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Wells Fargo Gives $6 Million To Nonprofits

December 08, 2009

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    December 08, 2009
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    Opera Carolina News

Wells Fargo Gives $6 Million To Nonprofits

Wells Fargo officials stunned 15 recession-weary Charlotte nonprofits this morning with some welcome gifts: $6 million in checks aimed at helping them survive the downturn and push new projects forward.

“I almost did my good news dance,” said Mark Pierman, head of United Family Services, after learning his agency would receive $700,000. “It's just fabulous. I'm overwhelmed.”

Bank officials said they hope the money bolsters arts programming and critical services for the needy. They added that it also demonstrates the commitment San Francisco-based Wells Fargo feels to the Charlotte region.

Wells Fargo bought Charlotte-based Wachovia last year, and some nonprofits have expressed fears they'd receive less support with leaders from outside Charlotte calling the corporate shots.

Not to worry, one bank official said.

“For years, we have been a company that makes a difference in this community,” said Kendall Alley, the bank's Charlotte region president. “This is an opportunity for us to show we intend to continue doing so as a merged company.”

Charlotte nonprofits have been struggling mightily in the recession, with high unemployment rates helping to push demands for help higher even as donations shrink. The United Way of Central Carolinas and the Arts & Science Council both fell millions short of their goals in their last major campaigns; the United Way has said donations are running low again in this year's drive.

Surprised and grateful recipients learned of the Wells Fargo gifts at the bank's 2009 Spirit of Caring Breakfast.

Bank officials had already committed to give $7.2 million to charities in the region this year. Now, in the one-time “Spirit of Caring” grants announced today, they'll add $6 million more. Alley requested the extra spending, and it was approved through Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf's office.

The gifts include:

· $2 million to help build Moore Place, an 85-unit apartment building to house the chronically homeless. The gift had already been committed anonymously as a challenge grant, but the bank today revealed itself to be the donor. To date, the bank has given a total of $3 million to the project.

· $700,000 to help Charlotte Rescue Mission's Dove's Nest drug-addiction-treatment facility.

· $700,000 to help United Family Services build an 80-bed battered women's shelter.

Bank officials said they wanted to reward the ingenuity shown by United Family Services and Charlotte Rescue Mission; the two groups saved $1 million by agreeing to share land for their facilities.

· $500,000 to Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education's School Leadership Fund. The money will be split to support New Leaders for New Schools, a principal-training program, and Parent University, a parent-education effort.

· $500,000 to the United Way to support its Community Care Fund for 90-plus local charities. The bank gave the same amount last year; bank officials said they were happy to avoid cutting it in the recession.

The gift helps the United Way toward satisfying a challenge grant of $1 million from Family Dollar founder Leon Levine. He has said his foundation will match, dollar for dollar, the first million given above the United Way's $22.7 million goal for the Community Care Fund.

The organization has instituted numerous reforms since an executive pay scandal led to the firing last year of former President Gloria Pace King. Today, the organization is installing a new board of directors.

Said Alley: “I really think the direction the United Way is headed in is a plus for the community.”

· $500,000 to the United Negro College Fund to support Johnson C. Smith University's Historic West End project to revitalize low- to moderate-income neighborhoods on the city's West side.

· $350,000 to the Arts & Science Council's 2010 annual campaign.

· $100,000 each to: the Mint Museum of Art, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, the Charlotte Symphony, the N.C. Dance Theater, Opera Carolina, and Discovery Place. The money supports operations and programming.

· $90,000 to allow each of the bank's 90 Charlotte-area branches to award $1,000 grants to the nonprofit organizations of their choice.

Staff writer Mark Price contributed to this report.

By Eric Frazier
The Charlotte Observer

To read the original article, visit the Charlotte Observer.