Josh Darden, a true Virginia gentleman, found that his interest and work in philanthropy and community fundraising began in 1959 when he returned to Norfolk from the Unites States Army. Working with an organization called the Community Chest (United Way), Mr. Darden called on small business owners to support various causes in downtown Norfolk and before long he was leading the organization’s annual campaigns.
In the 50 plus years since, he’s led many other community efforts, most of which have been a success. We recently spoke with him about the Kroc Campaign and what it will mean for the South Hampton Roads community, and this is what he had to say.
RJ Kroc: Was anything like the Kroc Center ever in your wildest dreams?
When I began hearing about it in San Diego I thought it was probably out of our reach in Norfolk. Then Mayor Fraim encouraged me to help make this happen. I figured the odds were at best 50/50. But Paul reminded me the difference this would make in the community; it would be life-changing for thousands of people.
RJ Kroc: You’ve said that Norfolk is an opportunistic city, what are some examples?
Norfolk has and has had people who are alert and look for opportunities like this. Places like Norfolk International Terminal, Scope, and Chrysler Hall are examples of this. These places have all been immensely valuable for Norfolk, and the Kroc Center will fit in that category, perhaps even at the top.
RJ Kroc: What convinced you to lead this campaign?
If we were successful, what would result in Broad Creek would be so dramatically different than what’s there now that it was worth the effort. It was do-able. I’m not going to get into a losing cause if I can help it.
Over time you’ll see the turn-around the Kroc Center makes in people’s lives. We’re going to have people to help people who don’t have or can’t afford opportunities like what we’ll have at the Kroc Center.
Captain Brett Meredith: Josh, we are grateful to you and the other leaders of this city, who have helped make this dream of a game-changing center like this into a reality. Thank you for your commitment to The Salvation Army!