Chicago’s richest man, Ken Griffin, is helping the city with its response to the coronavirus pandemic, paying for cleaning supplies and medical equipment for cops and other first-responders — as well as food for Chicago schoolchildren, officials said Wednesday.
Griffin and his partners in his financial companies last week donated $1 million to the Chicago Public Schools and $1.5 million to the Chicagoland Food Pantry to deliver breakfast and lunch to city kids at home while their schools are closed.
Griffin, founder of the Citadel hedge fund, also is among other private donors and community organizations who’ve donated supplies to the police.
The donations “build on the city’s stockpile of cleaning supplies and equipment that will be distributed regularly over the coming weeks and months,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief spokesman for the police department.
About two years ago, Griffin pledged $10 million for crime-fighting initiatives in Chicago. Some of that money boosted technology for detectives to process surveillance videos quickly.
The donation also supported the expansion of technology centers to every police district to combat gun crime. The University of Chicago Crime Lab has helped oversee and staff those projects, which were launched because of a spike in gun crime in 2016.
Now the lab, which manages Griffin’s donation, is addressing the coronavirus crisis with money earmarked to support the health and safety of frontline officers, said Roseanna Ander, director of the lab.
So far, about $20,000 of Griffin’s $10 million donation has been spent on bleach, buckets, wipes, spray bottles, masks, thermometers and other supplies for the police, and that amount could rise “into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more,” Ander said. The lab is locating the supplies and coordinating with the city, she said, adding that it’s going to cops and other first responders in the city.
Civilian analysts from the lab, who are funded by the Griffin donation, are continuing to work remotely with the police department in tracking gun violence. Analysts at the lab also are studying how the police department can best deploy cops during the pandemic, Ander said.
A spokesman for Griffin declined to comment on the funding for first responders.
Other magnates have also offered to help Chicago with its coronavirus expenses, including Willie Wilson, a millionaire who owns a medical supply company and ran for mayor. Last week, he offered to donate 10,000 medical masks and 1,000 more-advanced N95 masks to the police and fire departments.
On the world stage, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ foundation committed $100 million last month to aid the global detection, isolation and treatment of the virus that causes COVID-19. Forbes has been tracking what the world’s billionaires have been doing to help during the coronavirus crisis.
In early February, Griffin and his companies contributed $7.5 million to help China’s Hubei province where the coronavirus pandemic began. The money was to be spent on medical supplies as well as assistance for families forced to leave their homes. “Our hearts go out to all impacted by this situation, particularly those in China, which is the native country of many of our colleagues,” he said in a statement at the time.
On Tuesday, Griffin was among a small group of businessmen on a conference call with President Trump to discuss efforts to revive the economy, according to the New York Times.
Griffin has received national attention for buying expensive real estate in New York, Chicago and Palm Beach, Florida, but also for his large charitable donations, including $125 million for scholarships and research for the University of Chicago’s economics department and $12 million to complete two bike and pedestrian paths on Chicago’s lakefront trail.