Reporting Jay Levine
CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Mayor Richard M. Daley made an unusual and unusually generous gesture on Wednesday, donating more than half a million dollars from his former campaign fund to various Chicago charities and other organizations.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports it was a remarkable move by Daley, especially when you consider he could have kept all the money in his campaign fund, paid taxes on it, and walked away with a pretty penny.
Instead, in a move that is virtually unprecedented among big time politicians, he took all $540,000 left in the fund, and donated it to Chicago groups committed to helping others.
In the backyard of a bungalow on the West Side, staff at Sweet Beginnings was checking the hives Wednesday, and feeding the bees who are helping ex-offenders turn their lives around.
“I was watching TV this morning, I said wow it would be wonderful if we could receive a donation,” said assistant general manager Kelvin Greenwood.
He wasn’t aware when he heard of Daley’s plan to give away the money in his campaign fund that some of the money would be going to Sweet Beginnings.
When Greenwood found out, “I was ecstatic.”
Greenwood has come a long way since serving time for attempted murder. He’s now helping run a business whose products, like Bee Love honey, can be found at the Ritz Carlton hotel, Whole Foods stores, and online at Peapod.
Daley’s donations from his former campaign fund, totaling more than $500,000 went to places like After School Matters, the Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care at Prentice Women’s Hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Misericordia, the Children of the Crossroads Foundation, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, the Widows’ & Children’s Assistance Fund established by retired firefighters, and Sweet Beginnings.
The biggest donation was the $150,000 to After School Matters, the program Maggie Daley founded and championed until the day she died.
“This program went from 220 students to 22,000 in her lifetime,” After School Matters CEO Mary Ellen Caron said. “So, I think her vision and legacy lives on, and that Mayor Daley is trying to help us continue that.”
Caron, a longtime Daley aide before taking over as head of After School Matters last year, said Daley’s donation will help provide jobs for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have work this summer.
“If you look at it in terms of this summer, 150 young people will have a summer job … that would not have had it otherwise,” she said. “It costs about $1,000 per young person, and so for us to offer jobs for 150 more teenagers is a great thing.”
Daley was at the University of Chicago on Tuesday to boost a student exchange program with China, and was in Atlanta Wednesday attending a board meeting at The Coca-Cola Company. He’s been gradually emptying his campaign funds since leaving office in 2011. Not all the money has been donated.
Another $500,000 has gone for expenses involved in organizing his archives; for continuing staff salaries; and for moving, expenses and storage and rental space.
But it’s also gone to places like After School Matters and Sweet Beginnings, who really need it to continue their missions.
Greenwood said, if Daley were at Sweet Beginnings on Wednesday, “I would say thank you very much for the opportunity, and helping us help others individuals.”
The common denominator to most of the donations was a measure of life-saving.
The groups that received the money offer teens an alternative to gangs, guns and drugs; or offer ex-offenders a job, rather than a return to a life of crime; or provide vital medical research and resources to deal with disease and disability.
Whatever his shortcomings as mayor, there never has been any mistaking Daley’s love for the city Chicago – something even more apparent through his donations.