The first Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center opened in 2001 in San Diego, after Mrs. Kroc donated $87 million for its creation. Mrs. Kroc believed the community needed a safe place for children and families to gather and discover people, activities and programs that would otherwise not be possible for them. When Mrs. Kroc passed away in 2003, she left $1.5 billion—which later grew to $1.8 billion—to The Salvation Army for the construction of 27 state-of-the-art community centers across the nation. It was the largest single gift given to any charity at one time, and the largest charitable gift ever received by the Army. The centers were to be patterned after the one built in San Diego and emphasize five key areas for the community: art, athletics, personal development, spiritual discovery and community service. To ensure the longevity of these facilities, Mrs. Kroc stipulated that half of the bequest would go toward the construction cost and the other half would be placed in an endowment, which would be used to offset the operating costs of the centers.
In 2005, when The Salvation Army Hampton Roads Area Command was approved to receive Kroc funds, local Army officials began working with local government officials, including City of Norfolk Vice Mayor Anthony Burfoot, to ensure that the Kroc Center complemented the goals the city held for the community. The fundraising campaign was headed by the late Joshua P. Darden alongside honorary campaign chair Frank Batten, Jr., whose lead gifts and tenacity to garner support allowed us to reach our contribution requirement to the endowment and start construction of the project. We broke ground in July 2012 after raising $25 million locally, in addition to the $80 million granted from Mrs. Kroc’s bequest. Sadly, Mr. Darden passed away in January, a few months before he would see the completion of the facility. The main hall of the Kroc Center is named after him.
Check out this awesome video from The Salvation Army USA that captures what the Kroc Centers are all about: