Investment guru Warren Buffett, 83, is fulfilling his 2006 promise to share his wealth by tapping a foundation set-up by his 86-year-old sister Doris. The Sunshine Lady Foundation has seven women staff who go over the thousands of letters the billionaire received the past 12 years and respond to those they deem worthy of assistance.
Most of the request really could be granted by Buffett's fortune. Some of them are just a few dollars worth such as a new pair of eyeglasses, a tombstone to replace lost grave markers or several hundreds such as a car a disabled woman needed to visit her daughter and grandchildren.
Doris described the recipients of help as "Decent people who just didn't have the breaks somebody else did."
Warren gave her $5 million as initial seed fund to pay for the cost of replying to all the letters he got. But he promised to add more if she would need extra money to cover the requests, although the siblings did not disclose how much they have spent responding to the requests which philanthropy professor Rebecca Riccio said are not the types who would junk the requests.
Not all the funds spent by the foundation are from Warren. Doris, who started it in 1996, has given $150 million of her inherited money for scholarships, victims of domestic violence, college education for prisoners and people with mental illness.
Doris shared that the desire to help started during the Great Depression when she witnessed people struggle to meet basic needs such as food and home.
Many of the recipients of their help are from their area such as Fredericksburg in Virginia, Wilmington and Beaufort in North Carolina and Rockport in Maine, but she is open to helping people in need from other areas.
Their aid is mostly one-time, but as much as possible they try to connect the beneficiaries to other people or groups who could also help based on her belief that "I can't change somebody's life, but I can make it possible for them to do so."
Having the foundation frees Warren to concentrate on Berkshire Hathaway where he continues to accumulate wealth, some of which are funneled via the old ladies to help people in need.