CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billionaire philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott has gifted the YMCA of Greater Charlotte with $18 million, the largest single donation the organization has ever received.
The surprise contribution comes at the end of the most difficult year in the organization’s nearly 150-year history. In March 2020, the Y suspended all programs and access to its branches and camps, and immediately furloughed most of its workers in response to the pandemic.
“Last year, as we quickly realized that COVID-19 was going to be a long-term crisis and we saw our revenues decline by $40 million, we knew we would need to be a different organization on the other side of the pandemic, with an evolved business model, and focused priorities,” said Todd Tibbits, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Charlotte. “Ms. Scott’s gift allows us to put those plans in motion, and in a bigger way than we had originally anticipated.”
After Scott’s representatives shared with YMCA leadership that the Charlotte Y’s priorities align with her values of racial equity, upward mobility, gender equity and pandemic response, a task force made up of Y volunteers recommended the funds be used for health equity initiatives and youth and teen programming.
The Y’s board unanimously adopted the recommendations.
The Y’s health equity initiatives will address issues surrounding access in underserved communities. Plans include increasing access to healthy food and nutrition education, empowering families and individuals to eat healthy, increasing access to care and mental health services, and expanding chronic disease prevention services.
Youth and teen opportunity initiatives will specifically focus on underserved neighborhoods, building on the success of the Y’s existing summer programs.
In addition, the Y plans to transform some of its existing locations into health equity campuses, where community members will have equitable access to resources and opportunities designed to promote overall health and well-being.
“This is not a ‘one-and-done’ project – this is the beginning of an exciting transformation for our organization, and one that will require strategic partnerships and philanthropic investment to sustain this bold and catalytic vision in the years to come,” said Tibbits.
Scott is the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The couple divorced in mid-2019.
In late July 2020, she announced she’d given nearly $1.7 billion to 119 nonprofit groups.