Jeff Bezos Puts His Wealth to Work for Homeless, Low Income Families

Jeff Bezos Puts His Wealth to Work for Homeless, Low Income Families September 13, 2018

Are you rich?

Might I suggest that when you’re wealthy or a celebrity, you shouldn’t use that as a golden ticket to commit sexual assault, but rather, you should find more altruistic pursuits?

With that in mind, I’m going to express my admiration for Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, once more.

And yes, I know he’s a pretty liberal guy, in general.

What if I told you that one’s political leanings do not negate their worth as a person, or the good they may do for their community?

Let’s start there.

The world’s richest man, with personal wealth of $164 billion, announced today that he and his wife will be pledging $2 billion to begin what they’re calling the Day 1 Fund, aimed at helping homeless families and setting up preschools in low income communities.

 The Bezos Day One Fund will focus on two initiatives, the billionaire announced in an online post Thursday. The first will fund existing nonprofits and issue annual awards to organizations doing “compassionate, needle-moving work” to shelter and support the immediate needs of young families. The second will operate a network of high-quality, full-scholarship Montessori-inspired preschools. The fund’s vision statement comes from nonprofit Mary’s Place in Seattle: no child sleeps outside.

“We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” wrote Bezos. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.”

And I really love Amazon.

I guess he’s looking to make a real impact.

Last year, Bezos sought suggestions from social media, as to how he could contribute in a way that would help people “right now.”

Of course, you know there were more than a few helpful suggestions.

No, the suggestion to back a leather fetish museum in Chicago was not helpful.

Until now, Bezos, 54, had only taken small steps into philanthropy. The Bezos Family Foundation, best known for supporting children’s education, has been largely funded by his parents from Amazon holdings they acquired as early investors in their son’s enterprise. Outside of that, Bezos and his family’s known donations have included gifts to Princeton University and Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

It’s not surprising that the world’s richest person “is finally getting serious about philanthropy,” said David Callahan, founder of website Inside Philanthropy. “With big fortunes like that, the only thing you can really do is give it away — unless you want the government to take half of it through estate tax.”

The staggering fortunes of the likes of Bezos, Gates and Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg have created a second Gilded Age in the U.S. and “a new generation of megagivers,” Callahan said. “It was only a matter of time before Bezos would join this new era of big philanthropy.”

According to Avo Makdessian, director of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Center for Early Learning, this is possibly the single biggest donation made to the cause of preschools, ever.

So why preschool?

It could be based in research.

Research shows 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of 5, yet most charitable gifts pegged for education target older children, according to Makdessian.

I’m thinking of a scene between Steve Martin and Rick Moranis, from the 1989 movie, “Parenthood.” The ambitious Moranis explains to his brother-in-law the potential for learning that exists with toddlers, and bemoans the fact that rather than developing that gift, adults treat them like “adorable little morons.”

I mean, you let kids be kids, but an investment in their intellectual development early isn’t the worst of ideas.

The announcement of this fund puts Bezos in the “You Can’t Take It With You” club, that includes other wealthy men, such as Microsoft boss, Bill Gates, who stepped down as company CEO in 2000, then later began the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation has $51 billion, as of the end of 2017. The goal is to have that fortune spent towards forwarding their philanthropic goals within 20 years of their deaths.

Stocks for Facebook total around $61 billion. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan have said they plan to give away 99 percent of their stock.

Some 184 of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families, including Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk and the co-founders of Airbnb Inc., have joined The Giving Pledge, a commitment started by Gates and Buffett to give away at least half their wealth. Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News, also is a signatory.

Is Bezos going to give away half his wealth? I mean, if he gives away $82 billion, he’d still have almost as much as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, put together.

While Bezos was thinking about where best to put his own money, Amazon stepped up its corporate giving, focused on growing inequality in its hometown of Seattle. Some activists and politicians have partly blamed the city’s problems on Amazon.

In 2016, Amazon renovated a vacant hotel on land designated for its new headquarters so it could be used temporarily by the nonprofit Mary’s Place to shelter 200 homeless families. Amazon is designating 47,000 square feet of space at its new corporate office for a permanent Mary’s Place shelter.

I know people working for Amazon. They’re getting paid a livable wage.

I know Bezos and Amazon have been targeted by President Trump and his loyalists, but there’s no denying that these are good deeds.

Capitalism has worked for him, and he’s turning it back to the community.

That’s how you do it.

Kudos, Mr. Bezos. Well done.

 

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • IllinoisPatriot

    Well done indeed.

    Trump is just jealous because HIS businesses keep going bankrupt. Those that are not financially strapped or outright fraudulent seem to need constant infusions of Russian cash.

    Until he became POTUS, Trump was able to “hide” his failures and his management incompetencies by becoming a laughingstock – NYC’s “court jester”. Once he obtained national prominence, his actions, his history and his business enterprises appear to be receiving much closer scrutiny – scrutiny that I have no doubt Amazon would both welcome and benefit from to clean out whatever pockets of corruption invariably grow in large organizations but which Trump and HIS organizations cannot withstand.

    The difference between a basically moral and ethical person and an unethical mountebank.

  • Widuran

    Good for him and the people he helps

  • Barros Serrano

    Looking at the big picture, social change is effected largely via government.

    Philanthropy, it has been said, is bandaids, not a cure.

    If these new cyber robber barons wish to have an impact, they could start by refraining from supporting miscreant anti-poor anti-woman anti-minority anti-earth Republicans!

    Put all that money into electing a decent President… counter the evil done by the Kochs, et al.

    And Zuckerberg: stop coddling the Russians.

  • bill wald

    I’ve been thinking about these things since 1958, my first year at college. I’m tired of shoveling sand against the tide. There is no fiscal, political, or legislative reason why any American old enough to buy alcohol is living in the streets. Lots of almost legit reasons and excuses, most are personal choices.

  • Chorbais Dichault

    All hail Karl the Baptist (Marx) and Bezos Christ!

  • Barros Serrano

    What an ignorant comment. I suppose you’d rather we just let people die, let abusers run amok, laugh at the victims and raise a glass to Odin, eh?

    The Scandinavians evolved past that thinking; so should you.

  • gimpi1

    You’re mistaken.

    When I was working in downtown Seattle, I met several people who were homeless. One had lost a job when he broke his leg in an accident. His landlord kicked him out, and he had moved here from Montana a few months before – no family in the area, and he spent his savings relocating. Another, an older lady had been downsized in the Great Recession, and found that her executive assistant skills were no longer valued. She wasn’t strong enough for retail or work that would keep her on her feet all day. (She had tried.) She had no family and had bled her savings dry. Another woman had fled an abusive husband, and had had to quit several jobs as he kept finding her. He had some high-powered legal talent, and court cases, along with constantly relocating, had left her destitute. She didn’t want to contact family, because he had threatened them. Then there was the fellow with the brain tumor …

    I made it a point to talk to people who asked for change. I learned a lot. Could these people have made some different choice that might have changed things? Perhaps… or perhaps not. I’m not able to pass such a test of perfection – can you?

    Oh, and what about the kids? Mr. Bezos is concentrating his efforts on seeing that children have shelter and educational opportunities. Do you think that’s somehow bad?

  • bill wald

    When I worked 30 as a beat cop for the SPD, 20 downtown, I talked to the poor and oppressed and got along just fine with most of them. I heard many of the back stories behind the stories.

    No, nothing wrong with helping kids if done right.