By comparison, foundations gave $550 million — nationally — between 2008 and 2012 to programs and causes related to America's economic crisis, said Lawrence T. McGill, vice president for research at the New York-based Foundation Center, which oversees philanthropy research.
"It's hugely significant and different from the kind of giving we usually see on a kind of one-time basis," McGill said. "Foundations have missions and they stick to their missions."
For the Skillman Foundation, whose mission is to improve lives of Detroit's children and families, a deal billed as protecting art and pensions couldn't be justified as a compelling investment — initially.
Bankruptcy mediators later approached Skillman with a new proposal. Now, Skillman's $3.5 million contribution spread over 20 years would help soften cuts to health care for the 7,372 retirees living in the city.
"Detroit and its retirees suffer from the same kind of urban ills that other major cities suffer from: retirees raising their own children, grandchildren and, in some cases, great-grandchildren," said Tonya Allen, Skillman's chief executive. "We made a contribution that would help families support their children."
Associated Press writer David Eggert in Detroit contributed to this report.
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