Lewis Foundation gives $1 million to NAACP

Endowment supports youth business camps here, in 7 other cities

`Investing in the future'


June 22, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

A national foundation has awarded the NAACP $1 million to support summer youth business camps in Baltimore and seven other cities across the nation.

For the next month, 120 high school students around the country will learn how to create a business plan, read the Wall Street Journal financial pages and calculate investment returns, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said yesterday at Morgan State University, one of the sites for this year's camps.

The money is a gift from the Reginald F. Lewis Family & Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Lewis in 1987. The multimillionaire Baltimore native, who was chairman of TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc., died in 1993.

"It was a no-brainer idea -- a perfect vehicle to continue his legacy," Loida Nicolas Lewis, Reginald's widow, said as she presented Mfume with an oversized $1 million check during the news conference.

The NAACP entrepreneurial camps have been around for three years, but lacked a significant endowment. The Lewis gift will allow the camps to expand the curriculum and eventually expand to more cities, said Zenith Houston, national coordinator of the program.

According to officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, $600,000 will be used to pay for the camps during the next six years. The remaining $400,000 will be left to accrue interest.

"We had the idea, we did not have the money," Mfume said.

The program, renamed the Reginald F. Lewis Entrepreneurial Institute, will train 120 students here and in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Gary, Ind.; and Richmond, Va. Participants were selected from hundreds of applicants referred by high school guidance counselors and NAACP regional offices.

Reginald Lewis, a Dunbar High School alumnus who rose from a $20-a-week newspaper salesman to a venture capitalist worth $700 million, died in January 1993, six weeks after learning that he had brain cancer. Loida Lewis became chairwoman and chief executive officer of TLC Beatrice.

The company, which became the largest African-American-owned company in the world, is in liquidation.

The foundation, operated by Reginald Lewis' aunt, Beverly Cooper, has donated more than $10 million to education, health care and children's programs, including a $3 million gift to Harvard University and gifts to black colleges.

Mfume said the NAACP will monitor the students' progress. "I believe the rest of America has a stake in what is going on here," Mfume said, "because it isn't a cliche to say that `investing in young people is investing in the future.' "

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