A winter cash and food shortage for Mecklenburg County’s pantries has been avoided by an outpouring of support from local donors and a matching grant offered by Sandra and Leon Levine’s Leon Levine Foundation.
Loaves & Fishes, the county’s system of pantries, raised $73,000 in 10 days after word spread of the Levine promise to match up to $50,000.
The charity has added another $10,000 in recent days, says Beverly Howard, executive director of Loaves & Fishes. The Levine Foundation $50,000 brings the total to $133,000.
At least 200 of the donors had never before given to the agency.
“That was quicker than any campaign we’ve had in the past,” said Howard. “I was hoping we’d raise $20,000 (before Jan. 31) and make up the rest of the Levine challenge in the next couple of months. I can’t say enough about how the Levines inspired and encouraged others to give.”
The money is needed to overcome a 30 percent dip in donations to the agency’s annual fall food drive. The shortage meant Loaves & Fishes was going to have to spend an extra $7,000 a week to fill winter food needs for a growing number of struggling families.
Referrals to local pantries jumped to a record 125,000 people last year, up about 11,000, officials said.
In addition to the $50,000 match for Loaves & Fishes, the Levine Foundation offered a $75,000 matching grant to Second Harvest Food Bank, which supplies food to pantries in surrounding counties.
Second Harvest Executive Director Kay Carter said her agency has met that match.
Charlotte’s Hospitality House also got a year-end boost with two $25,000 Levine matching offers: one from the Leon Levine Foundation and one from the Howard Levine Foundation, founded by Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine.
Both were met, resulting in Hospitality House raising $105,000, officials said. The money will support a program that pays room and board for out-of-town families that are short of cash and stuck in Charlotte due to a hospitalized loved one. The money is enough to cover 1,750 nights for such people, officials said.
Leon Levine Foundation Executive Director Tom Lawrence said the foundation’s intent is to help charities recruit new donors with the promise of a dollar for dollar match.
“There’s a hope that these donors will then connect with the organization and continue giving in the future,” he said.
The foundation may issue dozens of challenge and matching grants each year.
In the case of the challenge grants, funding is given once an agency hits a target amount. With matching grants, it gives a dollar for every dollar given, as was the case with Hospitality House.
Susan Ross of Hospitality House said the Levine match worked at attracting many new donors.
In fact, the first check, for $25,000, came from another local family foundation that had never before given to Hospitality House. “It came the very first day news came out about the Levine match,” she said.