HOUSTON — Christmas came early to several Houston-area organizations this year when they received a substantial donation from MacKenzie Scott, a notable philanthropist and the former wife of billionaire Jeff Bezos.
Scott announced in a blog post Tuesday she had donated an estimated $4.16 billon in recent months to 384 organizations across the United States, including Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
"This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling," Scott wrote. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires."
She didn't choose these organizations alone. Scott said she recruited a team of advisers to evaluate 6,490 groups, of which she picked 384 organizations out of the 822 recommended.
The donations went out to various non-profits— from legal aid groups and foodbanks to diversifying education and coronavirus relief funds— throughout all 50 states. The goal was to have as great an impact as possible, the philanthropist said.
Scott didn't breakdown how much money was donated to each organization, but it's been confirmed a $50 million gift went to Prairie View A&M University and $18 million to YMCA of Greater Houston.
"I was stunned and, for a time, speechless," PVAMU President Ruth J. Simmons said. "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."
The university confirmed it was the largest donation in the university's 144-year history and made the PVAMU endowment one of the biggest for a Historically Black College or University.
It's the largest single donation for the YMCA of Greater Houston since it was established 134 years ago, the group told KHOU 11.
Here is a full list of the organizations based in the Houston area:
- Easter Seals of Greater Houston
- Goodwill Houston
- Meals on Wheels Montgomery County
- YMCA of Greater Houston
- Prairie View A&M University
Scott closed her post with a call for others to join in the generosity in whatever way they can.
Since first started to take a toll on the U.S. economy in March, Scott and other billionaires have significantly increased their fortunes. Scott gained $24 billion this year, bringing her value to $60 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Most of her wealth is tied to Amazon, which has reportedly seen a 67 percent sales boost amid the pandemic.
Her charitable contributions come on the heels of her signing the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic campaign founded by celebrated investor Warren Buffett, in 2019, vowing to donate most of her wealth to various causes over her lifetime.
In the post, Scott said her giving spree was inspired by grassroots efforts to help people in need, such as community fridges and "impromptu person-to-person Venmo gifts."