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MacKenzie Scott donates $6M to Pinellas Urban League

The organization is the latest in Tampa Bay to benefit from a ‘Giving Pledge’ made by the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The call notifying the Pinellas County Urban League about a $6 million donation from MacKenzie Scott came on the birthday of the late Rev. Watson L. Haynes II, the organization’s longtime president and chief executive officer, shown here in 2020.
The call notifying the Pinellas County Urban League about a $6 million donation from MacKenzie Scott came on the birthday of the late Rev. Watson L. Haynes II, the organization’s longtime president and chief executive officer, shown here in 2020. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Nov. 2, 2022|Updated Nov. 2, 2022

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has been on a multiyear giving spree. This week, those dollars flowed toward Tampa Bay.

On Monday, the Pinellas County Urban League became one of the latest recipients of Scott’s philanthropy when the organization received $6 million.

The gift is the largest in the organization’s 45-year history and comes just months after the passing of its longtime president and chief executive officer, the Rev. Watson L. Haynes II, who died in August. He was 69.

MacKenzie Scott.
MacKenzie Scott. [ EVAN AGOSTINI | Evan Agostini/Invision/AP ]

“This is a blessing come true,” said interim league president Charlotte Anderson. “It’s like Rev. Haynes transitioned into an angel watching over us to make sure we could continue working toward equity and inclusion.”

Anderson said when she first got the call informing her of the donation she thought it might be a scam.

“Who gives that kind of money away?” she said. “I didn’t know.”

She said the call came on Haynes’ birthday — a coincidence but a sign. She was told that Scott was aware of Haynes’ death and wanted to help ensure the organization could build upon the foundation he laid.

The money will be put toward efforts to close the economic gap among Blacks and minorities through community programming, Anderson said.

The nonprofit plans to use the donation to expand its programming to better serve residents in the north part of the county, while enhancing efforts in the south. It will also support renovations to the organization’s building.

“It’s going to be transformational for us,” Anderson said.

The Pinellas County Urban League was founded in 1977 and serves more than 12,000 people annually. It provides resources that help underserved people with housing, health and educational opportunities, as well as workforce training.

After divorcing the Amazon billionaire in 2019, Scott promised to give away her fortune. Since then, she’s given more than $12 billion to more than 1,000 nonprofits.

Other organizations in the region that have been beneficiaries of Scott’s past donations are the Tampa Bay Girl Scouts, Friends of the Children-Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Habitat for Humanity.