CINCINNATI — Two different local homeless agencies were awarded $1.25 million grants by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
For Bethany House Services executive director Susan Schiller, the email from Bezos came as a surprise. It read: Susan and the Bethany House Services team. I'm thrilled to congratulate you on becoming a Day One Families Fund Leadership Award recipient.
"You know, I read it and cried," Schiller said.
Bethany House plans to use the money as part of its plan to build a brand new $16 million facility in Bond Hill. The new location will allow the organization to consolidate all of its services under one roof.
"I think the thing that's most exciting to me about it is it's going to raise the awareness level of homeless families in our community," Schiller said.
Charelle Kinzer and her 1-year-old daughter, Khairiah, recently found themselves without a place to live.
"It's very stressful, especially when you got a baby," Kinzer said.
Bethany House is doing more than giving her a place to stay. She said it's helping her get back on her feet.
"They just came in today, was just talking about trying to get us out of there to apartments and helping us and stuff like that," Kinzer said. "I think that's very helpful. I just think that's very unique."
Earlier in the week, Bethany House helped a family of 13 who needed a place to stay. They believe the donation from the Bezos foundation will help them significantly with their capital campaign.
"We're projecting that we will be able to service, shelter an additional 100 (people) in a given year once our new facility is built," Schiller said.
The Bethany House already serves close to 800 families a year and operate at capacity nearly every day. Schiller said she believes the extra space and resources will help people transition out of the shelter quicker.
The email concludes saying: I hope this grant will make a difference as you work towards your goal of building a new facility to better serve families experiencing homelessness in Cincinnati. Signed, Jeff.
"I've never gotten an email like that," Schiller said. "I will print it out and save it for the rest of my life."
In addition to the Bethany House in Cincinnati, the Welcome House in Covington is also being awarded the same $1.25 million grant. Through the Day One Fund, Bezos — whose net worth is estimated at over $100 billion — awarded more than $96 million to organizations battling homelessness across the country.