Couple boosts Ronald McDonald House

The generosity of Leon and Sandra Levine has struck again.

This time, the foundation created by the Levines with their family fortune has donated $500,000 to jump-start the capital campaign to build a Charlotte Ronald McDonald House, executive director Mona Johnson-Gibson said Monday.

Construction on the $13.5 million Ronald McDonald House is scheduled to begin next year and open in 2010. It will be located on land donated by Carolinas Medical Center in the 1600 block of East Morehead Street.

The site is between CMC's Levine Children's Hospital and Presbyterian Healthcare's Hemby Children's hospital, bolstering Charlotte as a destination for children's medical care, she said.

Plans for the house were announced two years ago.

The roughly 35,000-square-foot house would provide 30 suites for families of seriously ill children seeking medical care at the two hospitals. The organization will name the house's living room for the Levines.

“The Levines are an excellent example of outstanding citizenship and personal integrity, and they have demonstrated an extraordinary interest in service to people in the Carolinas,” Johnson-Gibson said.

Leon Levine said the donation was a good fit. “Supporting an organization that helps children and their families fits the mission statement of the Leon Levine Foundation,” he said. “We feel that the Ronald McDonald House will fill an important need for families at both hospitals.”

The Leon Levine Foundation, one of the state's most active charitable groups with more than $150 million in assets, plans to make the donations in $100,000 installments each June for the next five years, Johnson-Gibson said.

At 22 in 1959, Levine opened his first discount retail store on Central Avenue in Charlotte and subsequently built Family Dollar Stores Inc. into a Fortune 500 company before retiring in 2003. He remains its chairman emeritus.

Along the way, he and Sandra Levine have shared their wealth with many through their foundation. In August, they helped rescue an Urban League youth program in Charlotte with a surprise $100,000 donation.

Other recipients include: the Levine Children's Hospital ($10 million); the Levine Science Research Center at Duke ($10 million) and the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte (more than $1.5 million).

Also, in 2002, the Levines gave the initial $5 million to Central Piedmont Community College for its $10 million endowment campaign, which will award 5,000 yearly scholarships to needy students.