by Kent Embree
More than 300 delegates from across the United States gathered this fall in Chicago for a Kroc Center Conference hosted by the Central Territory. Held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill., the conference spanned four days packed with workshops and presentations on topics ranging from marketing and fitness to leadership and fine arts.
The conference began with a welcome dinner where Commissioner Carol Seiler gave introductions and highlights of the days ahead, National Advisory Board Member Bob Alspaugh greeted the crowd, and Dick Starmann of the McDonald’s Corporation gave the keynote address. Starmann was a trustee for Joan Kroc and worked for her while she made preparations for the original Kroc Center in San Diego, Calif. He also handled the financial planning for her bequest to The Salvation Army in her final days. He shared valuable and often humorous insights into Mrs. Kroc’s personality to help connect the delegates with the Army’s generous benefactor.
On the second day participants loaded six buses and traveled to the Chicago Kroc Center, where they were entertained by a fantastic youth musical dance performance and welcomed by Chicago Kroc Center Senior Officer Major David Harvey. The 166,000-square-foot center with multifaceted venues easily accommodated the conference delegates in a variety of workshops and plenary sessions. Major John Chamness, former administrator of the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Kroc Center, presented the Tuesday keynote, talking about the dual mission of the Army and the “curves” the Kroc Center has provided. He made poignant remarks regarding how Kroc centers adhere to the mission of the Army. “It’s not enough to teach a child to swim,” he said, “and not to address that their greatest need is discovering Jesus Christ.” His current appointment as the divisional commander in the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division also includes a Kroc Center in a developing area of Oahu.
Workshops and “function table” lunches provided networking opportunities. For some delegates, this was their first opportunity to meet and share ideas with their counterparts from other centers, while for others it was a chance to reconnect and share outcomes from the past year.
Commissioner Seiler addressed the Central Territory delegation at a dinner that evening with a major announcement. Steve Bireley was introduced as the new territorial Kroc operations director, providing expertise to both the Central and Western territories. Having worked at the San Diego Kroc Center, Steve has been resourcing the Western Territory in this capacity since 2011. The commissioner then encouraged each table to give their opinions on the greatest obstacles to success, as well as opportunities for the future. Considered of highest priority was the innovation and stretching of Kroc Center programming while balancing the importance of both financial margins and ministry.
The remaining days of the conference included workshops at the hotel and presentations on best practices. The conference concluded with a Kroc Film Festival and a presentation on “First Class Marketing” by Andrew Berlin, CEO of Berlin Packaging, which brought lengthy applause. Commissioner Seiler then gave closing remarks and the benediction, signaling a successful close to the conference.