TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Author, philanthropist, and billionaire MacKenzie Scott has again made a multimillion charitable gift with effects felt in Tampa Bay. The previous donation to help in the Tampa area was a gift to Habitat for Humanity.
After her divorce from Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, she got $36 billion in the settlement and has since been donating it to multiple charity efforts. This time, Scott gave $44 million to Friends of the Children, with some of the funds going to their Tampa Bay chapter.
Scott previously pledged to fund a variety of projects in 2019, noting in a letter on her blog that she had “a disproportionate amount of money to share.” Scott said she continues her charitable giving “until the safe is empty,” an implication that she’ll keep going until the money has all been spent.
Friends of the Children serves children in need of mentorship and those at risk of becoming welfare beneficiaries. The non-profit program has multiple chapters as well as a national organization. The $44 million from Scott gave $15 million to the national headquarters and split the remaining $29 million between 12 of its 26 chapters across the U.S. in an unrestricted gift.
“We are honored to kickstart our 30th anniversary of serving children with this extraordinary gift from MacKenzie Scott. This catalytic investment means we will continue expanding across the country to provide a Friend to thousands more youth,” Terri Sorensen, CEO of Friends of the Children – National, said. “In 2020, nearly 32,000 children ages four to six entered foster care in the U.S. – that’s 32,000 children and families who may have avoided foster care involvement if they’d had a Friend by their side.”
As of 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families reported there were 407,493 children in foster care. Only 57,881 were adopted in 2020, and 224,396 children exited foster care. According to HHS, the 407,000 children in foster care in 2020 was the lowest amount nationally since 2014.
In Florida, there were 23,518 children in care, with 13,392 who entered the system that year. 4,534 children in Florida were adopted in 2020.
The Tampa chapter of the Friends of Children organization received $1.1 million from Scott’s donation, according to a statement from their communications team.
“We select children who face multiple systemic obstacles,” according to Friends of the Children’s description of how they operate. “We amplify their voices as they write their own stories of hope and resilience.”
Through mentorship programs, Friends of the Children gives a child a paid professional mentor, called a Friend. According to the organization, this mentorship lasts 12 or more years, “no matter what.” According to reporting by the Associated Press, Scott’s donation nearly doubles the organization’s overall resources, since the national network’s budget for 2022 was $50 million.
In terms of results, the non-profit’s Tampa chapter said 92% of the children they help go to college, serve the country, or enter the workforce and 93% “remain free from involvement in the juvenile justice system.”
“We are honored to receive this historic gift from MacKenzie Scott,” Rick McClintock, Executive Director of Friends – Tampa Bay, said about the gift. “We are most excited about what this gift means for the youth we currently serve – many of them impacted by the foster care system – and the many more we will get to serve. For the last eight years, our Friends have often been the sole consistent adults in these youths’ lives. Our youth have big dreams and unending potential – the impact of this gift will reverberate beyond these youth, reaching their families, peers, and community.”