The estate of Joan Kroc will donate $1.5 billion in cash to the Salvation Army, in one of the largest individual charitable gifts ever. The charitable religious organization, which has come under fire for its antigay policies, announced the donation on Wednesday, according to The Wall Street Journal. The late heiress was the billionaire widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc and one of the company's largest individual shareholders. She died at age 75 in October, after a short illness. Kroc gave $100 million to the Salvation Army in 1998 to build a community center. The same year, she donated $25 million to the University of San Diego to establish an Institute for Peace and Justice. This newest endowment is aimed at construction and operation of 30 to 35 new centers, geared to provide recreational and educational facilities to the public.
The Salvation Army and the Bush administration engendered a firestorm of controversy when it was revealed in 2001 that they had met secretly to strike a deal in which the charity could maintain its antigay policies while still taking part in Bush's federally funded "faith-based initiative" program. When news of the secret meeting was leaked to the press, both parties quickly backed off from the proposed deal.