BERKSHIRE EAGLE Op-Ed: MacKenzie Scott’s $2M gift a well-deserved recognition of CATA’s mission

March 27, 2024—
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CATA artist Jeff Kane and faculty member Beth Liebowitz practiced a ballet pose.

CATA artist Jeff Kane and faculty member Beth Liebowitz practiced a dance move.

Anyone familiar with Community Access to the Arts knows how many lives it has touched and enriched over its 30-plus years of operation. We’re pleased to see this heart-warming and life-giving nonprofit get the big-time recognition it deserves in the form of a generous gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

CATA is among 250 organizations that recently got a boost from Ms. Scott’s Yield Giving, an initiative meant to put large amounts of her considerable fortune toward nonprofits that help others. The Great Barrington-based nonprofit must have made a big impression, as it was one of more than 6,300 that applied. In fact, according to CATA, the award it applied for was initially pegged at $1 million, but Yield doubled the gift because of the strength of CATA’s application and work.

That $2 million injection, greater than CATA’s total annual expenses in fiscal year 2022, will go toward the “CATA FOR ALL” capital campaign. Executive Director Margaret Keller said CATA would update the community in the coming weeks about where and how it will target these funds, and we look forward to hearing about those newly bolstered opportunities.

Yield Giving, as its name implies, is Ms. Scott’s effort to give back a considerable fraction of her vast fortune. As part of her 2019 divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, she received a 4 percent stake in the online retail giant. That made her the world’s 42nd-wealthiest person, according to Forbes rankings, with a reported net worth of more than $36 billion. She’s pledged to give away much of that and, through endeavors like Yield Giving, she’s steered billions of dollars into the hands of thousands of nonprofits to support their various missions.

As increasingly staggering wealth inequality multiplies in the face of still-pressing human need in countless communities, it’s refreshing to see a multibillionaire devoting so much of her riches to enriching the lives of others. Not everyone, and in fact almost no one, has the capacity to give as much Ms. Scott. That unique generosity now will be channeled into something that CATA reminds us is far more universal: the capacity to care for and create with one another. Ms. Scott’s Yield Giving initiative saw in CATA what we have seen for decades since Sandra Newman, the organization’s founder and former director, started its mission in 1993. That mission has married the Berkshires’ spirit of support for the arts with a commitment to nurturing the dignity and creativity of our differently abled neighbors, and we’re thrilled to see this generous gift go toward sustaining that mission for more decades to come.


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