Triangle Meals on Wheels chapters receive $2 million donation from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- At first, Meals on Wheels of Durham Executive Director Jason Peace couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"I believe my initial reaction was I was a little surprised, shocked, humbled, flabbergasted - all that rolled up into one. During the conversation that we had with the representatives, once they shared the actual amount we'd be receiving, my jaw kind of dropped. And I had to ask them again, 'hey can you repeat that,'" recalled Peace.

The chapter received $750,000 from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Last month, Scott wrote a Medium post outlining her charitable undertaking, where she detailed working with her team to identify and support 384 non-profits across the country. In total, she donated more than $4.1 billion.

"We do this research and deeper diligence not only to identify organizations with high potential for impact, but also to pave the way for unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached. Because our research is data-driven and rigorous, our giving process can be human and soft. Not only are non-profits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fundraising, and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them," Scott wrote in part.

Peace said the donated amount equals about half their annual budget.

"It's a tremendous amount of money. We anticipate it being very transformative for our organization," said Peace.

It's also coming at a critical time, as the chapter has seen increased need since the beginning of the pandemic.

"We've probably seen an increase of about 50% in the number of meals that go out," noted Peace, who added they work with upwards of 560 clients on a weekly basis.

Scott also made a $1.5 million donation to Meals on Wheels of Wake County. In a statement, Board President Catherine Wood told ABC11:

"We are beyond grateful for the generosity of this grant. It will make a vast impact for homebound seniors facing food insecurity in Wake County. Our team is eager to get to work on broadening the scope of our program, and creating new and innovative ways to benefit the lives of seniors in need."

Both Meals on Wheels chapters said they are still determining how to best use the donated funds.

"Our number one goal in every year is to feed more people. We get referrals on a daily basis and those are only from the folks that we know of. And so there may be other individuals in the community that we don't know of that we want to also reach and try to support the best we can too. So obviously we want to try to feed everyone we can," said Peace.

The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which partners with ABC11 on the annual ABC 11 Together Food Drive, received a donation from Scott, but did not disclose the amount. In a statement, President and CEO Peter Werbicki told ABC11:

"The Food Bank is incredibly thankful to receive a generous gift from Ms. Scott, and appreciates the trust that has been placed in our organization and our partners to build solutions that will end hunger.

Given the current environment we're operating in and challenges to the food system, it's incumbent on us to be strategic with this gift. We will look to the tactics we've had in place, and those we've wanted to put into action but lacked resources, that have and will move the needle toward food security in our communities.

We look forward to sharing our plans, and the impact of this gift for the people we serve, in the coming months."
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