21 Years of Bottle Deposits Adds Up to $15,000 Donation

21 Years of Bottle Deposits Adds Up to $15,000 Donation

Oct 12

Day by day, dollar by dollar, a single woman has donated an estimated $15,000 to the British Columbia Cancer Foundation over the last 21 years. Gia Tran, who is 62, spends every day patrolling the sidewalks of her neighborhood in downtown Vancouver, B.C., collecting empty bottles. She gathers all she can carry, bulging plastic bags hooked on her arm, and then walks to the bottle return depot to trade them in for cash. Just a few cents each, but it adds up. Each weekday (when the depot is open) she earns $10, maybe as much as $20. Then she walks it directly to the home office of the British Columbia Cancer Foundation, to donate her earnings with a bright air. “It’s always the same,” said Dianne Parker, a receptionist at the foundation’s office. “She comes in with a big smile and she always says, ‘I love everybody here, and I want to help people.’” That fits with what Tran says about her own persistence, going out to hunt recyclables all year-round, over her children’s objections in the winter. “I say: ‘No, I go. I want to help people,’” she describes herself as arguing when her children would rather she stay home in the cold. Tran could take the bus, but the bus drivers tend not to let her carry so much, so if she has a large haul, she walks. She says the trip takes as much as an hour and a half, more if she’s found a lot of glass bottles since they’re heavier than plastic or cans. Sarah Roth, the chief executive of the British Columbia Cancer Foundation, loves seeing Tran each day. “She is like the joy of our day when she comes, absolutely,” Roth told CBC. “No matter what kind of day you’re having, when Gia comes in, you forget about it and you just focus on her warmth and her laughter and her true...

Salesforce Pumps Millions into Underserved Schools

Salesforce Pumps Millions into Underserved Schools

Sep 28

Salesforce.org, the charitable arm of a cloud-computing company based in San Francisco, has been in a philanthropic relationship with two Bay Area school districts for five years now. This year, the combined $15.5 million donations put their contributions over $50 million. San Francisco Unified School District will be receiving $8 million, and the slightly smaller Oakland Unified School District will get $7.5 million. The money is earmarked for STEM support, teacher training, and mindfulness projects. Mindfulness, while something of a workplace buzzword, is a big focus for Salesforce’s charity organization. They want to promote education that takes into account a student’s whole life, a “whole child,” approach. “Because we know that what happens outside of the classroom impacts what happens inside the classroom,” explained Ebony Frelix, the executive vice president and chief philanthropy officer of Salesforce.org. Putting their money where their mouth is, the organization also donated $2 million towards fighting youth homelessness, announced in the same breath on September 25, by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. London Breed, current Mayor of San Francisco, lauded the philanthropic organization. “We are going to change what is normal in San Francisco because we are going to invest in our kids on the front end,” he said. “We are going to make sure that the doors of opportunity in the technology field are open to them.” Oakland Unified School District, which will receive $7.5 million, has formed a “Principal’s Innovation Fund,” where the money can be used at the individual school level. So far, they have used past donations to create a makerspace, support students who are refugees, and incorporate mental health services, all of which increase the ways in which students can access their education. More of the funds have also gone into training teachers to more effectively teach and use technology, and to make computer science education more...

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Unveils $2B Philanthropic Fund

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Unveils $2B Philanthropic Fund

Sep 23

Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, with a net worth in the realm of $160 billion. Money like that, wielded philanthropically, can alter the shape of the world. Bill Gates is already doing that, with his anti-disease efforts worldwide. Andrew Carnegie did it by donating nearly 3,000 libraries to towns and cities around the world. Now, Bezos is making a run at it, with a $2 billion donation to his new “Day 1 Fund”—a two-target foundation to aid low-income communities. One branch is earmarked for homeless families, the other for preschool education. The first half, called the Day 1 Families Fund, is inspired by a nonprofit in Seattle. Mary’s Place, a family-oriented homeless shelter, has the vision statement of, “No child sleeps outside.” The Fund will issue grants and awards to organizations providing shelter and food to young, impoverished families. The second half, the Day 1 Academies Fund, is more hands-on. It will operate a network of “tier 1” full-scholarship preschools in low-income areas. Bezos has been open about his desire to operate both branches like a business as opposed to a nonprofit. This decision has drawn a reasonable amount of criticism from the public. In a tweet posted on September 13, Bezos explicitly called his potential students “the customer,” which many say shows that he inherently misunderstands education and the way that schools work. Nevertheless, this type of donation can still do a tremendous amount of good. Thus, the public has begrudgingly tolerated his faux pax. On the same token, it’s also worth noting that $2 billion is a drop in the bucket for Bezos, as it equals a mere one percent of his assets. But it does mark a large upswing in his charitable giving; previous known donations from himself, his wife, and family only amounted to $135 million, a paltry 0.0008 percent. Hopefully, his latest donation marks the beginning of a new...

81-Year-Old Man Who Cuddles NICU Babies Donates $1M to Hospital

81-Year-Old Man Who Cuddles NICU Babies Donates $1M to Hospital

Sep 13

Sometime last year, Louis Mapp saw a special on local TV about the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital. Eighty years old at the time, he was inspired to become a volunteer. He followed through on that inspiration, and has spent the last year holding and rocking at-risk newborns. It’s the kind of care that increases their chances of survival, but is too time-consuming to occupy busy nurses. “Every day,” Mapp says, “I ask the Lord, ‘Show me, somebody, where I can help them.’ It may not be financially, it may be giving them a ride, or making a phone call, but I figure, while I’m here on earth, I need to do everything I can to help others.” Mapp, who is a father of three, grandfather of eight, and great-grandfather of two, is a very giving man. He is the custodian of the Mapp Family Foundation, a charitable body that has given out approximately 600 grants to aid the underserved. Mapp money has supported drug rehabilitation programs, food banks, and free clinics. Now, through Mapp, the Foundation has made its largest donation yet. Mapp and his wife of nearly 60 years, Melinda, have donated just over $1 million in an endowment to the hospital, to be used as a supplement to their regular budget under the staff’s discretion. “I’m 81 years old, and one of the neatest things I’ve ever done is being around those precious babies, and the nurses that take care of them,” Mapp told People magazine. He wants those nurses, and the other staff who work one-on-one with the patients, to have the freedom to decide what they need. In that light, one of the first things his money will be spent on is special beds for the extremely premature—infants who weigh less than one...

Couple Under Investigation for Defrauding Homeless Man

Couple Under Investigation for Defrauding Homeless Man

Sep 06

Last year, Kate McClure was in an unfortunate situation: out of gas and stranded on the side of the freeway outside of Philadelphia. She was spotted by John Bobbitt Jr., a homeless man who was a regular to that stretch of road. He only had 20 dollars, but he spent it to get her a can and a few gallons of gas, which got her home. McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, said they were determined to pay back his kindness. They gave him warm clothes and $100, but didn’t stop there. They began a GoFundMe on his behalf. Bypassing all expectations, it raised more than $400,000 from 14,000 donors. Bobbitt compared it to winning the lottery. But this is where this warm tale turns cold. A year later, the money is gone, and where it’s gone is unclear. Bobbitt claims he was only ever given $75,000 and less than a third of that in cash. The attorney for McClure and D’Amico claims he was given over half of the raised funds. During the time the GoFundMe was active, the couple promised donors they would use the funds to buy Bobbitt a house and set up two trusts to maintain him and turn the massive windfall into an income. Instead, a tip led Action News of Philadelphia to discover that the two had gone on expensive vacations, helicopter rides, and massive shopping sprees. Suspicious activity, as both McClure and D’Amico’s incomes together would barely stretch to be called middle class. No house for Bobbitt materialized, nor trust. The couple bought him a used camper van, but as he pursued the rest of the money raised in his name, they evicted him, and he is once again homeless. In an interview with the Inquirer, D’Amico said he would continue controlling the money until Bobbitt is drug-free, which was never a part of the fundraising disclosure, and is at odds with the lawyer’s statements that there is no money left. GoFundMe is participating in the courts’ investigation, and if the couple is found to have exploited Bobbitt and all 14,000 donors, has stated they intend to reimburse all donors up to $1,000 a head. They have also provided Bobbitt with $25,000 to help with living...

JJ Watt Provides One-Year Update on Hurricane Harvey Fundraiser

JJ Watt Provides One-Year Update on Hurricane Harvey Fundraiser

Sep 01

On August 26, 2017, Hurricane Harvey blew through Houston and the surrounding areas to become the most costly hurricane in American history, both in lives and livelihoods. It killed 88 people and caused nearly $200 billion worth of property and economic damage. In the aftermath, J.J. Watt, a player on the Houston Texans team, saw the intense need in his adopted hometown immediately. By September 1, 2017, he had put up a fundraiser on the site Youcaring (now absorbed by GoFundMe) with an initial goal of $200,000 dollars. “Hurricane Harvey has taken a catastrophic toll on our great city, while leaving many stranded and in need of assistance. We must come together and collectively help rebuild the aspects of our community members lives that were damaged or lost. Any donation that you can spare, no matter how large or small, is greatly appreciated. We will come out of this stronger than ever. We are Texans,” wrote Watt in the fundraiser’s initial pitch, which was accompanied by a video of the athlete making a heartfelt plea. Within three weeks, more than 200,000 individual donors had amassed a donation of over $37 million. On August 27, 2018, one year after Harvey, Watt, who had promised transparency to his donors, posted an update detailing the reach of the donated funds. Managed by Watt’s charity foundation, the Justin J. Watt Foundation, the money grew over the next year to more than $4.1 million, and was put to use rebuilding more than 600 homes and supporting Houston Food Bank and Feeding America, who together served over 26 million meals to those displaced and put in need by the hurricane. It also supported the rebuilding of 420 childcare centers to serve over 16,000 children, and got medicine to more than 10,000 patients in need. The fund is not exhausted, either. The Foundation intends to continue building homes and assisting Houstonians with medical and food needs as long as they can, alongside nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and the Boys and Girls...

$150k Grant Will Provide Tesla Powerwalls to At-Risk Populations

$150k Grant Will Provide Tesla Powerwalls to At-Risk Populations

Aug 24

In 2017, 14 people in a Florida nursing home died when Hurricane Irma knocked out their power. Without air conditioning, they died of overheating. Twelve of those 14 deaths were ruled to be homicide, as they could have been prevented if anyone had taken action on their behalf. Hurricanes and high heat are a growing fact of life on the east coast of the U.S., and odds are good that this exact scenario will happen again. It is with this in mind that the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity (VLITE) has backed a grant to help. They have offered $150,000 to install 100 massive battery backups in the walls of low-income, high-risk customers. The batteries, Tesla Powerwall 2.0 batteries, are meant for exactly this: to power a home for a short period of time (8-12 hours for a whole house, longer if used selectively) in case of a blackout. Ordinarily, through the provider (Green Mountain Power, in this case) they cost $1,500 upfront or an ongoing $15/month fee. To buy one outright and have it installed can cost over $10,000. Green Mountain reports that the 2000 Powerwalls they’ve already distributed to paying customers can be expected to save them an accumulated $2-3 million over the batteries’ lifespan, and much more for customers who supplement with solar. The customers chosen to receive free batteries and installation with the grant will be mostly senior citizens and the disabled, along with people who have medical needs for uninterrupted power or those who would be endangered by the loss of their air conditioning. VLITE is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation with a mission to represent “the best interests of the public” in building an energy-secure State of Vermont. They are currently overseeing 21 different energy-related grants to a total of nearly $2 million. They are funded by dividends from Vermont Electric Power Company. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Lund via Flickr Creative...

Frequent Flyers Donate Their Miles to Migrant Families in Need

Frequent Flyers Donate Their Miles to Migrant Families in Need

Aug 15

Most Americans collect some kind of travel rewards with their credit cards. As many as two-thirds, actually. And more than a quarter of those just let the miles expire, essentially leaving money owed to them to revert back to the airlines. Most, for instance, don’t actually spend or fly enough in any given year to earn a free flight. So the reward miles add up, then drain away without ever being spent. Beth Wilensky is a law professor at the University of Michigan. Her husband travels often for business, building up a lot of reward miles they never have time to use. This year, instead of letting them expire, her family redeemed miles to put a family back together. Her miles let a father pick up his three-year-old son from Michigan and take him to stay with their extended family. The father and son had been separated by immigration officials at the U.S.-Mexico border, and the little boy sent over 2,000 miles away to a holding center. When they were allowed to reunite, there was no assistance offered for travel. Last-minute tickets sell at a premium; without this help, that father or his family could have spent thousands to get their child back. Wilensky tweeted about her experience, offering to coordinate other potential donors, but the response—140,000 likes and 30,000 retweets on Twitter alone—quickly overwhelmed her ability to respond, so she instead connected interested parties to two charities: Miles4Migrants and Michigan Support Circle. By Friday, only four days after her initial tweet, Miles4Migrants had received nearly 6 million donated miles, and Michigan Support Circle had 252 new donors on standby. It’s a kind of need often overlooked. Travel expenses don’t often seem like a dire strait, but they can be the difference between a family never reunited, an immigrant left homeless with no resources wherever he’s released, and a father and son making it to a safe new home, hearts...