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Task force considers how to use community center gift money

BOISE – A task force headed by Idaho first lady Patricia Kempthorne is considering how to use a possible gift of as much as $40 million to pay for one or more new community centers around the state.

The share of money would be from $1.9 billion Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, gave to the Salvation Army.

She stipulated the money must be used to build between 25 and 30 community centers across the nation.

Rick Hempsmyer, spokesman for the Salvation Army of Ada County, said the Idaho Kroc Initiative Task Force met for the first time Thursday.

He said there is “an excellent chance” some of that money will wind up in Idaho, and the group is discussing whether it should fund one large facility or multiple smaller community centers around the state.

Representatives from Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Lewiston, Coeur d’Alene and Mountain Home will make a case for a center in their cities before the task force meets again Sept. 24.

Then the 31 members of the task force will announce their preference for building a single or multiple facilities.

So far, Kroc money has financed one center, the $90 million Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center in San Diego.

It covers 12 acres and includes pools, an ice rink and a performing arts center.

Hempsmyer said a Kroc center or centers in Idaho would be more modest.

The task force recommendation will be forwarded to the Salvation Army’s Cascade Division, then to the Western Territory administration, which has final say on how the Kroc donation will be spent.

Hempsmyer said he expects a decision by the end of the year and a center could be completed within two years.

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