Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Phillies Owner's Wife Called Anal at Project Home Tribute

Last night was the 25th anniversary gala of Project Home, the charity founded by indomitable Sister Mary Scullion and Joan Dawson-McConnon that endeavors to end all homelessness in Philadelphia. The charity has helped more than 8000 people get off the streets and built more than 600 housing units. Phillies part owner John and Leigh Middleton were honored for their transformative gift of over $15 million to the charity.

Leigh and John Middleton accepting their honor

The Philadelphia society types came out for the dinner, which was attended by 1250 and raised $2.1 million. Rock star Jon Bon Jovi, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, Bill Giles of the Phillies as well as the formerly homeless residents of Project Home attended the event. Pennsylvania's First Lady, Susan Corbett, Senator Bob Casey, and Mayor Michael Nutter also attended the event.
Eagles owner Jeffrey and Tina Lurie,  Comcast CEO Brian and Aline Roberts, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
NBC's Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, whose show is currently in third place, was the evening's host. I asked him if there was any truth to the Washington Post report that a psychological consultant have been hired to help him. He dismissed the story with "It's just noise." Still I would have liked to be a fly on the wall during Gregory's conversation with his boss, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. No one was smiling.

Meet the Press moderator talking with his boss Comcast CEO Brian Roberts
Bon Jovi in his short but sweet speech made it clear who was the top dog in his relationship with Project Home co-founder Sister Mary Scullion. The nun is the boss of the rock star. He decided to become involved with the homeless after looking out his Philadelphia hotel room and seeing the homeless freezing on the street. He thought, This is not what our forefathers intended."

Bon Jovi teased Sister Mary Scullion during his speech. 

Binswanger Corp CEO David Binswanger and his wife Dorothy revealed some interesting details about the Middletons in their introduction of the couple. The couple works hard to deflect attention from themselves. They chose a seat at Phillies home game, to the left of the catcher, which is just out of camera range. The Middletons bought John's mother's 107 year old house and are refurbishing it. David Binwanger teased John Middleton about constantly looking at his phone and always being serious. Dorothy described Leigh Middleton as super organized or, in her words, "anal".

The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim gave a moving tribute to the Middletons in which he called them the new face of philanthropy. Kim announced that the World Bank is committed to ending extreme poverty in 15 years. He credited John Middleton with helping him developing a more scientific system for distributing aid.

He said, "I am so excited to be here. I have known John and Leigh Middleton for five years. There are no two people in the world that I admire more. John and Leigh ask simple questions of the people they work with 1. Do you have heart? 2. Do you grit? 3. Are you committed? 4. Do you use scientific evidence to improve the work that you do?"

I left the dinner with a queasy feeling in my stomach. I am not sure how I feel about going to a fancy gala dinner to raise money for the homeless. It was interesting to note two of the biggest supporters of the night made their fortunes from tobacco and sugary drinks, which have decimated poor communities.

Helping the homeless is hard work complicated by obstacles such as mental health and addiction. Yet, I was surprised how few people (8000 people) they had brought in from the streets or homes they had built (600) in a quarter century since the richest people in the city and Bon Jovi fund them. Mega developer Bart Blatstein does that in a year. When you break it down,  Project Home helped 320 people a year and built 24 homes a year.

The North Philly Stompers and the Phillie Phanatic led the crowd to dinner

David Binswanger and Marjorie Honickman are two major donors to Project Home