Kroc Center gets a family visit

Somewhere, Joan Kroc giggled over her great-grandson's boyish innocence.

What began with a tour of the Kroc Center in Chicago ended in South Bend Friday afternoon with Joan Kroc's great-grandchildren standing in the community center bearing their great-grandmother's name handling media questions like pros.

"The one thing I'm taking away," said 11-year-old Scotty Latimer, "is the satisfaction of the people in Chicago, in knowing that their lives are going to be changed by this ... also in South Bend.

"I said, 'Chicago,'" the youngster backtracked to the delight of his twin sisters, Isabel and Serena, both 14, and the adults who were also touring the South Bend Kroc Center, including the siblings' parents, Amanda and Troy Latimer.

Amanda Latimer is the granddaughter of Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc and founder of the concept to build state-of-the-art recreational and arts facilities in low-income communities.

Joan Kroc died in 2003. Her vision was entrusted to The Salvation Army with the largest gift ever given to a private charity for the express purpose of building and endowing Kroc centers throughout the nation.

With 20 centers operating and "six more on the chalkboard," according to Scotty Latimer, the Salvation Army's new $60 million Kroc Center in South Bend has been up and running for six months.

On Friday, Joan Kroc's San Diego-based family began the day in Chicago before driving to South Bend to tour the state-of-the-art facility and have dinner in the Kroc Center's banquet hall.

"Oohs" and "ahhs" filled the nursery when Amanda Latimer picked up a small girl while husband Troy lifted a toddler boy to his shoulders.

The parents, however, handed the public speaking duties over to their kids, a chore the twin teenagers and their younger brother settled into comfortably in front of two television cameras and one tape recorder.

"I love the entrance," Isabel Latimer said of the Kroc Center's front lobby. "The staircase is really cool."

"This is somewhere where kids can go and get off the streets and ... where they can come after school and have a snack and do homework," Scotty Latimer said.

"Hang out," Isabel Latimer added.

"Go swim in the pool, play baseball," Scotty continued.

"And have those opportunities..." Serena Latimer noted, with her brother finishing her thought with "... that they might not have if there wasn't a center here."

And Scotty emphasized that he knew which Kroc Center he was plugging this time.

"It's a great honor being here in South Bend today, on behalf of my great-grandmother Joan," he said. "And it's one of the best centers I've seen to date.

"It's magnifi-kent," Scotty said, as his sisters and the adults in the room cracked up over the mispronunication.

"Magnificent," he corrected through a giggle. "It's beautiful.

"Mag ... nif ... eee ... cent."

Staff writer Jeff Harrell:
jharrell@sbtinfo.com
574-235-6368