- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Fifteen nonprofit groups and historically Black colleges and universities in Virignia, Maryland and the District have recently received a total of more than $253 million from novelist Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, as part of her $4.2 billion philanthropic endeavor this year.

“This is an incredible opportunity to really double-down on the things that we’re already doing,” John Hoey, CEO and president of the YMCA of Central Maryland, said Wednesday.

He said the nonprofit had received $18 million from Ms. Scott’s philanthropy project. Mr. Hoey said he had been sworn to secrecy about the donation and first told the organization’s board about it Tuesday, adding that he had not yet decided how to invest the money.

“This is by orders of magnitude the largest gift we’ve ever received as an organization,” Mr. Hoey said, adding that COVID-19 has “eviscerated” the YMCA’s financial situation.

Other regional recipients include:

YWCA South Hampton Roads ($2 million)

YMCA South Hampton Roads ($10 million)

United Way of South Hampton Roads ($10 million)

United Way of Central Maryland ($20 million)

Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia ($10 million)

Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland ($8 million)

Morgan State University ($40 million)

Bowie State University ($25 million)

University of Maryland-Eastern Shore ($20 million)

Norfolk State University ($40 million)

Virginia State University ($30 million)

United Way of National Capital Area ($20 million)

The donations to the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington and the YWCA of Central Virginia were not made available to The Washington Times.

Ms. Scott announced in a blog that a team selected organizations that have a “high potential for impact,” emphasizing leadership teams and documented history in addressing systemic problems, from food deserts to racial inequity.

A number of community colleges and historically Black colleges and universities said the gifts set new individual records. Norfolk State University called Ms. Scott’s gift a “towering” sum.

The gift will give “support for transforming the curious thoughts of our students into the brightest minds of our world,” Norfolk State President Javaune Adams-Gaston said in a statement.

Other schools said they would spend the gift on increasing endowments or investing in grants to make college tuition more affordable.

“We’re grateful to Ms. Scott for recognizing the great work we do at University of Maryland Eastern Shore especially with first-generation college students,” said university President Heidi M. Anderson, who noted that the gift would boost the college’s endowment from $30 million to $50 million.

Stephanie Archer-Smith, executive director of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland Inc., called the gift “extraordinary.”

“It is exciting to consider the changes we will achieve as a result, but it will not change our mission,” Ms. Archer-Smith said in an email to The Times. “Rather, it will deepen our resolve, making it possible to continue to meet a growing need, made worse by the pandemic, the effects of which will be long lasting for so many.”

Philanthropic observers noted the gift was unique for targeting already established nonprofits and giving of funds without restrictions.

“One was confidentiality until the donor was prepared to make a statement and two was that they asked for three years to give them a simple report on how we’re doing,” Mr. Hoey said.

In total, 384 organizations in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District will share in nearly $4.2 in donations, including food banks, emergency relief funds “and support services for those most vulnerable.”

After donating $1.68 billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations in July 2019, Ms. Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Christopher Vondracek can be reached at cvondracek@washingtontimes.com.

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