“We can help bring our city together by declaring our love to all of its children and showing them the faith we have in their future.” Joan Kroc
Who Were Ray and Joan Kroc?
"I want you to believe that a life of service is a happy one to lead. Serve others joyously and your reward will be great; carry with you the message of charity and brotherly love." Joan Kroc
If you've ever eaten at a McDonald's restaurant, you were indirectly supporting a number of charities like The Salvation Army, the Ronald McDonald House and St. Vincent de Paul. That's because McDonald's founder Ray Kroc and his wife, Joan, were generous philanthropists.
After Ray passed away in 1984, Joan carried forth the tradition, often being called "St. Joan of the Arches." Yet many of her contributions went unnoticed during her lifetime because Joan often requested that her name not be revealed to the organizations she supported.
However, her affinity for The Salvation Army was no secret. In 1998, Joan announced that she was donating $90 million for the building of the first Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, to be located in a beleaguered midcity neighborhood in San Diego. Her vision was to create a place where all people, regardless of social status, had access to a world-class recreational, educational and cultural arts facility.
At the San Diego Kroc Center's grand opening celebration in June 2002, she expressed her desire that "tens of thousands of children" would be able to enjoy the facility in the coming years. Speaking directly to the youth in the audience, Joan expressed the hope that their hearts would never become hardened by intolerance. "You're what the world is banking on," she concluded.
As of her death in 2003, more than 3 million people had visited the San Diego Kroc Center, far exceeding Joan's hopes. And now more children than Joan could have ever envisioned will have opportunities they might never have had. Thanks to Joan's $1.5 billion donation to The Salvation Army, Kroc Centers are being built across the nation – including the one right here in our own city of Omaha!
Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers
In 1998, Mrs. Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, donated $90 million to The Salvation Army to build a comprehensive community center in San Diego, California. Her wish was to create a center, supported in part by the community, where children and families would be exposed to different people, activities and arts that would otherwise be beyond their reach. Completed in 2001, the center sits on 12 acres and offers an ice arena, gymnasium, three pools, rock climbing walls, a performing arts theatre, an internet-based library, computer lab, and a school of visual and performing arts.
When Mrs. Kroc passed away in October 2003, she left $1.5 billion - much of her estate - to The Salvation Army, by far the largest charitable gift ever given to the Army, and the largest single gift given to any charity at one time. The initial disbursements of this bequest began in January 2005. The gift had by then grown to $1.8 billion and was split evenly among the four Army Territories - Central, East, South and West. The money was designated to build a series of state-of-the-art Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers nationwide patterned after the San Diego center.
a dream come true
To date, more than 20 centers are open and operating across the nation, with a handful more under construction. Please follow the web-link below for the latest information on the status of individual Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers: