Chicago nonprofit that helps people with disabilities gets $8 million gift from MacKenzie Scott

Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has donated more than $12 billion in just three years.

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MacKenzie Scott

MacKenzie Scott

AP file

A Chicago nonprofit that provides services to people with disabilities received an $8 million gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Access Living said it was the single largest contribution received from an individual donor in its 42-year history.

“It was unsolicited, a total surprise,” said Access Living President Karen Tamley, a wheelchair user and lifelong advocate for people with disabilities.

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The good news came in an email a few days ago.

“I was stunned and floored and extremely grateful,” Tamley said, noting that the money has already been received and is being put to good use.

“We’re hiring more staff to do the work, that’s something we’re immediately going to be doing,” she said. 

Access Living, 115 W. Chicago Ave., also plans to use the money to help end poverty for people with disabilities and expand community support services.

The group leans into several core services such as advocacy, independent living skills, peer support and helping people transition out of care facilities.

Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has gained global acclaim for the quick pace that she’s given away a large portion of her fortune. Her charitable donations have totaled more than $12 billion in just three years.

Her latest Chicago donation comes on the heels of a $4.2 million donation to the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana and a $6.6 million donation to the Chicago Urban League.

One of Access Living’s goals is to address racial and health equity.

The group points out that In Illinois, disabled people live in poverty at more than twice the rate of people without disabilities and that rate is compounded for disabled people of color. 

“The dire lack of accessible, affordable housing, along with wide gaps in community services and supports, too often lead to unnecessary segregation, unemployment, isolation, sickness and poverty in the disability community,” according to Access Living.

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