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YWCA Gets $9M Donation, Chicago Branch Excited About Expanding Services: 'It's Mind Blowing!'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Nine million dollars.

The most money ever gifted to the YWCA. The cash comes from MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon's Jeff Bezos.

CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot spoke to the people in charge of the YWCA in Chicago and they said the timing could not be better.

Donations were down. MacKenzie Scott said the pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of people already struggling, so she wanted to fund the work of organizations, like the YWCA.

On a cold Chicago morning, people are seen driving up and lining up for a restaurant-prepared hot meal.

"(The) YWCA has done a lot for me this past summer, into the winter, in regards to help with meals for my family and the pandemic," said Lakeesha Harding, a volunteer at the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.

Harding not only receives help from the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago in Woodlawn, she also volunteers.

The organization has been providing 1,400 meals, six days a week to those in need here, during the pandemic.

"They do a lot of good things in the community. We need more organizations like this," added Derrick Montgomery, a YWCA Metropolitan Chicago volunteer.

The work taking place at the 14 YWCA Metropolitan Chicago locations across the city did not go unnoticed by MacKenzie Scott. The billionaire venture philanthropist and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has given the organization nine million dollars.

"Oh my God! This gift is transformational for us," said Loren Simmons, Chief Empowerment Officer for the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.

Simmons said the donation will allow them to expand the services they provide for men, women and children ranging from mental health counseling, parenting classes and computer technology courses.

"We see children as young as three, up to 17. We have diapers, books, toys for our clients," Simmons said. "A lot of our computer training has moved online, so we do it through Zoom."

The YWCA even provides job placement. Simmons said the dream of expanding all of these programs will now become a reality.

"It's mind blowing! This is the largest gift we've ever received in the history of the YWCA and we're 140 years old," Simmons said.

The YMCA, the United Way of Metro Chicago and Easter Seals were among some of the Chicago organizations that have benefited from Scott's generosity. She said she chose them through extensive research. In all, she's given away $4 billion to 384 organizations around the country.

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