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Mrs. Joan Kroc

On This Day: Salvation Army Receives $1.5 Billion from McDonald's Heiress

January 20, 2011 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Jan. 20, 2004, the Salvation Army announced that McDonald's heiress Joan Kroc had bequeathed roughly $1.5 billion to the charity, the largest individual donation ever given to an organization.

Salvation Army Given $1.5 Billion

Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, had earned a reputation as a generous philanthropist following her husband’s death in 1984. Carrying on his legacy of charity, she donated much of the McDonald’s fortune to causes such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, wildlife preservation, assistance for the homeless and world peace.

“Ray was once asked in an interview why he gave so much of his wealth away,” Mrs. Kroc said. “He said, ‘I've never seen a Brinks truck following a hearse. Have you?’”

Following her death of inoperable brain cancer on Oct. 12, 2003, $1.9 billion of her fortune was bequeathed to charities, her local church, and various educational and cultural institutions. By far the largest beneficiary was the Salvation Army, receiving an astounding $1.5 billion.

Kroc's bequest stunned the Salvation Army, which took several weeks to decide whether it would accept the money. Her will stipulated that the money be used to build and support 25 to 30 community centers across the United States. However, the donation would cover only about half of those expenses, and the Salvation Army was forced to determine whether it could earn the rest through fundraising efforts.

The charity did choose to accept the money and it received 99 applications from communities across the United States. Its fundraising has improved following Mrs. Kroc’s donation. “I wanted my gift to demonstrate to the world my confidence in The Salvation Army,” she had said 10 days before her death.

Background: The Krocs and the Salvation Army

The decision to make such a sizable contribution stemmed from the Krocs’ longstanding respect for the charity and its mission. In fact, Ray Kroc had volunteered as a bell ringer. Mrs. Kroc's family used to speak admirably of the help the organization had provided during the Great Depression, leaving the philanthropist with a deep-seated appreciation for the organization and its work.

Mrs. Kroc made a $90 million donation to the Salvation Army several years before her death. With that money, The Salvation Army established the first Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in San Diego, Calif., featuring facilities for education, performing arts, and a variety of athletics. Her $1.5 billion donation called for 25-30 similar centers to be built.

Reference: The Salvation Army


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