Maine health care nonprofit receives $9 million windfall from billionaire MacKenzie Scott

The Maine Health Access Foundation, an Augusta nonprofit, doesn’t try to solicit money from the public—let alone celebrity philanthropists.

So on a recent afternoon, when President and CEO Barbara Leonard got the call that the organization would receive $9 million from Mackenzie Scott, the news came as a welcome, if not surprising, surprise.

Mackenzie Scott, shown in 2018, announced donations of nearly $2 billion to 343 organizations in a blog post last week. Photo by Ivan Agostini/Invision/AP, File

“I was taken aback and taken aback, and then incredibly happy for Maine,” Leonard said Friday. “It made for a great day at the office.”

MeHAF, which says it is the state’s largest private nonprofit health care foundation, works to improve access to health care for Maine people, especially those who are uninsured or who live under the state’s minimum income. live in small parts. But the work often happens behind the scenes, providing grants and aid to help strengthen organizations that assist Menners in local communities.

Scott, an author who used to be married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has pledged to give away most of the fortune she received when they divorced three years ago. His current net worth is $22.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, ranking Scott No. 61 among the world’s richest people.

Scott’s latest round of gifts, which were announced last week, totaled $2 billion and went to 343 nonprofits addressing social and economic needs. To date, he has donated over $14 billion.

Leonard said the foundation did not know it was under consideration for a gift until it received the call and email. The staff will start figuring out what to do with the money in January, when the fund transfer is due, he said.

Foundation operated by endowment , which is now $118 million – was created in 2000 when Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maine was sold to insurer Anthem Inc. Last year, the foundation issued a total of $4.3 million in grants to organizations doing work in areas such as oral health for children, the elderly. Care and prevention of school violence. Expenses and disbursements totaled $6.1 million.

‘Is it true?’

The foundation is the only Maine-based recipient in the latest round of gifts. Five state organizations have previously received funding from Scott, who married Dan Jewett, a graduate of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, in 1994 following their divorce.

Like Leonard, other recipients have said they didn’t know they had attracted the attention of philanthropists or the counselors who screen candidates for them.

Employees of the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn received a surprise call in November 2020.

“It’s very prudent,” said Erin Fogg, the organization’s vice president of development and communications. “It was, ‘Is this real?’

The food bank received $25 million, which was more than its annual budget.

“It’s a huge and transformative amount,” Fogg said.

Employees immediately started thinking about sharing the reward and extending grants to partner organizations. The food bank has also launched a branch called “Harvesting Good”, which will sell frozen vegetables, starting with main-grown broccoli, to increase food production and strengthen the state’s agricultural economy.

The good cowboy also sets aside some money and will decide how to spend it over the next three to five years.

Fogg said that Scott’s team becomes very handsome once the money is transferred. All they ask, he said, is for a short three-year annual report detailing how the money is used.

“It’s very much based on trust,” Fogg said. “It’s a vote of confidence in our work and the work being done across the state.”

Leonard said he hopes the Maine Health Access Foundation will also earn that trust when its money comes in in January. She declined to give an estimate of how it might be spent and said decisions would be made in consultation with the organization’s board, partner groups and others.

Barbara Leonard, president and CEO of the Maine Health Access Foundation, is shown meeting with two grantee representatives at upper left. The Foundation has received a $9 million donation from MacKenzie Scott. photo courtesy of mehaff

There are many issues affecting health care for Menners, he said, and even with the $9 million windfall, “we can’t address them all.”

Other Maine groups that have received money from Scott are Coastal Enterprises Inc., a community development financial institution, which received $10 million in 2020; Goodwill of Northern New England, which received an undisclosed amount in 2020; Maine Community Foundation’s Expansion Arts Fund, which receives $2.5 million in 2021; and 317 Community Center, a music education organization in Yarmouth, which received $1.5 million in 2021.


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