb facilities could provide opportunities for development of skills, interests and achievement. Joan Kroc was a dreamer and understood that her personal resources provided an opportunity to bring about community change. In her trust, she stated: “The community centers shall include facilities such as a recreation field, a gymnasium, an Olympic-size swimming pool, and other facilities designed for family and youth development and recreation, complete with the appropriate equipment and furnishings for such facilities.” Her vision was clear and unequivocal—that a Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center should consist of facilities and programs of high quality that provide children, youth, families and individuals with educational, recreational, arts and other activities that build character, confidence and competence. It should be a beacon of hope and an agent of change in an underserved community.
Joan Kroc had a strong interest in peace and expressed this through her personal support of the San Diego Peace Center, National Public Radio, the University of Notre Dame, The Carter Center and other endeavors that work for peace and unity in a troubled world. Her private home was named Montagna De La Paloma, meaning “Mountain of Peace.” She also supported many organizations that served those who might not be able to help themselves, such as various wildlife and animal projects. A special interest was Ronald McDonald Houses, which help families in crisis when they have a child in the hospital for an extended period.
Her gift to The Salvation Army was very public and focused worldwide attention on our organization. But sometimes her benevolence was unheralded, such as during a flood in Wisconsin. Her $15 million gift to the Wisconsin community was anonymous until someone traced the numbers on the tail of her private airplane. During a visit to Biloxi, Miss., she identified that the community was lacking in public facilities and provided $2 million to The Salvation Army to build a pool. Now that gift is to be enhanced and a Kroc Center will provide services to Biloxi—a city devastated last year by Hurricane Katrina. Through her charitable giving, she hoped to bring peace to lives that were troubled or in conflict.
The Salvation Army territories in the US have generally taken similar approaches to identifying the communities to be served by Kroc Centers.
The Central Territory approach mirrors the process in the Western Territory and has identified 10 cities as prospective sites with a total of $216 million in capital construction. The Chicago project is the largest, being possibly larger than San Diego, but Detroit, Omaha and St. Paul are also major developments. Several locations have land donated by the municipal government, which demonstrates the support provided by local communities. The Central Territory expects to identify the final selection by the end of the year.
The Eastern Territory has identified the cities to move into the next phase of their process. Architectural firms are being selected by eight locations and the competition is moving into the next phase. The two largest projects are in Boston and Staten Island. The Boston project requires acquiring 58 separate pieces of property in the heart of the city, which is a major undertaking. The Staten Island project’s property is under control of the bankruptcy court and title clearance is delaying progress. Six of the projects are considered to be on target.
The Southern Territory has selected one site, Atlanta, to proceed to the construction stage with nine others preliminarily approved and in the process of achieving final approval. The Atlanta site is located adjacent to the College for Officer Training in what has long been a blighted and dangerous neighborhood. Due to its close proximity to downtown Atlanta, the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying, and the Kroc Center plan has already contributed significantly toward that development. The Biloxi process was initiated by Joan Kroc’s significant donation for an aquatics center, given prior to her death and the arrival of Katrina. Progress in Biloxi has been interrupted by the hurricane relief recovery but is still a firm commitment just awaiting further development and planning processes. The other eight locations range from possible 2007 construction dates to several in 2008 and 2009.
The Western Territory has identified six locations. San Francisco Tenderloin project is in construction and will be open in approximately 16 months. Both Coeur d’Alene and Mid-Willamette Valley have submitted contracts for the preparation of construction documents and the hope is to begin construction by next summer. Phoenix and Honolulu are making some changes to the proposed layout of their centers. Long Beach, which will be almost as large as the San Diego Center, is progressing through the paper war. Because of the size of these projects, the amount of paperwork to be prepared, plans designed and permits to be obtained is astounding.
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 place the corps in a central focus and that has been achieved in the design. In each, the corps chapel is centrally located 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. In both Salem and Coeur d’Alene, the chapel is near the center with recreation facilities on one side and education and performing arts rooms on the other. A multi-purpose room can be used for Sunday school classes as well as activity rooms for community groups. There will be no lack of understanding as to why the Kroc Centers exist and what can be achieved both physically and spiritually.