Philanthropist Foster Friess, who has promised to match a $1 million in donations to help tornado victims in Moore, Okla., today challenged the 50 state governors to raised $20,000 each in private funds.
The governors’ together would raise $1 million for the stricken town of Moore if they all come through.
Friess may be most widely known in political circles as the man who helped fund Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, but he has a history with disaster philanthropy traveling and donating to three other natural disasters: the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Last week he promised to match $1 million in donations to help the people of Moore, and today he will launch the next step in his fundraising drive.
“We are challenging each of the 50 governors to put their private hats on and encourage people in their states to send private money, not government money,” Friess told ABC News. He said he has already spoken with Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and he’s on board telling Friess, “Let me start calling.”
“He’s all geared up and excited to participate,” Friess said.
The money is being collected by the National Christian Foundation and today they are already sending out $1 million in four $250,000 increments to the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Convoy of Hope.
Friess, a former mutual fund manager, said all of the donations will go directly to those who need it in Moore, not to overhead costs and the National Christian Foundation are processing the contributions free of charge, besides credit card fees.
Friess said there are only 50 members of the Jewish community in Moore, but the Jewish Federation has already signed on for four projects with their $250,000. They will begin by cleaning up four parks in Moore so children can begin playing again. They will also fix up the playgrounds that are part of the two public schools devastated by the tornado and will distribute gift cards to victims that can be used to buy kitchen utensils, bedding, blankets and toiletries.
“It allows these people to meet their basic needs,” Friess said. “It also helps the battered economy…even if a store has been untouched, if the customers are wiped out that hurts, this helps local merchants.”
Friess traveled to Moore last Wednesday to see the destruction and he said over and over again he heard from victims that they were finding strength in the amount of people who are helping from “all over the country.”
“There was a sense of goodness and kindness amongst the rubble because people were so emotionally touched by the fact that people all over the world, all over the United States, people were helping them… And so there is a very special quality and attitude in Moore, Oklahoma…People are really overwhelmed by the amount of kindness and help they are receiving.”
He said a “high point” for him was when he spoke with a women who began to cry because of the “complete strangers” who were helping out.
Friess said the inspiration for this challenge to help Moore comes from a political initiative he’s backing named “Left Right Left Right Forward March” with the goal of “reducing the unusual amount of divisiveness” Friess says is affecting the nation.
Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Friess said “‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’…and we need to get our act together and commit our resolve to help Americans.”
In addition to helping Moore, Friess says the initiative, which he hopes will turn into a movement, will “help our country pull together to help one another despite our political disparities.”
Friess is also working on alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, saying that he is “working with health care experts to see how we can create a health care system that would be more advantageous to the American public.”
Friess says he is having a dinner June 1in Delaware to “assemble key leaders to brainstorm” alternatives.
“I think we are in a real jam if this thing proceeds as it is laid out,” Friess said. “It will dramatically change our culture…we will lose this notion that we are our brother’s keeper.”
Noting that he met a doctor who traveled from Maryland to help in Moore, he believes Obamacare will stop acts of kindness like that one saying “we will lose the sense of responsibility to help one another.”
“‘I pay taxes, let the government do it,” is what Friess says will happen. “I’m doing everything to try and say, ‘That isn’t healthy for us.’”