If you’re familiar with Downtown Greenville, you have probably seen or heard of The Salvation Army Kroc Center. You may have attended a corporate luncheon in the Conference Center, celebrated your niece’s birthday at the swimming pool, or worked out in the fitness center. Recently, you may have even seen the movie “The Founder,” featuring the story of McDonalds franchise owner, Ray Kroc.
You also may be familiar with The Salvation Army in one or more capacities. Maybe you’ve seen bellringers at the store front of your favorite retailer each Christmas Season, or you’ve donated your unwanted clothing items to one of the Family Stores.
It probably seems as though these two entities are fairly different- one focused in the heart of Downtown Greenville, hosting events and providing space with physical activities- and the latter, serving those on the margins of society, meeting basic needs of families struggling to make ends meet. What brings these two things together in such a capacity that the Kroc Center shares its name with The Salvation Army?
Ray Kroc was a true American success story and the man behind the expansion of the McDonald’s Corporation. Joan Kroc was his devoted wife, coming a well-known philanthropist after Ray’s death in 1984. When it was time to decide how best to pass on their fortune to benefit the world, she chose The Salvation Army. This decision was based on her immense confidence in The Salvation Army to do the most good with their legacy.
The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers were born out of a vision that all people should have access to resources that can help them reach their full potential. When Mrs. Joan Kroc passed away in October 2003, she left $1.5 billion to make sure this vision became a reality.
The initial disbursements of this bequest began in January 2005. The gift had then grown to $1.8 billion and was split evenly among the four territories of The Salvation Army- Southern, Eastern, Central & Western. The funds were designated to build a series of state-of-the-art Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers nationwide patterned after the original Kroc Center in San Diego, CA. There are currently 26 operational Kroc Centers across the country and in Puerto Rico. Mrs. Kroc’s gift remains the largest individual philanthropic bequest ever made in the United States.
Kroc Greenville on Westfield Street in Downtown Greenville celebrates six years of operation this month and still stays true to its mission of providing facilities, programs, and services that encourage positive living, offers life-changing experiences for children and adults, strengthens families, and enriches the lives of seniors. This mission is lived out through programs like The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, the “Young at Heart” Seniors Club, Teen Night, Swim Academy, Kroc Adult League, tennis clinics for youth and adults, group fitness classes, and more much.
Down the road on Rutherford Street, The Salvation Army’s Social Ministries Campus has provided direct services to meet basic human needs in Greenville County since 1904, and particularly at the Rutherford Street Campus since 1927. Programs offered by The Salvation Army on Rutherford Street include Emergency Homeless Shelters, Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation, Rent & Utility Assistance, and Food & Clothing Assistance.
Although the individual programs offered on Westfield Street at the Kroc Center and on Rutherford Street at The Salvation Army seem different on the surface, they are foundationally similar. Both sites exist to serve others in God’s name, offering life-changing services for those in our community.
In celebration of the Kroc Center’s Sixth anniversary, the community is invited to attend Kroctoberfest, a family festival and open house on Saturday, October 14 from 10am-2pm at 424 Westfield Street in Greenville.