UPS members await the announcement | Photo by Melissa Chipman
UPS representatives await the announcement of a $500,000 grant to the Ali Center. | Photo by Melissa Chipman

UPS, the city’s largest employer, is the first business to commit a major corporate grant to the Muhammad Ali Center following the June 3 death of the iconic boxer and peacemaker.

The UPS Foundation donated $500,000 to fund Ali Center educational initiatives including UCrew, a service and social entrepreneurship effort; Generation Ali, a social justice training program; Creating our Future, a middle and high school curriculum; and the Muhammad Ali Center Council of Students, a youth leadership group; as well as future educational programs.

Ali Center President and CEO Donald Lassere said the grant will help “inspire the next generation to be great.”

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, has worked with teens on the Ali Center Council of Students and said they were “truly remarkable young people.” He also said the UPS grant helps reinforce the fact that the Ali Center is “not just a place to come look at things,” but “a place of service and education.”

Houston Mills, airline director of safety at UPS, spoke on behalf of the company during Monday’s press conference at the Ali Center. He said the programs at the Ali Center matched with many of the company’s values, like an appreciation for “social service and entrepreneurship.” Like Ali, he said, UPS “builds bridges” and “connects global communities,” adding, “Nations that trade don’t fight.”

Lassere also said the grant would help pay for “thousands of thousands” of Jefferson County Public Schools students to visit the Ali Center in the fall when they will be opening a new exhibit on race relations.

According to Lassere, the gift was not necessarily in the pipeline until Ali’s death, but it is a well-deserved recognition of the center’s work. Several UPS employees in attendance described the grant as “the right thing to do.”

Attendees praised the city for the many memorials following Ali’s death. Lassere complimented the city, which “made sure the world was welcomed to Louisville.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, “The eyes of the world were on our city… it was a time of love and hope.” He further stated that the UPS grant says “we believe in light, we believe in goodness.”

Houston Mills concluded the event with this quote from UPS Founder Jim Casey: “Once the people you deal with recognize what you do springs from an honest heart, they will be surprisingly strong in their support of you. They will believe what you say. They will do what you want. They will give you their loyalty. They will trust and follow you.”

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