The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is a private grantmaking foundation which focuses on medical research, the environment, and education. The Trust has focused many of its projects in New York City, but has expanded to include the rest of the United States and some global initiatives in recent years. The Trust has recently been involved in the development of the controversial Common Core curriculum.
The Helmsley Charitable Trust is a product of the Harry and Leona Helmsley real estate empire, which began in the 1930s.  This empire included a majority share of the Empire State Building, the Park Lane Hotel, and countless other commercial holdings across the United States.  When Harry died in 1997, the portfolio was valued at $5 billion.  After Harry’s death, Leona began to sell off the portfolio, and the profits from the sales funded the Helmsley Charitable Trust. 
The Trust did not begin actively making grants until 2008, following Leona’s death.  Leona left the majority of the Helmsley estate to the Trust, and its four trustees were given the authority to decide where the funds would be directed.  Since 2008, the Fund has approved $2.449 billion in grants. 
Grants from the Helmsley Charitable Trust are divided into three primary areas: health, conservation, and education.  About 60 percent of the Fund’s annual grants are awarded to health programs, while the remaining grants are directed towards education and local environmental projects.
The Hemsley Charitable Trust focuses primarily on health care, both in the United States and abroad.
The “New York Program” is one of the Trust’s earliest initiatives. Targeted specifically in New York City, the program provides low-income New Yorkers with the highest medical needs with comprehensive, long-term healthcare.  This project includes partnerships with local homeless shelters to coordinate and share data on high-need patients. 
Outside of New York, the Trust funds medical programs in Israel and the Upper Midwest region. Over the past decade, the Trust has given over $240 million to projects and organizations supporting Israel.  The Trust’s influence in the Upper Midwest has been even larger.  As of February 2019, the Helmsley trust donated almost $400 million to improve healthcare delivery and innovation in rural areas of the Upper Midwest, including $100 million in South Dakota alone.  These grants include investing $77 million in eCare programs which connect specialists and experts from a central hub in Sioux Falls to rural hospitals to provide life-saving emergency care. 
The Trust has two primary medical research areas: Crohn’s Disease and diabetes. In 2019, the Trust gave a $468,860 donation to McGill University alongside the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Klarman Family Foundation.  That same year, the Trust gave $4.7 million to the University of California-San Diego for research on Crohn’s Disease.  The Foundation gave one of its largest grants to date to the Salk Institute in 2013 in the amount of $42 million to establish the Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine. 
In recent years, the Trust has begun to focus on environmental issues, giving over $8.1 million to environmentalist projects and organizations in 2019 alone.  That same year, the Trust gave a $500,000 grant to the Environmental Defense Fund, which is known for pushing a left-of-center environmentalist agenda around the world.  The Trust also gave $1.66 million to the World Wildlife Fund in 2019. 
The Trust is also a member of the Environmental Grantmakers Association. Most of its environmental grantmaking thus far has focused on oceans and water security, with a regional focus in Myanmar and the Galapagos. 
The Trust routinely gives grants to various universities and research projects, including Duke University, New York University, and Yale University. 
Aside from providing support for universities, the Trust is active in supporting K-12 education. The Trust is one of the primary financial backers of controversial Common Core curriculum development, a movement to standardize curriculum across the United States.
The Trust has been one of the main supporters of Common Core. In 2013-2014 alone, the Trust contributed $23.8 million to the development of tools for the implementation of the Common Core curriculum.  In 2019, the Trust gave a $2.7 million grant to Student Achievement Partners (SAP).  Student Achievement Partners is the group responsible for developing and pushing Common Core State Standards. 
People and Funding
The Helmsley Charitable Trust is funded by the proceeds of the Helmsley family’s extensive real estate holdings.  As of 2013, the Helmsley foundation is the twelfth largest foundation in the United States. 
Now lauded as a philanthropist, Leona Helmsley, the Trust’s namesake and benefactor, lived with some controversy. Nicknamed the “Queen of mean,” Helmsley had a reputation for refusing to pay contractors and harassing employees.  In spite of her apparent philanthropy, Helmsley was convicted of evading federal taxes for billing personal expenses to her business in 1988. She served 21 months in prison, after receiving a four year sentence. 
When Leona Helmsley passed away, she set no requirements on how her fortune be distributed. It was left to the total discretion of four trustees: family lawyer Sandy Frankel, business associate John Codey, and grandchildren David and Walter Panzirer.  Their personal interests have since directed the Fund’s giving.