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The Leon Levine Foundation: "An Opportunity Too Good to Miss"

Leon Levine and his wife, Sandra, donated $100,000 to The Michael J. Fox Foundation in June 2011. Thanks to the Brin Wojcicki Challenge, their contribution was doubled. Read more about the inspiration behind their gift in an article in the fall issue of our newsletter, Accelerating the Cure. Click here to see the entire issue.


In 1959, Leon Levine opened the first Family Dollar store, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The goal was to offer his customers a variety of high-quality, good value merchandise for less than $2. His concept for a self-serve, cash-and-carry neighborhood discount store proved so successful that upon Leon’s retirement as Chairman and CEO in 2003, the chain had grown to over 4,600 stores with $1.1 billion in revenue.

Seeking to give back to the community that enabled his success, in 1980 he founded the Leon Levine Foundation, dedicated to education, healthcare, Jewish religion and human services. The Foundation has focused much of its giving locally and has left an indelible mark on Charlotte. The children’s hospital, museum of the New South, Jewish Community Center and campus at Central Piedmont Community College all bear the name “Levine” in honor of the Foundation’s generosity.

But now the community touched by the Levine Foundation’s generosity has grown far beyond Charlotte to include five million more people — those with Parkinson’s worldwide.

After Leon’s wife, Sandra, lost both her mother and brother to Parkinson’s disease, she began exploring organizations making progress in Parkinson’s research and came across MJFF. In June, the Leon Levine Foundation made a contribution of $100,000 to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). Through the Brin Wojcicki Challenge, the Levine Foundation’s gift will be doubled.

Not only was this the Foundation’s first gift to MJFF, but its first gift designated specifically for Parkinson’s research. The shift was driven by a belief that MJFF’s strategic approach would get us closer to a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Said Larry Polsky, program officer at the Levine Foundation: “MJFF has built the scientific staff with the expertise to constantly evaluate the research landscape and where investments should be made. They are the leader in knowing — and driving forward — the most promising research.”

One of the defining attributes of Family Dollar stores and Leon’s career has been a commitment to good value and high quality. Leon explained: “We believe that in making a contribution to MJFF, we are pointing our funds in the best direction, to leverage them for the greatest impact. With the Challenge, the opportunity to help speed a cure to Parkinson’s, and to do so faster, was simply too good to miss.”

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