Goodwill of the Heartland on Friday announced a significant donation of $10 million from billionaire writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott as part of a generous gift presented to 384 organizations across the nation.

This is the largest single gift to Goodwill of the Heartland in its 55-year history, the nonprofit said in a release. The investment comes at a time when more than 10 million Americans are unemployed and urgently need help finding their next jobs. This gift will enable Goodwill of the Heartland to expand and deliver its mission in the 19 counties that it serves (including the Quad-Cities) to equip individuals with the skills they need to get back to work and onto sustainable career paths.

The Rock Island-based YWCA has not disclosed the amount of its gift from Scott.

Goodwill of the Heartland is dedicated to closing the skills gap and eliminating the associated challenges created by inequities. “This generous gift will be used to help those who need it the most, including people of color, low-wage workers, workers with low educational attainment, people with disabilities, veterans and people impacted by the criminal justice system, among others,” the organization’s release said..

“We are uniquely positioned to lead the way in ensuring that every individual, regardless of challenges and backgrounds, has access to the skills and services they need to face today’s economic situation,” said Pat Airy, President and CEO of Goodwill of the Heartland.

It is among 46 Goodwill affiliates nationwide to receive donations from Scott. Nationally, Goodwill Industries was founded in 1902 in Boston, Mass., by a Methodist minister named Edgar J. Helms. Helms grew up in Iowa in the Spirit Lake area and is a graduate of Cornell College in Mount Vernon.

“We are humbled, honored and extremely grateful for MacKenzie Scott’s transformative contribution, which will address the growing need for skills training for job seekers and help them move onto sustainable career paths,” Airy said. “It is validation of the important work that we do at this critical time when thousands of individuals in the communities that we serve are struggling to find jobs.”

Goodwill’s mission-based model is proven – providing a breadth of services that range from job readiness, skills training (including digital skills, certifications and credentials) and employment placement and support services.

YWCA president/CEO Julie Larson (left) with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Deanna Woodall, vice president of development for the YWCA.

The mission of Goodwill of the Heartland is to advance the social and economic well-being of people who experience barriers to independence. Goodwill offers life and job skill development, work experience, job placement assistance, day habilitation, supported community living, workforce services to employers and contract manufacturing, assembly and packaging.

In 2019, Goodwill provided more than 20,000 services to people with barriers in its 19-county service area and helped over 700 individuals find employment.

Goodwill and YWCA both received Scott gifts

In addition to the regional Goodwill, YWCA Quad Cities is among the 384 charities throughout the U.S. that have received a donation from MacKenzie Scott, a 50-year-old American novelist, billionaire, and venture philanthropist. She has donated $4.1 billion to nonprofit organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and the YWCA is just one of two recipients that serve the Quad-Cities.

“These 384 carefully seleted teams have dedicated their lives to helping others,” Scott explained in a Dec. 15 post on Medium, “working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and frontlines of all types and sizes, day after day after day.

“They help by delivering vital services, and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being,” she wrote. Scott is the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

She worked with a team of advisors to help her accelerate her 2020 philanthropic giving through “immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis,” according to a Thursday release from the Rock Island-based YWCA.

Pat Airy is president and CEO of Goodwill of the Heartland.

“Together with her team, Ms. Scott took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results. It is even more astounding that this gift was unsolicited and most definitely unexpected; however, it is certainly greatly needed,” the YWCA said.

“We have seen first-hand the negative impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had right here in the Quad-Cities community, and are excited to begin the process of allocating these funds to create bigger and better programming to serve those in need,” the release said. “There will always be a lot of work to be done; the generosity of Ms. Scott allows YWCA Quad Cities to be remain in the forefront with our efforts.”

YWCA Quad Cities has been a nonprofit in the Q-C community for more than 103 years, with a mission of eliminating racism and empowering women by regularly and intentionally standing up for social justice, and helping women, children and families to make for a stronger community.

“One of the biggest challenges that we deal with more often than not, is wanting to provide bigger and better programming, but not having the funds available to do it,” YWCA president/CEO Julie Larson said Thursday. “Well, today that changes!”

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Deanna Woodall, YWCA vice president of development and growth, who noted she could not reveal the grant amount. “It was a huge surprise. We had no idea. It was unsolicited, unexpected.”

YWCA Quad Cities has been fundraising for its new facility capital campaign since receiving endorsement from the Quad Cities Contributors Council in November 2019, and recently announced it’s raised over half of the $9-million goal. The Scott donation will not be used for that campaign, but will definitely give it a boost, Woodall said.

“She focused really hard on organizations with strong leadership and that makes us really proud of ourselves,” Woodall said. “Hopefully, this

MacKenzie Scott has donated $4.1 billion to 384 organizations nationwide.

will encourage other people to give, who maybe were thinking, ‘What is the future of the YWCA?’ The future is very bright.”

“We are beyond excited about the future of YWCA Quad Cities as we begin to see a dream become a reality,” Larson said of the new building plans in downtown Rock Island.

The capital campaign is to build a new $9-million Rock Island center at the old Zimmerman Honda site on 5th Avenue and 18th Street, two blocks from the YWCA current facility.

The former car dealership has been torn down and they plan to begin construction on a new 38,000-square-foot building in the spring, which will take a year to complete, Woodall said.

In her divorce from Jeff Bezos last year, MacKenzie Scott received a 4% stake in Amazon – then valued at $37 billion. Amid the stock market’s pandemic boom, those shares would now be

Goodwill of the Heartland was founded in 1965, and serves the Quad-Cities, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, among other cities.

worth about $62 billion, though it’s not clear how much of the fortune she has sold.

According to Forbes, Scott is the third-richest woman in the world, estimating her worth at $55.1 billion after her most recent donations.

YWCA Quad Cities is among 60 YWCAs nationwide to receive funding from Scott; there are also 43 YMCAs, and 45 United Way chapters, but none of those are in the Q-C. Though 42 food banks nationwide affiliated with Feeding America are getting assistance. River Bend Food Bank was not on the list.

“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” Scott wrote in the post announcing the donations. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

For more information on YWCA services, visit ywcaqc.org or call 309-788-3479 or 563-340-0310. To learn more about the local Goodwill (which also serves Muscatine, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Burlington), visit www.goodwillheartland.org or call 1-866-466-7881.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.