David Siegel’s Westgate foundation gives $1 million in grants

The Westgate Resorts Foundation — the charitable arm of Central Florida’s time-share giant — announced Wednesday it is giving $1 million in grants to nonprofits that help children, the homeless, domestic violence survivors and veterans.

The foundation marked its 15th anniversary celebration with news of the grants — the largest sum ever in the charity’s history — which will help bring food to home-bound seniors, mentor school kids, provide job training for veterans and the homeless and offer counseling to victims of abuse.

“I hope next year, because the community’s needs are so great … we can double what we gave away this year. That’s our goal,” said David Siegel, Westgate’s president and CEO.

Each nonprofit was given from $5,000 to $20,000.

“This will let me sleep a little better at night,” said Michael Dippy, executive director of IDignity, which won $20,000 for its Orlando-based program and $10,000 for a Kissimmee-based affiliate. The organization helps those who are poor or homeless regain proof of identification.

Siegel’s Westgate Resorts set to expand throughout Central Fla.
“What we do doesn’t fit neatly into a grant category, so it can be a struggle to find funding,” Dippy said. “But having identification touches everything. Without it, a person cannot be employed, can’t get housing, can’t obtain health insurance.”

Mara Frazier, the Westgate foundation’s executive director, said her organization’s philanthropic mission — “strong families, strong workforce” — is aimed at overcoming hurdles that keep people from working, allowing them to “pave their own path to self-sufficiency.”

“We are thrilled,” said Marsha Lorenz, president and CEO of Seniors First in Orange County, which won a $15,000 grant that will help as many as 250 clients in the coming year. “This allows us to provide emergency services to people — usually seniors coming out of the hospital — so they can have the nutrition they need to get back on their feet.”

At City Year Orlando, which works to prevent kids in poverty from dropping out of school, the foundation’s $15,000 check meant the agency will be able to expand beyond the 8,000 students currently enrolled in the program.

“Ultimately, we’ll be able to reach even more young people who are struggling and need that extra attention,” said executive director Jordan Plante.

Wednesday’s announcement came at a gathering of state and Congressional officials and community leaders at Siegel’s Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa conference center, where Siegel took to the podium to call on parents to lock up their prescription medications and drug test their children.

The message has become a personal crusade for the business mogul since the death of his 18-year-old daughter, Victoria, in June 2015 from an overdose of methadone and antidepressants.

“The greatest problem this country has … is drug addiction,” he said. “It affects everybody, just by the sheer numbers. … Fifty thousand people died [in the U.S.] last year from a drug overdose – and we’ll have [another] 150 who will die today. It’s our future generation. It is the next Bill Gates, the next Steve Jobs, it’s music you’ll never hear, the inventions you’ll never see.”

Siegel and his wife, Jackie, have created a separate foundation in their daughter’s name to help teens struggling with substance abuse.

ksantich@orlandosentinel.com, @katesantich, 407-420-5503

 

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