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Mike Rowe Refutes Amazon’s Reason for Abruptly Canceling Its Long-Running ‘Smile’ Charity Program

The end of Amazon Smile has brought a frown from Mike Rowe.

In a post on his Facebook page, Rowe said that while he is grateful to Amazon for the support Amazon Smile has given his mikeroweWORKS foundation — support that translated into $530,000 in scholarships – their reasoning for ending the program is suspect.

Amazon announced the program’s demise in a blog post on Wednesday saying that “after almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped. With so many eligible organizations—more than 1 million globally—our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.”

The post said Amazon “will continue to pursue and invest in other areas where we’ve seen we can make meaningful change—from building affordable housing to providing access to computer science education for students in underserved communities to using our logistics infrastructure and technology to assist broad communities impacted by natural disasters.”

In his Facebook post, Rowe wrote, “I am a little surprised, however, by the reason they gave for ‘winding things down.’”

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“In no way do I want to suggest that Amazon has done a ‘bad’ thing, or that they don’t have every right to do whatever they wish to do with Smile. But if the program in its current format isn’t meeting their expectations, then I have to say…Wow! Those are some pretty lofty expectations!” he wrote.

“The impact of $530,000 on our work ethic scholarship program was huge! That money allowed me to assist no less than a hundred individuals get the training they needed to begin a career in the trades. Plumbers, welders, electricians, carpenters…A hundred tradespeople might not sound like a lot, but I can assure you – their families don’t feel that way. Neither do their employers. And neither do I,” he said.

Rowe said measuring impact “is a pretty subjective thing, and from what I’ve seen of philanthropy, a bit of a trap. Every big impact starts with a small impact. In other words, every ‘macro,’ starts with a ‘micro.’ That’s what mikeroweWORKS is all about. One person at a time. One job at a time,” he wrote.

He also said those whose donations came his way should be assured those donations mattered.

Should Amazon reverse its decision to end the Smile program?

“I’d really hate for the people who chose mikeroweWORKS as their Smile charity, to think for one moment that their decision didn’t have an enormous impact on a lot of hard-working Americans. It did, and I really appreciate your help,” he wrote.

“I know for a fact a lot of people will miss this program, and a lot of foundations will suffer as a result of its demise,” he wrote, voicing the hope another major corporation might create a similar program.

In its report on the end of Amazon Smile, The New York Times noted it came as Amazon is cutting 18,000 jobs. The Times report said the decision to end the program was not based on saving money.

Amazon Smile allowed buyers to designate 0.5 percent of their purchase to a charity on Amazon’s list of approved groups. The program has resulted in about half a billion dollars going to various groups, the Times reported.

One group, a no-kill shelter for cats in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts known as Kitty Angels, says there will be a blow from Amazon’s decision.

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Shelter supporter Stan Foster said Amazon Smile has meant $17,000 in donations to the shelter over the years.

“As you can see this will be quite a financial blow for this charity, which is all run with volunteers,” Foster said.

“I appreciate that Amazon has done this for several years, but going on a rocket ride is expensive and companies need to prioritize,” he said, referring to the brief trip in space taken by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2021.

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