Jeff Bezos donates millions to two Visalia nonprofits

The CEO of Amazon and fourth richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, donates a total of $5 million to Visalia non profits this year

VISALIA – Christmas came early for two nonprofit organizations in town, as the Day One Families Fund distributed millions of dollars to battle homelessness and hunger to local nonprofits.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon and the fourth richest man in the world according to Forbes, announced that two nonprofits from Visalia will receive $2.5 million each through the Day One Families Fund, which is a grant program Bezos established in 2018 for organizations battling homelessness and hunger. 

Tulare County’s Family Services of Tulare County (FSTC) and Community Services & Employment Training (CSET) are recipients of Bezos’s grant, and are the first nonprofits in Tulare County to receive funding from the Day One Families Fund.

“We have not decided exactly what we’re going to use the money for, but because it’s such a large gift, we want to make sure that we are using it for what the community needs,” FSTC’s CFO Stehanie Burrage said.

FSTC is a nonprofit dedicated to helping keep families and children safe from homelessness, domestic violence, abuse and much more. Burrage said that the money will be going toward helping families struggling with homelessness, but exact plans on how the money will be used are still underway. The program committee, composed of both staff and board members, will begin meeting this week to look at different options. Their main concern is sustainability, because they do not want to start a project that they can not maintain financially on their own, since this is only a one-time grant, according to Burrage.

“[The staff are] going to be our best resource for knowing what the community needs,” Burrage said, “It’s one thing for us as executives to go, ‘We want to do XYZ,’ but it’s our staff members that are already working with these clients that are going to give us our best plan for what to do.”

Burrage said FSTC was approached by the Day One Families Fund in September, and were encouraged to apply for the grant. She also said that FSTC has “never received anything like this before,” as it is one of the largest grants that have been given to the nonprofit. 

“We had been working with [the Day One Families Fund] behind the scenes for a couple months and we couldn’t share it with our staff, so when they finally let us share it last week, they were very excited,” Burrage said. “I have had quite a few employees email me with ideas… They’re already formulating what they want to do with it.”

Since this grant is solely for homelessness, Burrage said that donations are still welcomed for other areas, since the FSTC has a variety of programs they run in order to help Tulare County. 

This year, the grant from the Day One Families Fund was given to 40 different nonprofits across 26 states, including Puerto Rico. CSET and FSTC were two of five organizations in California who received the grant. All 40 recipients of the grant received funding that ranged from $1 million to $5 million, totaling roughly $123 million for 2022. Since Bezos started the fund, a total of $521.6 million has been given to organizations across 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“By so many important measures the world keeps getting better, and it’s one of the fantastic aspects of human nature that we humans never stop looking for and finding ways to improve things,” Bezos said in a statement. 

The Day One Families Fund was not the only charitable program that Bezos started in 2018, but he also started the Day One Academies Fund. The academies fund goes towards launching and operating preschools in underserved communities, which are directly operated by the Bezos Academy. Bezos started with a commitment of $2 billion that would go towards both the families fund and the academies fund, and continued that commitment this year, as well.

“We will build an organization to directly operate these preschools. I’m excited about that because it will give us the opportunity to learn, invent, and improve. We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon. Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.”

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