As The Cliff reported in an earlier post, the foundation, established by Family Dollar Stores founder Leon Levine and wife Sandra (pictured above), has been on a giving spree lately.
Seems every time they hear of a nonprofit threatened by the current economic strife, they jump in with the foundation's substantial assets -- about $200 million -- to perform a rescue mission.
"The Levines have always been generous and tried to help," said Tom Lawrence, the foundation's vice president and spokesman. "But they understand that in today's unique and challenging economy, their philanthropy has become even more important."My sense is that they really enjoy it. The community has been very supportive of them and the business that Mr. Levine created. They recognize the importance of giving back and this is their chance -- at a time when it's really needed."
The Levines rescued Charlotte's Hope Haven -- the well-known addiction recovery program for the homeless -- with a $50,000 grant in April to help repair a leaky roof. In May, they donated $25,000 to the financially strapped Charlotte Symphony to cover its bills. In June, the foundation committed $1 million to help Teach for America put 225 college graduates in high-poverty Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.
And last month, the foundation decided to advance Central Piedmont Community College the first $300,000 of a $2 million gift that it was supposed to begin paying in 2010. That decision came after Levine and foundation officials read that CPCC has been hit hard by rising enrollment and budget cuts.
Lawrence said that Leon Levine is intricately involved in deciding who gets his foundation's money. Levine retired as head of Family Dollar in 2003, and now at 72, is turning his foundation work into a second career.
He stays informed of the agencies that need help that the "foundation has partnered with in the past," Lawrence said. "The focus tends to be agencies that have we know have a strong impact on the community and that make a difference. In most cases, we know the folks involved, we know their impact.
"Mr. Levine really drives the process. He's involved in every level of the decision-making. He enjoys seeing the positive impact that his money brings; he does enjoy giving it away."
Now, it's Pat's Place and the children it helps feeling his generosity.
"We're not able to serve all the kids we need to serve because of financial constraints," Pfeiffer said. "Their grant gets us much closer to that goal. They are so generous and we couldn’t do what we do without them, as many other organizations couldn’t."