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Ray and Joan Kroc Center
When the McDonald’s founder passed away in 1984, he left behind his billion dollar fortune to his third wife, Joan Beverly Kroc. Four years later, she donated $87 million of the fortune she had inherited from her late billionaire husband to the Salvation Army. $47 million of this gift was meant to build and equip this Center, while the other $40 million was placed into an endowment to help subsidize its operating budget. It was four years in the making, and took over 350 volunteers to put together and plan, but it finally opened its doors on June 1, 2002. Joan Kroc was herself a special guest at the opening.
Key components of the compound are an aquatic center complete with water therapy services, a 56-000 square foot fully-equipped gymnasium, the only ice arena in southern San Diego County, a 30-foot tall rock-climbing wall, a 33,000 square foot performing arts center that houses a 600-seat theatre with a motorized orchestra pit, dance studio and orchestra room, an education center, and office space for the Salvation Army. All the facilities are open to members as well as the general public.
Ray and Joan Kroc first met in a piano bar in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1957, where Ray Kroc was working. They kept up a secret relationship until both had divorced from their other spouses, and finally married each other in 1969. For most of her married life, Joan Kroc would devote herself to philanthropic causes in an effort to share the large fortune her husband had amassed over the years. When Joan Kroc died of brain cancer in 2003, she left a $1.5 billion gift to the Salvation Army in order to continue developing branches of the Ray and Joan Kroc Center throughout the U.S.
While she was alive, Joan Kroc diligently did her homework into the Salvation Army. Was this the right organization to partner with she wanted to know. In a few instances, she even went so far as playing the role of a community member in need at various Salvation Army locations in order to asses the quality of their services. She was impressed with what she found.
According to the trust she left behind, all branches of the Ray and Joan Kroc Center are to be highly visible and accessible to particularly lower-income families. They were also instructed to have high quality facilities, with programs that cover education, fitness, arts, and worship. From Atlanta, Georgia, to Salem, Oregon, to Dayton, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, today there are plans to build a Ray and Joan Kroc Center in every region of the U.S.
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