The Chicago Kroc impact
Since the Chicago, Ill., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center opened in June 2012, more than 5,700 individuals have joined. Members are active and finding the Kroc Center to be a life-changing place where dreams are realized.
Last summer more than 400 children registered for the 10-week day camp, which included activities like art, dance, golf, soccer, basketball, science/math tutoring and Bible classes. The day camp culminated with the musical The Wiz (an adaptation of the Wizard of Oz).
In July the Kroc Center also hosted an outdoor gospel concert and its annual Summer of Abundance and Hope back-to-school health fair which brought in over 4,000 people. The festival offered carnival games and food with an opportunity to meet NASCAR driver Jared Marks, who showcased his race car and signed autographs. Together with Christ Universal Temple, more than 1,000 backpacks were given to children in need.
American Idol star Jennifer Hudson promoted her charity, Julian D. King Gift Foundation, at the Kroc Center. The event was in memory of her nephew Julian's birthday and assisted more than 5,000 families with school supplies. Jennifer and her sister, Julia, returned to the Chicago Kroc at Christmas to give out toys. "She has allowed healing in a tragic situation to bless others," said Major Darlene Harvey, Chicago Kroc officer for congregational life.
The center enables people of all ages in the community to connect with one another and families to draw closer. For instance, one young man brings his four-year-old nephew, who he is raising, to the Kroc Center nearly every day. He takes advantage of every outreach event and nurturing activity where the two can bond.
When the community was surveyed in 2006, they identified a teen center and senior center as primary program needs. These needs are being met through intergenerational activities and programming.
Under the leadership of soldier Dietrich Hunter, 18 young people took part in "I'll Fight Day" by providing children's ministries a "Little Buddy" mentorship program, performing random acts of kindness in God's name at Navy Pier and taking part in an anti-human trafficking presentation.
The Chicago Kroc Center has built a vibrant senior program with more than 100 older adults participating daily in the senior center and many more in the broader fitness and health programs. Lunch is offered two days a week, and the center regularly hosts line dancing classes, health classes, golf, computer training, and much more. "One of our seniors said he was finally realizing his dreams by taking golf lessons, learning the computer and how to dance," said Darlene.
Additionally six adults have become senior soldiers, twelve have become adherents and three were enrolled as junior soldiers. "It's exciting to see how God has brought new people to our corps in various ways; some through the senior program, some through friendships and others through Kroc Center activities," said Darlene. "They are being brought together for one purpose: to bring glory to God."
The 160,000-square-foot Chicago Kroc Center sits on 33 acres and encompasses a sports training and fitness recreation center, aquatics center complete with indoor water park, state-of-the-art auditorium and Chicago Bulls basketball court. Functioning with the Army's holistic ministry, this center's particular focus is to be a place where individuals can pursue dreams and employment, decrease violence and provide safe, enriching opportunities for the community.