Doris Buffett Helps the Needy

Back in 2006, when Warren Buffett first announced that he would give away billions of dollars, individual requests came flooding in asking for help. These requests still come to him even today.

Instead of ignoring these letters and putting them off to the side, Buffett collects them all and then sends them to Doris Buffett, his big sister. The Sunshine Lady Foundation, consisting of seven women along with Doris Buffett, closely looks over each request. They are looking for those who have fallen upon hard times even though it isn’t their own fault.

“She just believes that a lot of people got short straws in life, and she wants to help them,” said Warren Buffett.

It’s very rare for those in philanthropy to respond to requests on an individual basis, said Rebecca Riccio, a professor at Northwestern University that interviewed the Buffett siblings last year and also teaches philanthropy. The 83-year-old Warren Buffett and his older sister the 86-year-old Doris have come to an unusual agreement since neither of them wants to completely disregard these requests, but Warren wanted to continue to keep his main focus on running Berkshire Hathaway.

“I think Warren and Doris do not have it in them to ignore those letters,” said Riccio.

Initially, Warren Buffett sent his sister Doris $5 million to help cover the costs to respond to all of these letters, and he also promised to send her more money if it was needed. The Buffett siblings have not shared how much they have given to each of the individual letter writers at this time and do not intend to share this information.

The majority of the requests are quite simple. A man needed money to purchase new glasses. A grandmother needed help to buy a tombstone for her three children that have passed on from this world. A disabled woman needed an automobile in order to visit her grandchildren and her daughter.

“These are decent people who just didn’t have the breaks somebody else did,” said Doris Buffett.

She tells us that her desire to help people began during the Great Depression, when at the time she saw so many people struggling to take care of their shelter issues and their basic hunger needs. Her desire to help only grew as she dealt with her own disappointments in life, including being divorced four times and the 1987 stock market crash where she lost $12 million.

Doris Buffett, in 1996, started the Sunshine Lady Foundation after she inherited some money. Through the foundation, she also has generously donated over $150 million of her own money, and primarily focused on setting up the larger programs, including a scholarship program for victims of domestic violence, plus educating prisoners in college and helping those suffering from the effects of mental illness.

Riccio tells us that Doris Buffett is set apart by her willingness to provide many small gifts to those in need, plus her personal connection to the recipients.

“She cares about people, not about the procedure or the perception of her as a philanthropist,” said Riccio.

The focus of Doris Buffett’s foundation mainly thrives upon giving to the communities in which she lives, including Beaufort and Wilmington, North Carolina; Rockport, Maine; and Fredericksburg, Virginia. But her gifts are not confined only to those places.

A bank robber by the name of Steven Lewicki spent 15 years in Maine State Prison, and while he was there he was able to earn his associates degree all because of a college program set up by Doris Buffett and her foundation.

Once Lewicki earned his freedom, he studied at the University of Maine at Augusta and earned his bachelor’s degree. He then gained employment working for a group that advocates for prisoners.

“I feel an obligation to Doris,” said Lewicki. “I feel an obligation to honor her philanthropy and her integrity and her guidance and all of that.”

Doris Buffett’s overall main goal is to provide one-time aid, and whenever it’s possible, she likes to connect with people to help in other ways. But she understands that there are limits to what she is capable of doing.

“I can’t change somebody’s life, but I can make it possible for them to do so,” said Doris.

12 Comments

  1. Hi, My name is Carolyn Norton and I have a wonderful husband Dennis Norton whom has worked very hard all of his life and been the soul provider for our family and though I worked for several yrs also he has been our soul provider as we have a mentally challenged / and behavioral challenged son whom is now 30 yrs old but still solely dependent on us , primarily me for full time care. I am no longer able to hold a job down to to physical problems and have time and time agaimn applied for disability have been denied due to they say my husband makes to much and I have not worked in the last 5 yrs . my son draws a small disability and my husband draws ssi and still drives a truck full time and still just cant make ends meet it is very hard ,and my son and I love horses and other livestock so we have a small farm in cedartown, ga. and we love it but are looking at having to give it up due to finanaces But I have a huge dream that I believe not only would enlighten my son, but would also help many many other mentally and physically handicapped children and adults is to buy a huge farm and start a horse therapy Ranch and animal petting zoo for the disabled . It is a Dream I have had for many yrs and I feel like it would help so many people including my son and my self but it would take a lot of land and workers and well trained horses and other well tamed and friendly animals and my husband could even with the right set up and help come off of the road in the rig and I could stop worrying about his health so much since he is getting older as he will turn 74 in sept this yr.and I am pretty sure he will not pass his DOT physical this oct., don't know what we will do then and I am only 51 this yr in nov. but have a lot of health problems. Not to mention we have a daughter that just will not stand on her own 2 feet and support her 10 yr son and we are still having to help our other daughter and her husband although they are very hard workers with low paying jobs that do try their level best to keep their heads above the water while supporting our other 3 grandchildren. So times are tough as you are already very aware off. But I really believe that if you would help us to build this ranch with a homestead on the ranch we it would not only help us with our situation but help many many other precious children and adults as well. and wht a BLESSING that would be for so many . If you Please just give this serious thought I would greatly appreciate it .

    Thank You and May GOD BLESS You each and every day as I feel he has for yrs already and I truly believe that finding you was not a mistake but a TRUE GOD SEND.

    Sincerely,
    Carolyn Norton

  2. Great article! Unfortunately, I noticed an error. Rebecca Riccio has never taught at Northwestern. She's a professor and Director of the Social Impact Lab at Northeastern University in Boston.

  3. I am asking for help in a crisis that has totally devasted a Single Mother her 2 young children ages 3 and 12 and her Elderly Mother who has on going health problems. The mother gets no child support for the 3 year old child and a very small amount most times less than 50.00 per week for the 12 year old. She works to support her family and does not ask for additional assistance except help with food. She got in arrears on her rent and was less than 1 month past due. Her reason for getting behind was that the 12 year old child had to be rushed to the hospital for and emergency surgery . Because of this the mother lost 2 days work that week. The following week the mother became sick with strep throat and had to take another 3 days off under doctors care. She had not recieved and eviction notice she had in fact made arrangements to pay her 141.00 late fee and the full amount past due for the month the same morning before she went to work leaving her elderly mother and 3 year old child is safe in their home. The mother had been advised by the landlord that she would have to go to court on the following Friday unless she paid the balance of 141.00 that evening. She agreed to do so, The mother then went to her job and felt she had taken care of everything concerning her rent to secure the roof over her families head. While at work just a few hours later she received a phone call that she should come home right away that the Sheriff and several men came in the home and put her elderly Mother out on the street in the pouring rain and that all her belonging was being throw out and smashed to peices that she was being evicted. When she got to her apartment she tried to tell the cop that it was a mistake that she did not have an eviction in play. Refusing to listen they continued to destroy all the furniture and household items she had. I personally know that what they destroyed was very nice furniture and was by no means junk, I had just taken it to them just a few weeks before. The last was just put in their home 3 days before they was illegally invaded and evicted. The court has verified there was no eviction or anything filed against her. She has been advised to sue but in the mean time they are homeless and have only a car to live in. They have found a home to rent and she paid her whole 2 weeks pay to secure it with a deposit, But now she has no means of getting the rent before working another 2 weeks for her pay. I know this family personally and if I could I would pay all that is needed. So I am asking for help to get them into a home and off the street, They are genuinely homeless and have been rendered helpless by a landlord that took it into his own hands and a crooked cop who friended him and forced them bodily into the street and they had to watch their things be destroyed and hauled away, The cop forbid them to come into the home to try and get anything at all to save it, So I spoke to her about setting this up on go fund me and she doesnt ask anyone for help but has reached a place that she has to have someone help get them into a home. 1,500.00 is needed for the rent and the balance is needed to replace their belonging. The 3,000.00 will not begin to cover their loss but will help get furniture clothing and things to start over. She has to pay the rent by Friday the the 19th or they lose the chance of moving in. Please no matter the amount you can give they will appreciate anything. Please help me to get them off the street. They are homeless. With no way to get help if this fails. If anyone wishes to donate thru paypal that email address is a_treasure_hunters_paradise @yahoo.com every dollar donated will go to this family. Anyone needing verification please contact me. Everything posted here is verifable. Thank You. Its almost Christmas and I am in a panic to help them but have no funds to help them on my own. These little children and this Mother and Grand Mother needs to have a Merry Christmas so we can all pitch in an make it happen. And Christmas gifts would be wonderful also, But most of all they need a place to be in safe and warm in their own home. Thank You to all who has compassion and a heart to reach out and help a family in their time of real need. This family has no insurance or any way of recovering other than by those of us that refuse to turn our ears from the cry of the ones in need.This is what I wrote in the GO FUND ME account and only one person has donated 28.00. I have nothing or I would not ask for anyone else to help me if I could even meet her rent payment. Thank You

  4. Dear Mrs Buffet I'm just writing this letter to reach your brother Warren I am a 61 year old Hispanic with a wife of 42 yrs and 4 grown children i have been on disability seance 2004 with a neck injury i have worked hard all my life until my accident all i need to know is how to earn money with my little monthly income i just don't have the smarts to do it every end of the month we wind up with zero dollars in our bank account if my wife or i was to leave this earth we would not have money to get buried that's not a legacy we want to leave our grandchildren, my wife also is on disability she has survived breast cancer and thyroid cancer my wife and i are tired of living in the red i don't know if this letter will ever reach you,but at-least i get to air out my frustration,thank you for hearing me out and God bless.

  5. Dear Doris Buffett, my name is Janine am 22 years old and I live in Germany! My English is not so good, so I write with google translator! I hope this message reaches you! First, I want them all my greatest respect for their utter announced on life and lived through the past! Such a warm heart have too few! I do not know how to start with me! I went with 14 years in a home because of the contact with my mother was almost unbearable! From there I get relatively quickly into a home of their own, had to give up my care without financial backing, because I had to be hospitalized in 2010 with severe depression for 1 year, at the same time, my mother fell ill due to a stroke and since then she gets many do not mehe ralleine to the series, I decided a long time without me hesitate to move to their near and help her again! Although I have here can finish my training as a sales assistant and a part-time job for 2 years but with this content I can, my mother and my brother sometimes do not help finaziell! My debts are piling up and my mother to find a month and a clever and better paid work by month, my driver's license is missing! We have no money already in the beginning of the month. I wish I could just leave it to get away from these problems and everything! Just to clear your head and get shut to fight my depression, but it's not because I my brother and my mother can not let them down in this heavy time, who knows how long she has left to live: (… it available with safety among mankind who are worse off, but I think solangsam no way out and I can be bad to look forward, I would do anything they can help me please !!!
    Hopeful greetings, Janine.

  6. Dear Mrs. buffet
    I have read various things about you and your good deeds. In my current life pain I get to you. We are a family of 5 (3 children) in Switzerland and live in a small village. Since years I am working and take care of the children, the family and all the work queue. At last we would like to build our own home. For years we lived very sparingly and were restrictive. Today we lack a sum of approximately CHF 100,000.00. In my desperation I get to you if you would give us this amount? I stay at your disposal for further informations. About a positive answer I would be very happy. Thank you for considering my request. I wish you all the best and good health.

  7. I have worked really hard my hole life started working when I was 16 raised two kids. Thank the lord I have made it this far. But now I have a job I have been working for 11 years .Then out of the they told me they was switching me from days to nights .I do not like this one bit but I can not afford to quit. That is just alitle going on in my life. I am 50years and my teeth are in really bad shape it will cost a lot of money to fix them I want implants I fixed when I was younger and they went bad again not because I did not take care them I brushed like I supposed to just do not no what to hope you can help . Thank you

  8. Hi,

    If this message ever gets to Doris Buffet then PLEASE HELP ME SEE AGAIN. I lost my vision in the 5th grade and now I am legally blind. My "eyes" were my husbands however he suddenly died in his sleep about 5 months ago at the age of 49. Two days a miracle happened and I was able to try on a pair of glasses manufactured by esighteyewear.com. I was able to SEE 20/40!!! Unfortunately the glasses cost $15,000 which is not affordable to an average person on disability. I am looking for some assistance so I can get these glasses and go to work and also give back to folks who have my condition called Stargardt's Disease. Please consider looking at my site at "gofundme.com/kathleenross".

    God Bless you for all you have done to enable the average person to better him/herself.

    Kathleen Ross Wilburn

  9. Dear Madam I am Stephen Danda a director general of NGO known as SOCIAL AWARENESS AND LIVE SUPPORT(SALISU) from Tanzania east africa, the organization has many program to undertake 1.Poverty reduction and hunger eradication 2.Environmental conservation 3.Disaster and risk reduction 4.Support orphan widows and vulnerable children 5.Women development affairs 6.Sports,anthletics and cultural promotion.Since we registered to operate nationally in Tanzania mainland 2012 We have not get any funds to support our activities as I am a director general I always walk on foot from my home at Magingo village to my head office at Madaba village about 20Kilometres . Please help me a transport facility.

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