The YMCA of Greater Charlotte has received an $18 million gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott — money the Y will spend in underserved communities to address poverty, nutrition, health disparities and economic mobility.
The organization’s initial focus will be on communities along the West Boulevard and Beatties Ford Road corridors, the Y said in a statement late Monday.
The gift is the biggest donation ever received by the local Y.
Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, made headlines last year when she announced plans to make gifts totalling $4.1 billion to more than 380 organizations, including the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. North Carolina A&T State University got $45 million from Scott’s largesse.
In Monday’s announcement, the Charlotte Y called Scott’s gift “transformational,” coming as it did at a time when the organization saw its revenue decline $40 million last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“…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,” Todd Tibbits, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Charlotte, said in a statement. “Ms. Scott’s gift allows us to put those plans in motion, and in a bigger way than we had originally anticipated.”
The Charlotte Ledger, which first reported the gift late Monday based on an email sent to Y volunteers, noted Tibbits as saying the money will not be used for existing operations or operational needs, such as deferred maintenance.
“100 percent of the funds will be invested in transformative programs that are reflective of the Y’s updated vision and the donor’s emphasis on racial and gender equity and upward mobility,” the Ledger quoted the email as saying.
A plan for spending the $18 million was devised by a task force made up of “community leader Y volunteers,” the organization said in its announcement. On Sunday, the Y’s governing board unanimously approved the task force’s recommendations.
“We have a tremendous amount of important work ahead, and we cannot do it alone,” Theresa Drew, the board’s chair, said in the statement.
The Y’s health initiatives will focus on issues in underserved communities. Plans include increasing access to healthy food and nutrition education, encouraging families and individuals to eat healthy, increasing access to care and mental health services, and expanding programs and services to prevent chronic diseases.
Plans call for transforming some of the Y’s 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,” the statement said.
Another component of the plan will focus on youths and teens in underserved neighborhoods.
“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,” Tibbits said. “We come into this work with a deep understanding that this is what our community needs and what our YMCA is called to be.”