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United Way Suncoast gets $20 million gift from world’s 18th-richest person

Margie Manning

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Jessica Muroff, CEO, United Way Suncoast, announced the $20 million gift at Campbell Park in St. Peterburg.

MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has given $20 million to United Way Suncoast.

It’s the largest gift the Tampa-based philanthropic organization has ever received in its 96-year history, said Jessica Muroff, CEO, during a Wednesday morning news conference in Campbell Park in St. Petersburg.

“This historic gift will  allow us to work deeper in our communities throughout our five-county region. This gift will allow us to create more pathways for success for the most vulnerable in our communities,” Muroff said. “Overnight, the game has changed. Impact will no longer be measured in years. It will be measured in generations.”

The United Way Suncoast board is creating a plan to make sure the gift is invested in a strategic and impactful way. Muroff said the plan will focus on the ALICE community, or “asset limited income constrained employed” individuals and families who earn above the federal poverty level but not enough to afford a bare-bones household budget. That community has been particularly hit hard by Covid-19, she said.

The gift will have a transformative impact on the five-county region United Way Suncoast serves, said Daniel Vigne, chairman of the board.

Daniel Vigne

“Through this, our communities will be healthier, our students more successful, our families will have greater earnings power and our communities will see equity elevated,” Vigne said.

Scott, who is the world’s 18th-richest person, has donated more than $4 billion over the past four months to 384 charitable organizations, with a focus on helping communities with high food insecurity and racial inequality, according to The Hill.

Scott engaged a team of experts to look at more than 6,000 organizations across the country.

“While she didn’t give us specific feedback as to why she selected United Way Suncoast, she looked at our proven track record. She looked at the way we show up in the community and how we serve the community. She looked at our leadership team to know they had faith and trust that we would be good stewards of the dollars and be the ones to elevate the community. That’s what she’s investing in,” Muroff said.

Scott posted a blog on Medium Tuesday, detailing why she is donating to organizations and how she selected them. The donations are given with “no strings attached,” she wrote.

United Way Suncoast was formed in 2012, when United Way of Tampa Bay and United Way of Sarasota consolidated. United Way Suncoast and United Way of Manatee County merged in 2017. The organization serves Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

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1 Comment

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    Rose Smith-Hayes

    December 16, 2020at8:33 pm

    This is great news.

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