'Tis the season for Salvation Army bell-ringers, but in San Diego, the donation kettles already appear to be full.

Joan Kroc, 70, heiress to the McDonald's fast-food fortune, has donated $80 million to the San Diego division of the Salvation Army. The donation is the largest ever received by the 133-year-old organization and the philanthropist's largest charitable gift.

The contribution will finance the design and construction of the 12-acre Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center, which will include a gymnasium, ball fields, ice-skating rink, swimming pool, performing arts center, and English- and Spanish-speaking worship centers. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring.

The donation also creates a $40 million endowment to underwrite future facilities maintenance and program management. The center will offer childcare, programs for the elderly, and special classes using a state-of-the-art computer-only library.

Prompted by a visit last year to some of the city's poorest neighborhoods, Kroc told the Salvation Army she wanted to help the city's children. Even with the contribution, bell-ringers will be out in full force this Christmas in San Diego, where the agency has 26 other programs that cost $31 million annually to support.

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