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Leon Levine, the philanthropist and founder of the Family Dollar chain of discount stores, died Wednesday, according to the Charlotte Observer. He was 85, WSOC-TV reported.

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Levine grew up in his family’s retail store and took those experiences with him when he opened the first Family Dollar in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1959. He was 22 years old at the time, according to company officials.

Dozens more Family Dollar stores opened across the South in the 1960s. The chain has since grown to thousands of locations across the U.S. and 810 combination Family Dollar and Dollar Tree stores.


In 1980, Levine and his wife, Sandra Levine, founded The Leon Levine Foundation with the goal of fostering greater economic mobility, according to the foundation. The group invests in nonprofit organizations across North and South Carolina, with more than $450 million granted to support various causes over the years, WSOC reported.

“The depth and breadth of Leon Levine’s generosity has transformed our philanthropic landscape,” retired Foundation For The Carolinas President and CEO Michael Marsicano said in a statement obtained by the Observer. “Imagine a legacy that reaches virtually every citizen in our community with generosity. This is the legacy of Leon Levine.”

The Leon Levine Foundation funded North Carolina’s biggest scholarship programs, according to WSOC. It has also provided grants to a slew of other organizations.

In 2007, the Levine Children’s Hospital opened in Charlotte after the foundation committed $10 million to support its creation. The hospital sees about 12,000 patients each year, according to officials.

The foundation later committed $20 million to establish the Levine Cancer Institute. It committed $25 million more in 2016, to support what hospital officials called a “significant expansion” of the institute.

Last year, the foundation donated $1 million to support a new main library in Charlotte, WSOC reported.

The Leon Levine Foundation has also granted more than $100,000 to the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. In a statement posted on social media, orchestra officials mourned Levine’s passing.

“Leon’s legacy of philanthropy has touched the lives of so many in our community & will continue to leave a lasting imprint on our city,” the statement read.