The organization that is known today as the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation was created in 1988 by Jackie Joyner-Kersee as a grant-making organization supporting the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Gold Medal Scholarship program. In 1986, during a visit to her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois, Jackie learned of the closing of the Mary Brown Community Center, a major resource for youth development, leadership, athletic, and other recreational activities since 1968. The Centers impact on Jackie had been considerable, and, in her mind, a key ingredient in the development of her own character. It helped create the foundation for her significant athletic successes in track and field and in life. Upon learning that the Center was closed, Jackie asked, What do the youth in the city do now?
The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation remained based in Los Angeles from 1988 until 1995 when it moved to the St. Louis area. The Kersee’s saw the Foundation as a broad-based anchor in the St. Louis region, able to provide leadership on many fronts. They set a goal to build a youth center and develop programming to serve youth in the East. St. Louis community and joined with a local effort to turn Jackie’s dream into a reality.
Under Jackie’s leadership, the Foundation raised over $12 million from a variety of corporate, foundation and government sources and from scores of committed local individuals. The result was the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center and an endowment. With an initial cost of nearly $10 million, the Center was constructed on a 37-acre site adjacent to Interstate 64 and Kenneth Hall Park in East St. Louis. It officially opened on March 1, 2000.