Feeding America: UAE Businessman Philanthropist Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Launches $500,000 Children’s Fund in Illinois

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, a well-known businessman and philanthropist, who launched a children’s fund in Central Illinois this week, says America needs to do more to address hunger and homelessness in the country. His comments came as US President Donald Trump took credit for a strong US economy and job growth in a speech in Ohio last week. Al Habtoor said that the US government needs to do more to address the issue on US soil.

“President Donald Trump is giving himself credit for a strong economy but he needs to prioritize the lack of basic human rights for many Americans,” Al Habtoor said. “The US homeless population increased for the first time since 2010 under the Trump administration. The US is the world’s biggest economy, where homelessness and poverty should not be an issue.”

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development acknowledged at the end of 2017 in its annual Point in Time count that there are 554,000 homeless people in the US. That’s a 1 per cent jump from the previous year, while the official poverty rate is around 12.7 per cent according to data from the US Census Bureau. Separately, Feeding America states that more than 46 million people in American turn to them for food each year.

Al Habtoor is in the United States for the launch the ‘Dr Khalaf Al Habtoor and Congressman Paul Findley’s Children Fund’. His $500,000 contribution, which has been awarded to the Central Illinois Foodbank in Springfield, will be used to establish an endowment to fund programs that provide food to people in need throughout the foodbank’s 21 counties.

Al Habtoor learned of the Central Illinois Foodbank and its outstanding performance in providing for the needs of the hungry, and specifically the needs of hungry children, through his long-term relationship with retired US Congressman, Hon. Paul Findley.

Al Habtoor said, “I am delighted to launch the Children’s Fund in my name and Congressman Paul Findley’s name. We have been friends for a long time and have fought many good causes together. But this is the first time we announce something in both our names. We may come from different parts of the world but our belief in helping humanity is the same.”

He added, “I am deeply grateful to Congressman Paul Findley for his vision and the commitments he has made as a tireless public servant in retirement.”

At a press conference attended by state and community leaders in Springfield, Illinois on Thursday 8 February 2018 Al Habtoor said, “I believe that philanthropy should be independent of race, religion and geography. When God gives you something, you have to give part of it to people in need without differentiation. You have to help everyone. The three main religions –Judaism, Christianity and Islam– teach us that.”

Al Habtoor said, “The Central Illinois Foodbank is doing a great job in supporting this very worthwhile cause. I commend it for the dedication and commitment to making the world a better place. It has been working tirelessly since 1982 to fight hunger within their community, and its efforts are making a significant impact on society.”

His comments came following a tour of the Central Illinois Foodbank facilities in Springfield. “The people of this region are very fortunate to be served by an organization that is nationally recognized for innovation, efficient operations, controlling costs and management of revenues and donations to ensure that every available dollar is spent on providing food for the hungry.  That is why I am so confident that the ‘Dr. Khalaf Al Habtoor and Congressman Paul Findley’s Children Fund,’ established through our gift will make a meaningful difference for the children in your cities, smaller communities and rural areas who are hungry.”

Al Habtoor also visited one of the Central Illinois Foodbank’s soup kitchens where he served and met people directly benefiting from one of its many initiatives.

Craig Findley, the son of Paul Findley, said it is hard to comprehend the depth of hunger’s presence in the heart of central Illinois.  “From Quincy in the west to Effingham in the southeast, there are 35,000 children who are food insecure,” he said.  “These are kids who literally don’t know where their next meal will come from. Through his career as a United States Congressman, my father is very proud to have worked with respected leaders and respected organizations to confront difficult, yet critical problems like childhood hunger. Quite clearly, Chairman Dr. Khalaf Al Habtoor is one of those respected leaders.  And again quite clearly, the Central Illinois Foodbank is one of those respected organizations.  Our family is honoured to join in the work underway to resolve childhood hunger in central Illinois.” 

Central Illinois Foodbank Executive Director Pam Molitoris said “children have always been a mission-based focus for the Foodbank.  In 2017, the Foodbank conducted 90 Healthy Food Distribution events in under-served urban and rural areas throughout the 21-county service region.”

“The majority of these Food Distribution events (62 out of 90) were Kids’ Healthy Food Distributions,” she said.  “Additionally, 37,000 meals were distributed in 2017 through our Kids’ Cafe and Summer Food programs, which provided meals to children from two to 18 years of age through after-school and summer enrichment programs.”

“Revenues earned from the fund, in time, will feed nearly 4,000 children annually through The Dr. Khalaf Al Habtoor and Congressman Paul Findley’s Children Fund,” she added.

The Al Habtoor Group is one of the UAE's most respected and successful businesses.  Today it operates in the UAE and international markets.  It employs thousands of highly-qualified, experienced professionals.  Just as the name of the UAE has become synonymous with trade and enterprise all over the world, the name of the Al Habtoor Group has become synonymous with dynamic growth, evidenced by its commitment to develop and grow businesses in multiple sectors.