DENVER (AP) – Thousands of business and charity leaders gathered in Denver Tuesday for the second annual Clinton Global Initiative conference, where the foundation announced several new efforts to help poor communities.

The promises ranged from a group of California banks pledging access to $200 million for building projects to an initiative by laundromat owners to foster youth language development by making it easier for frazzled mothers to read to their children while doing the wash.

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – scheduled to formally launch her presidential campaign this weekend in New York City – didn’t attend, but her husband and daughter were joined by an array of CEOs, cabinet officials and celebrities for the two-day gathering.

Former President Bill Clinton kicked off the conference by telling a ballroom full of attendees that non-governmental groups that try to improve the world are increasingly essential.

“In the modern world, the non-governmental organizations, and many of you who represent them, are basically the glue that is pulling all this together in country after country after country,” Clinton said.

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The meeting comes as the foundation has come in for mounting criticism for providing a way for companies, people and nations who had an interest before the State Department to give money to the Clinton family while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The Clintons have denied wrongdoing.

LINK: The Clinton Foundation

– By Nicholas Riccardi, AP Writer

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