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Prince: The philanthropist

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Prince receives Vanguard Award.
Musician Prince is seen on stage at the 36th NAACP Image Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on March 19, 2005, in Los Angeles. Prince was honored with the Vanguard Award.
Kevin Winter | Getty Images 2005

Prince will be remembered for his music. But even though friends and recipients of his donations say Prince did not like to call attention to his giving, some will think first of his charity.    

During an interview last month on CNN, Van Jones, a long-time Prince friend and former adviser to President Obama, said he believed the musician's faith explained his preference for quiet charity.

"He was a Jehovah's Witness, so he was not allowed to speak publicly about any of his good acts, any of his charitable activity," Jones said.    

Much of what can be gleaned with any certainty about Prince's philanthropy comes from public tax filings for his Love 4 One Another foundation. Those filings indicate he gave $1.5 million to charity from 2005 to 2007. There are no filings after 2007.   

  About 60 percent of the $1.5 million went to Jehovah's Witnesses organizations in Minneapolis and Las Vegas.    

In a September 2012 interview on "The View" TV show, Prince said he felt people had a responsibility to care for one another. 

    "We're at a place now in this country where we're going to have to work together and stop looking at each other's affiliation and start taking care each other," he said. "This is desperate times."    

Ultimately, documenting all of Prince's philanthropy is probably impossible, at least without a public accounting from his estate.  But Jones says he helped Prince aid people and communities in myriad ways, from funding basketball leagues and environmental programs to paying hospital bills and training kids for promising technology jobs.    

And it was Prince who gave money to Trayvon Martin's family after the Florida teenager was killed in 2012.  In a recent interview on MSNBC, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said Prince wanted no recognition.  She said it was a shame she couldn't say anything until Prince was gone.  

  "He was a very private person," Fulton told the Rev. Al Sharpton. "We were told where it came from but we just did not publicly say that he was a supporter until now. It is a shame that we had to wait until his death in order to say something." 

A fan touched Prince's star on the wall.
After kissing his fingers, a fan touched Prince's star on the wall of First Avenue on April 21.
Jeff Wheeler | Star Tribune via AP

  Other examples of Prince's philanthropy:  

 

Education: Mastery School

  In 1993 Prince donated $200,000 to the Harvest Network of Schools. The group is made up of about 1,300 charter school students, mostly poor and black.

Prince's gift helped fund Harvest's purchase and renovation of a former nursing home on Olson Memorial Highway in north Minneapolis.

    "It was the absolute game changer at that time. There's very little startup money available for schools," said Karen Kelley-Ariwoola, manager of external relations for the Harvest Network of Schools. "There was no press release or big event. He simply found out about our school and felt that it added value to the community.  He cared deeply about children and investing and ... safe places for them to play and learn."  

 

Shelter: Bridge for Youth

  About a decade ago, Prince gave $23,000 to The Bridge for Youth, which serves runaway and homeless youth.    

The money came from Love 4 One Another Charities, a foundation Prince established. Until the musician's death last month, the organization didn't realize Prince was behind the donation.    

"He was way beyond his time in terms of wisdom and addressing some major social, race, racism issues in our country," said executive director Michelle Basham. "But he also really lived his values. He gave money to charity but he did it without asking for credit."  

 

Poverty: Promise Zone

Not all gifts were made anonymously. News releases and public events sometimes drew attention to Prince's donations, not to mention some pet causes. 

That was the case with his $1 million gift to The Harlem Children's Zone and $250,000 donation in 2011 to the Eau Claire Promise Zone. That Columbia, S.C., nonprofit supports organizations working to improve the lives of children in the city's impoverished Eau Claire neighborhood where Prince drummer John Blackwell grew up.   

  "He just loved children like this and valued them and tasked us with the with the great honor and responsibility to spend that money wisely," said Matthew Costello, Promise Zone executive director.

Correction (May 12, 2016): John Blackwell's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.