Historic multi-million donation to United Way of Southwest Louisiana

5 million dollars donated by MacKenzie Scott
Updated: Dec. 29, 2020 at 9:40 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - It’s the largest single donation the United Way of Southwest Louisiana has ever been offered topping out at 5 million dollars.

The agency received the record donation from MacKenzie Scott, who is none other than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ former wife.

“I immediately started crying and screaming,” says CEO of the United Way SWLA, Denise Durel. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was so surreal. The number from 6,400 [organizations] just kept dwindling down, and that we made the final cut at 384 was absolutely amazing and it still is. It’s still just so hard to believe.”

Across Southwest Louisiana, the United Way serves 5 parishes - all of which were hit exceptionally hard by this year’s natural disaster coupled with the health crisis of COVID-19.

The organization says the multi-million dollar gift will allow volunteers to continue helping the community thrive once again.

“This whole thing was focused on COVID, the effects that people have been dealing with, and how we’ve been trying to help people become more economically mobile in our community,” says Durel.

Financial meetings at the start of 2021 will determine exactly where the money is going and how it will be spent.

“We are going to create a plan, but we are going to do it by talking with some of the other people in our network, experts throughout our region and state,” says Durel. “So we can make the right decision. Because it is a great honor, but it’s also a great responsibility.”

In addition to the United Way of Southwest Louisiana, Scott donated millions of dollars to the United Way of Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

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