You know how there's that one person in the family that will show up and flat-out win Christmas, birthdays, and every other gift-giving occasion, seemingly without even really trying? The one that we all hope gets our name for Secret Santa? Well, right now in the world of philanthropy, that person is author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
It's sometimes easy to forget in the midst of such a challenging year that we've also seen some really positive things happen. Case in point, Scott who on Tuesday announced she had donated $4.1 billion to organizations impacted by Covid-19 across the country. This includes record-setting donations to two Houston-area entities: An $18 million donation to the Greater Houston YMCA and a $50 million donation to Prairie View A&M University, the most money from a single donation either entity has ever received.
“We are honored MacKenzie Scott recognized the YMCA of Greater Houston for the impact we have made on the Houston community," Stephen Ives, Greater Houston YMCA president and CEO, stated, according to a release. "This gift reflects our long-standing history of being an integral part of the community and our ability to respond and reinvent to meet pressing needs as they arise."
He went on to note that while the YMCA staff had quickly pivoted to helping the community with food giveaways and addressing other community issues, the organization has lost $50 million of revenue this year. "This gift will allow us to stay the course and amplify our efforts,” Ives said.
These donations were awarded in such a way as to allow the entities receiving them to use the money however they wished. Prairie View, one of two Texas universities to be gifted with funds (the other is Texas A&M International, a predominantly Hispanic school in Laredo), has opted to devote $10 million to juniors and seniors at the HBCU who've been financially impacted by Covid-19, according to the Texas Tribune. The rest of the money will be focused on faculty development, recruitment, scholarships, and academic improvement. "I was stunned and, for a time, speechless," PVAMU President Ruth J. Simmons told KHOU. "At first I thought I had surely misheard the amount, and I asked them to repeat it. They clarified it would be 50. Five-zero million."
And what makes these donations even more satisfying is that they are the result of a pledge Scott (the former wife of Jeff Bezos) made to give back the bulk of her wealth to those who had helped generate it. In total, 384 organizations from across the nation have received funds from Scott in the past four months. “These 384 carefully selected teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and frontlines of all types and sizes, day after day after day,” Scott stated, according to the release. “This kind of encouragement has a special power when it comes from a stranger, and it works its magic on everyone.”
Now a whole bunch of those people, including some right here in Houston, are going to be able to continue doing their work, thanks to Scott's donation. So yeah, there has been plenty of bad news revealed in 2020, but this is decidedly not that. By the way, if reading about all of this giving has gotten you inspired, remember you don't have to be a billionaire to make things a little better for your neighbors this year—or even to think up ways to do good for your fellow Houstonians—because we've got you covered. So get out there—masked and socially distanced, of course—and follow Scott's example by brightening up this difficult year, however you can.