- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Joan Kroc, the late widow of McDonald’s restaurant founder Ray Kroc, has bequeathed more than $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army, one of the biggest charitable donations ever made.

“We are obviously thrilled but genuinely humbled by the exceptional generosity of Joan Kroc. We recognize the deep sense of trust she has placed into our hands with this gift,” said Commissioner W. Todd Bassett, national commander of the Salvation Army, which is based in Alexandria.

Mrs. Kroc left specific instructions about how the gift must be used, requiring that it go only toward the construction and endowment of new community centers across the United States, which will be named for Ray and Joan Kroc.

“Washington is a very prime location [for the centers] that would fulfill all the dreams of what Joan Kroc envisioned,” said Salvation Army Maj. George Hood, secretary for national community relations.

Maj. Hood said the requirements attached to the gift show that Mrs. Kroc wanted the centers to go into multicultural neighborhoods populated by at-risk families.

The gift will be divided into four equal amounts and distributed to the four geographic territories that comprise the Salvation Army in the United States. Each of the territories is an independent corporation directed by senior Salvation Army officers.

The territories will direct the planning and construction of new centers, and use professional portfolio managers to assist with oversight of the gift.

The Salvation Army’s preliminary planning indicates that 25 to 30 centers could be built and financed with the gift, but the planning and review process has not fully begun, Mr. Bassett said.

“There is a need for several of these [centers] in this area,” said Maj. Todd Smith, general secretary for the National Capital and Virginia Division of the Salvation Army.

However, officials still are catching their breath over the size of the gift, he said. “We are just trying to get our hand around it,” Maj. Smith said.

Mrs. Kroc died Oct. 12, and the Salvation Army is among several organizations that have received bequests from her estate. She also left $200 million to National Public Radio, the U.S. public radio service.

The largest known single charitable donation to date was the $5 billion that Microsoft founder Bill Gates gave to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.

In 1997, CNN founder Ted Turner announced that he would contribute $1 billion to various U.N. programs over a 10-year period.

Administrators of Mrs. Kroc’s estate still do not know the exact size of the bequest, but they have estimated that it would be in excess of $1.5 billion.

“This is a new era for the Salvation Army in the United States. We can utilize these centers to broaden services for individuals, families, and children at risk,” Mr. Bassett said.

One of the largest charitable and service organizations in the world, the Salvation Army has been in existence since 1865, providing food, clothing and shelter for the homeless, among other services.

It is already a wealthy charity, owning a lot of real estate — often in central business districts of major cities like Chicago.

It has 13 centers in the Washington area and raises $20 million a year to operate those centers.

Mr. Kroc, who died in 1984, founded McDonald’s in 1955.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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