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Leonard leaves ‘legacy of growth’ at Rochester Area Community Foundation

When Jennifer Leonard applied to the Rochester Area Community Foundation nearly three decades ago, she wanted to help make the agency a powerful tool for community betterment while serving as a regional center for family philanthropy.

Mission accomplished.

During Leonard’s tenure, the Community Foundation’s assets that benefit the Greater Rochester-Finger Lakes region have grown from $32 million to $598 million at the end of its fiscal year on March 31.

The foundation – which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – has distributed more than $547 million in grants and scholarships since its founding in 1972.

Rochester Area Community Foundation President and CEO Jennifer Leonard poses for a portrait on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Petracca)
Rochester Area Community Foundation President and CEO Jennifer Leonard poses for a portrait on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. (Photo by Lauren Petracca)

Leonard, who has led the foundation as its president and CEO for 29-plus years, will be retiring at month’s end. She is the foundation’s third top executive — and longest serving — in the organization’s history.

Simeon Banister, the foundation’s executive vice president, will succeed Leonard and starts the job Oct. 1.

Leonard is proud of being able to lead a strong, local community foundation that maintains positive partnerships.

“We’ve delivered on that plan to make this a center for optimism and positive change,” she said.

Rochester Area Community Foundation, in partnership with philanthropists and community partners, works to improve the quality of life for people who live in the eight-county region through its leadership and strategic grantmaking.

The foundation, as the region’s largest grant maker, focuses on two goals — creating an equitable community and strengthening the region’s vitality.

The foundation has 36 employees and operates 1,500 funds.

Before moving to Rochester in 1993, Leonard was vice president of the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles and a national writer and consultant in philanthropy.

Throughout her career, she learned about the importance of partnerships – among members of the community, as well as the government, businesses and donors – and how those partnerships can make a difference by working together toward positive change.

Leonard credits the kindness of the Rochester community for helping the foundation grow over the years.

“Charitable giving relies on people caring about each other,” she said.

Leonard noted that the foundation has strived to stay at the forefront of change.

Early on, for example, the foundation saw the need for and spoke about the importance of, a diverse community. As Rochester struggled with racial equity, the foundation was aware of the statistics on racial disparity and its link to poverty, Leonard noted.

“We addressed racial equity before it was on everyone’s agenda,” she said, adding that the foundation was not afraid to have uncomfortable discussions to help move forward.

“Building awareness is a precursor to changing behavior.”

Late last year a Sienna College research poll on racial attitudes showed that local awareness is expanding, with three-quarters of respondents saying they would embrace initiatives to reduce racism’s impact.

The Community Foundation initiated the poll series in 2012 after ACT Rochester, a Community Foundation affiliate, documented severe racial and ethnic disparities that were holding back the community’s progress.

While the poll shows attitudes are changing, Leonard notes there is more work to be done.

The foundation has several ways to help, she noted, including its Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund, that supports projects, programs and initiatives that address and remedy inequities and injustices and builds common ground throughout the region.

Immediately following her retirement, Leonard, who lives in Brighton, will be spending more time with her family – including her husband and two adult daughters.

She plans to remain living in the Rochester area and expects to continue to get involved in projects for the betterment of the community.

“I’m sure I’ll get to the point where I’m saying I don’t know how I found the time to work,” she joked.

Leonard is leaving the foundation well cared for with Banister.

She described Banister as the quintessential Rochesterian who is well respected — and well connected — throughout the community.

Prior to his role at the foundation, Banister’s career spanned public and private sectors and included the New York State Senate, state Department of Taxation and Finance, the State University of New York and several private commercial real estate firms.

Incoming Rochester Area Community Foundation president and CEO Simeon Banister. (Photo by Lauren Petracca)
Incoming Rochester Area Community Foundation president and CEO Simeon Banister. (Photo by Lauren Petracca)

A graduate of North Carolina Central University and the Princeton Theological Seminary, Banister is a sought-after speaker, most recently on Rochester’s history of redlining and racial inequities.

For several years, he has been president of the Greater Rochester Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and serves on the boards of the University of Rochester Medical Center, The Children’s Agenda, Genesee Land Trust and the Congressional Award Foundation.

“He loves Rochester and is optimistic about the future, and we both share that,” Leonard said. “Rochester has so much potential to be a great 21st Century city. Simeon knows that and he can help get it there.”

Banister, a Rochester native, has been with the foundation since 2017. He lives in the city with his family.

He is focused on what he refers to as “taking charge of change” and continuing the foundation’s momentum.

Like Leonard, he is a fan of the late writer James Baldwin’s quote “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

“There is often a tendency to dwell on the challenge,” Banister said. “We need to work together and push our way toward the solutions.”

An example of that collaboration came in March 2020 when the foundation and United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes launched the Community Crisis Fund.

Banister co-led the committee that met every day for several months to review and approve grant requests.

As a result, nearly $7 million was distributed by the committee during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the priorities moving forward is continuing to lead change efforts for environmental justice and sustainability, Banister said, noting that such funding is rooted in the understanding that the adverse effects of climate change are felt disproportionately in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Grantmaking efforts in this area aim to empower the most vulnerable communities through investment and inclusion and to make sure that all individuals – in urban, suburban and rural areas – have access to the benefits of an equitable and green economy, he explained.

Banister is confident about the organization’s growth, given its solid foundation, which was built by those who came before him, including Leonard.

“It’s a wonderful organization with good bones and I’m grateful to build on that,” Banister said.

Leonard has been recognized locally and beyond for her many contributions over the years, including receiving the Athena Award from the Women’s Council of the Rochester Business Alliance (now the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce) in 2010.

She most recently ranked on this year’s RBJ Power 100 and, in 2019, she was one of 10 women inducted into RBJ’s Circle of Excellence.

Area business and community leaders spoke of Leonard’s impact on the region.

Tom Richards, RACF board chair, said the mark that Leonard made on the community and everyone she has worked with will be present for years to come.

“She has been an outstanding leader who encourages and nurtures community-minded donors to address tough issues here at home and skillfully engages community partners to make our region a better place to live, work and educate our children,” Richards has said.

Gina Cuyler, M.D., vice president for Health Equity and Community Investments at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and a RACF board member, said Leonard has been a convener of both individual and collective resources to drive meaningful, measurable change and impact for all.

“Her impact and legacy will improve the lives and communities she has served, long after her retirement,” Cuyler said. “During her three decades of leadership, she has ensured that everyone had a place at the table and could contribute to making our communities sustainably better.”

Jaime Saunders, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes, described Leonard as the true definition of a community champion.

“Her efforts in creating an inclusive, equitable community have been evident through her early work on helping our community understand the importance of social capital and social connections, her push to focus on disparities through data and by centering conversations around the indisputable facts of race and inequities,” Saunders said. “Her impact is woven into the fabric of this community and leaves an indelible mark on us all.”

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Causewave collaborates on Matchstick Prize for local nonprofit

Causewave Community Partners is partnering with the Credit Union Collective — the Summit, Pittsford and Reliant Credit Unions — Rochester Area Community Foundation and News 8 WROC-TV to award an outstanding small, local nonprofit organization with the Matchstick Prize. It is the sixth year the prize has been awarded.

As the pandemic continues to affect the community and nonprofit sector, the collaborative will choose four finalists that each will receive customized capacity-building programming facilitated by Causewave. Additionally, the group will choose one overall winner, as it historically has.

Todd Butler

“Small nonprofits are so important to so many in our community,” said Causewave President and CEO Todd Butler in a statement. “They provide critical support and fill gaps in services to underserved populations – and their work is needed even more now, in the era of COVID-19.

“Nonprofits, like many of us, have been hit hard financially, whether they provide direct services or not. We are proud to be able to expand the Matchstick Prize this year to support more nonprofits as they support our community,” Butler added.

A group of community judges will review the nominations of small nonprofits in the Greater Rochester area that have demonstrated meaningful impact. Five finalists will be selected and one organization will receive a cash prize of $5,000, funded by the three credit unions, along with a media grant valued at $20,000, courtesy of News 8 WROC-TV.

Finalists will be notified in late November and the winner will be announced in mid-December, officials noted.

“Making a positive difference in people’s lives is an integral part of what we do at The Summit,” said Twanda Christensen, vice president of marketing and community engagement at the Summit Federal Credit Union. “We are happy to partner with other credit unions to sponsor the Matchstick Prize and help local not-for-profits in their work to strengthen our community.”

Causewave established the award in 2015 to recognize the impact of the nonprofit sector in the region. To qualify for the award, applicants must be a nonprofit with a yearly budget of less than $1 million and demonstrate meaningful and measurable change in the community.

This year, Causewave has streamlined the nomination process, reflecting the time demands being placed on small nonprofits. Particular consideration is being given to qualifying nonprofits that have been impacted by COVID-19 and are adapting services to constituent needs. Nominations are due by Nov. 12 at 5:00 p.m.

“Nonprofits have been the backbone of support for so many in our community and their heroic efforts often go unrecognized. We hope expanding the Matchstick Prize’s reach will help bring the importance of nonprofits’ work to the forefront,” said Community Foundation President and CEO Jennifer Leonard.

Previous winners of the Matchstick Prize include Coffee Connection, NAMI Rochester, R Community Bikes, C.U.R.E. Childhood Cancer and Teen Empowerment.

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Rochester Area Community Foundation assets reach record level

Rochester Area Community Foundation’s assets have reached a record-high $578 million, the organization said Wednesday during a celebration at Frontier Field.

“When people in Rochester do well, they share their abundance with others and last year was no exception,” said Foundation Board Chairman Tom Richards.

The asset total is one-third larger than when the pandemic began 17 months ago and was made possible by a rebounding economy and new gifts, Richards said. Some $43 million in contributions was received by the Foundation between April 2020 and March 2021. It was the third-best in the Foundation’s nearly half-century history and $15 million more than the previous year.

The Foundation distributed $34 million in grants and scholarships locally and elsewhere. The 600 families and individuals with donor-advised funds at the Community Foundation recommended nearly $23 million of that grant total to counter the pandemic’s ill effects on people, nonprofit organizations and their communities.

“You hit it out of the ballpark, again,” said President and CEO Jennifer Leonard, building on the evening’s theme “Stepping Up to the Plate to Help Our Community.” More than 300 people attended the in-person event.

Highlights from the last year include:

• Offering a new $100,000 Social Innovation Grant opportunity. After reviewing 25 applications, two nonprofit organizations each received $50,000 grants to expand their programs — one in the Clinton Avenue neighborhood and the other to help ease the transition from jail to the community;
• Partnering with United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes to launch the Community Crisis Fund, which raised and distributed nearly $7 million during the first year of the pandemic;
• Creating a Racial Equity Growth Fund that brought free learning pods to city libraries to help students and their working parents as well as hiring laid-off paraprofessionals; and
• Establishing an Arts Prevail Fund, which helped to support documentation of the intersection between the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement in Rochester. The fund also supported nonprofits that needed financial assistance to buy technology for remote events and reopening, and for special social justice concerts by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Four individuals were recognized with 2021 Philanthropy Awards at the event. Receiving the 2021 Joe U. Posner Founders Award, the Foundation’s highest honor, were Tom Riley and Barbara Kelley, both former Community Foundation board members. Hanif Abdul-Wahid and Mary Anne Palermo also were honored for their philanthropy at the event.

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Two organizations to share $100,000 Community Foundation grant

The Rochester Area Community Foundation is providing two $50,000 grants to two Black, Indigenous and Other People of Color-led organizations for social innovation projects that seek to make positive and meaningful change in the communities they serve.

The Father Laurence Tracy Advocacy Center will receive one of the grants for its Outreach Zone Program in Northeast Rochester, while Hope Initiatives CDC Inc. will receive the other grant for its HOPE Works project.

The social innovation grant offered up to $100,000 for the chosen project. The goal was to draw various proposals that would bring residents and communities together to solve issues that address academic achievement, racial equity or poverty.

Projects could be new or expansions of already successful programs. Collaboration with other groups was essential. This competitive grant opportunity drew 25 applications from nonprofits or community groups that collectively requested $2.8 million.

“Social innovations are focused on tackling community needs in ways that veer from typical, existing solutions, many of which were born out of systemic injustice. We wanted to invest in out-of-the-box thinking by nonprofits to solve problems they see every day in their work,” said Maya Crane, program officer for equity at the Community Foundation.

All of the applications were reviewed by a panel of community members from various organizations and businesses. The six proposals that received the top scores were discussed by the entire panel and then ranked based on how well they met the funding requirements and the potential for impact. In the end, the two projects were chosen to split the available funding from the Foundation’s Racial Equity Growth Fund.

The Father Tracy Advocacy Center plans to expand its on-the-street outreach efforts in the North Clinton Avenue neighborhood where it is located.

“We are grateful for Rochester Area Community Foundation’s reinvestment in neighborhoods. We look forward to using these funds to improve the quality of life for the residents of the La Avenida community,” said Rudy Rivera, CEO of the center named for a beloved Catholic priest who served the Latino community in the neighborhood for several decades.

With its grant, Hope Initiatives will enhance its Job Readiness and Retention program to proactively help men and women returning to the community after time in jail.

“I know that in the Black and Brown communities it’s tough sometimes for recent inmates to find housing, jobs and the right skillsets to be productive. I think it is really important that within the first 30 to 60 days they have the right resources so they don’t end up going back to jail or prison because of the struggles to figure out life as we know it,” said Tashanda Thomas, a member of the community review panel and chief human resources officer at WXXI Public Broadcasting System.

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Groups collaborate to fund remote learning internet issues

The County of Monroe is teaming with ESL Federal Credit Union, Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation on a solution to improve internet connectivity to help more students actively participate in their lessons throughout the school day.

Officials noted that the pandemic uncovered gaps in technology for students in the city of Rochester. Local and national foundations and other organizations responded quickly to ensure city students had laptop computers, tablets and devices to provide internet connections into the homes of students who needed them.

But the continuation of remote learning this fall has brought about another issue: Hotspot devices have not provided enough speed or consistent connection required for effective online learning.

“I am extremely grateful for the generosity and innovative spirit of our partners who are helping to ensure that our students receive the best education possible during a global pandemic,” said RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small in a statement. “For many of us, having reliable internet access is a given. For many of our students, getting this access will not only help with their education, it also brings them to a more equitable playing field.”

T-Mobile’s Project 10Million will donate 2,900 mobile hotspots to be distributed to RCSD students in kindergarten through high school who do not have reliable internet connections.

Monroe County has committed to using up to $175,000 of the federal CARES Act money to cover the $43,000 monthly connectivity costs for those devices through Dec. 31. The organizations will work together to coordinate among other area philanthropies to support the purchase of additional mobile hotspots for up to 2,000 more students. The county also will cover the $32,000 monthly unlimited data charges for the devices for November and December.

Local funders have committed to contributing and raising additional resources to continue to pay the $83,000 monthly unlimited data charges for all of the new hotspots through summer school.

“The collaborative work being done in our community across public, private and nonprofit sectors to address the critical needs of families during this pandemic is the exact kind of regional collaboration we need to solve Greater Rochester’s challenges,” said ESL Vice President/Director, Community Impact Ajamu Kitwana. “The collaboration between Monroe County and the city school district has motivated us to match the county’s funding as a show of deep support for that partnership.”

With ESL paying for two months of internet connectivity and GRHF and RACF committing to each pay for a month, that leaves four monthly bills not covered. ESL will help close that gap by matching additional contributions up to $350,000. United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. has offered $25,000 toward that effort.

“As we continue to navigate this unprecedented pandemic, we need to work together to ensure our students have the resources they need to learn and succeed. This is no small task,” said County Executive Adam Bello. “Thanks to the support of our community partners we’re able to ensure that RCSD students will have reliable WiFi for the rest of the school year.”

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GRE accepting applications for Economic Gardening program

Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc. is accepting applications for its expanded Economic Gardening program. The program is designed to accelerate business growth across the Greater Rochester region.

Nearly 200 companies have participated in the program to date, creating 1,625 new jobs and revenue growth of more than $340 million.


“We know that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, accounting for 15 percent of the companies and 40 percent of the job growth,” GRE President and CEO Matt Hurlbutt said in a statement. “GRE’s Economic Gardening program connects participating business leaders with the resources they need to generate increased revenue, create new jobs and thrive.”

The program serves private companies throughout the nine-county region and is the only one of its kind in New York state. It is designed to provide local companies with sophisticated, tailor-made technical assistance focused on improving sales and marketing efforts to drive revenue growth.

The program is offered at no charge to participating companies. All program costs are supported by ESL Charitable Foundation, GRE, Monroe County Industrial Development Corp., Rochester Area Community Foundation and the William and Sheila Konar Foundation.

“The GRE team has a long record of success bringing this national program to businesses in our region,” said Howard Konar, a trustee of the Konar Foundation. “The Economic Gardening program helps local businesses get the assistance they need to grow and we are pleased to support it.”

Participating companies must be for-profit and privately held, headquartered and operating in the Greater Rochester region, with between $1 million and $50 million in annual revenue. Companies must employ 10-99 people, demonstrate growth in employment and/or revenue for at least two of the past five years and provide products or services to markets outside of Rochester. Minority and women-owned business enterprises are encouraged to apply.

“We have doubled our investment in this program to ensure that entrepreneurial minority- and women-owned businesses can benefit from all that it offers to help them grow, create new jobs, and use all forms of marketing and social media more effectively,” said Simeon Banister, vice president of Community Programs at RACF.

Participating companies will work with a strategic research team to develop a plan to accelerate their success. Research teams are provided by the National Center for Economic Gardening, a national organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship.

“GRE runs one of the premier programs in the country, building Rochester’s economic future, one local company at a time,” said Chris Gibbons, the founder of the National Center for Economic Gardening.

Research teams will perform focused research to help companies:

• Identify qualified sales leads and tap into new and growing markets
• Leverage social media to connect with customers
• Improve online marketing efforts with search engine optimization and website analysis
• Analyze employee temperament to build strong management teams

“The Economic Gardening program is an innovative and highly effective tool that helps emerging businesses grow in Greater Rochester at no charge to them,” said MCIDC Executive Director Ana Liss. “The Monroe County Industrial Development Corp. is pleased to support this important business retention and expansion platform.”

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Community Foundation to honor nonprofit, three philanthropists

Three local philanthropists and a teen organization will be honored Wednesday for their contributions to the Rochester community.

The Rochester Area Community Foundation has honored local philanthropists who make a difference in the eight-county region for three decades. Wednesday’s 2020 Philanthropy
Awards and Annual Report to the Community also will provide an update on the Community Foundation’s leadership activities and grantmaking in the past year as well as its more recent COVID-related relief efforts.

Jose Coronas will receive the organization’s highest honor, the Joe U. Posner Founders Award. Coronas is a former Community Foundation board member and chairman and also is a co-founder of Trillium Group, which provides seed funding to help start new businesses.

Nancy Robbins and Mary-Frances Winters will receive philanthropy awards as well. Robbins, who volunteered on numerous boards throughout her life, is best known for being the lead volunteer and fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House. Winters, named by Forbes magazine as one of 10 trailblazers in diversity and inclusion in 2019, served on the Community Foundation’s board of directors and established the Winters Group Fund to Promote Diversity & Inclusion in 1996.

The 2020 recipient of the Ames-Amzalak Award for Nonprofit Excellence is the Center for Teen Empowerment, which opened in Rochester’s Southwest neighborhood in 2003 to help urban youth hone their understanding of the social problems they face and use their talents and skills to create change in their own lives and in their communities.

The awards event will take place online Sept. 23 at noon.

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Summer Meals program to be expanded

Foodlink Inc., the city of Rochester and the Rochester City School District are taking a new and innovative approach to ensure that children in the community have access to nutritious meals this summer.

As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to limit food access and has shuttered traditional summer programs, the Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester, grab-and-go meal options will be provided and parents will be allowed to pick up meals without the children being present – which has been a requirement in previous years. The partnership also is introducing more “mobile meals” options for children due to the cancellations of summer classes and reduced enrollment for summer programming and camps.

The three organizations collaborate with community partners such as Common Ground Health and the Rochester Area Community Foundation to organize and promote Summer Meals each year. The Foodlink Community Kitchen and the Rochester City School District prepare and deliver meals to dozens of sites across the city.

To help increase healthy food access in Rochester, the partnership will be collaborating with Regional Transit Service (RTS) to deliver meals to select neighborhoods that do not have an established Summer Meals site, such as an R Center, school or church. This new model, similar to an ice cream truck, will circle select neighborhoods and provide free meals all summer long.

“RTS has a long history of partnering with organizations in the Rochester region to connect people to important destinations and services,” RTS CEO Bill Carpenter said. “The Summer Meals partnership has always done a great job providing healthy meals to children each summer. During this COVID-19 pandemic, the team at RTS is happy to be a part of such an important program and looks forward to working with the partnership to find new ways to reach more children in the community.”

The city of Rochester and Foodlink also will increase the mobile meals program, which sends vans with meals to locations such as libraries and parks, where families often gather during the warmer months.

Last year’s Summer Meals program served nearly 250,000 meals, with an average daily participation rate of more than 3,920 children.

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Rochesterians donate nearly $4 million to Community Crisis Fund

More than $3.8 million has been raised for the Community Crisis Fund, which was started roughly six weeks ago by the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. and the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

Nearly 600 individuals have donated more than $225,000 by mailing in donations or giving online. More than five dozen grants have been made, including the following last week:
• Alzheimer’s Association, Rochester & Finger Lakes Region Chapter
• Boys & Girls Club of Geneva
• Child Advocacy Center of the Finger Lakes
• Keeping our Promise Rochester
• Mary Cariola Children’s Center
• Suzanne’s Comfort Care Home Inc.

Other community partners include ESL Charitable Foundation — which started the fund off with a $1 million donation — the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, the William & Sheila Konar Foundation, the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund Inc., Bank of America, Wegmans Food Markets Inc., M&T Bank and numerous others.

The United Way has received more than 5,000 homemade masks to provide to local nonprofits, but the agency anticipates some 50,000 or more masks are needed for nonprofit staff and clients.

More than 2,450 volunteer slots have been filled, agency officials said, but Hope Initiatives is looking for individuals with basic carpentry, woodworking or metalworking skills to assist with building furniture for those in need in the community. The organization also needs help with moving and deliveries.

St. Mark’s and St. John’s have responded to COVID-19 by delivering food each day to households across the community. Officials noted that demand continues to rise and their regular food supply is running out quickly. Donations of non-perishable food items can be made Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. or Thursdays from 2 to 3 p.m.

All volunteer opportunities can be seen at

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Area philanthropists to receive Community Foundation awards

Five hundred guests will help celebrate several area individuals and nonprofits Thursday at Rochester Area Community Foundation’s 2018 Philanthropy Awards and Annual Report to the Community Luncheon.

The event, to be held Sept. 20 at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, honors local philanthropists who make a difference in the region.

Kathy Nixon
Kathy Nixon

“As a public charitable foundation, we feel it’s critical to be accountable and to report on our financial and programmatic work to the public every year,” RACF President Jennifer Leonard said.

In addition to its annual report to the community, the foundation this year also will release a more detailed biannual report. RACF said the assets it holds on behalf of the community have reached an all-time high of $492 million, up $48 million from last year. In four of the last five years, assets experienced double-digit increases, said RACF board member Elizabeth Thorley.

“The continued growth of these assets means that the Community Foundation can provide more grant support to effective programs and projects that nonprofit organizations offer to communities throughout the Greater Rochester-Finger Lakes region,” Thorley said.

Nearly 6,600 grants and scholarships totaling $29.4 million were awarded during the last fiscal year, the second highest in the foundation’s history.

Leonard said the luncheon is an opportunity for RACF to give philanthropy awards that recognize outstanding individuals, and in some cases organizations, that have made a difference in the community.

“The individuals and families are recognized for creative and effective giving that also inspires others. They typically have worked with us. And many of the people who work with us have philanthropic funds in the Community Foundation, which then also support the community,” Leonard said. “All of the people we’re recognizing are supporters of community philanthropy. Some are focused on children or the needs of women; others are broadly interested in a range of charitable organizations.”

Kathy Nixon, a former Community Foundation board chairwoman and retired executive director of the former Rundel Library Foundation, will receive the Joe U. Posner Founders Award. The award is named in memory of the organization’s founding chairman and recognizes an individual who has shown significant commitment to the foundation and its mission.

Bud and Peggy Frame
Bud and Peggy Frame

Nixon and her husband, Ted, in 1987 opened RACF’s Early Childhood Education Fund. The couple also opened the Fund for Self-Esteem, which supports projects that increase an individual’s self-worth.

Although retired from the Community Foundation’s board of directors, Nixon remains active in the organization and in the community.

Other 2018 Philanthropy Award recipients include:
• Bud and Peggy Frame and family—The Frame family has had a fund at RACF since 1991 and their endowed donor advised fund has been used to support projects in the community, particular the Harley School and the summerLEAP programs;
• Randy and Marion Henderson—The owners of Henderson Ford in 2010 set up the Henderson Family Legacy Fund to support education and address issues affecting families and the elderly. The Webster couple focuses their giving on youth and faith-based programs; and
• St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center—The agency, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph 25 years ago, has been awarded the Ames-Amzalak Award for Nonprofit Excellence, which comes with an unrestricted grant of $10,000. St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center a few years ago took on the issue of structural racism and organized in-depth training and reflection over a two-year period that

Marion and Randy Henderson
Marion and Randy Henderson

involved 29 local agencies and more than 200 employees.

Each year since 1991, Philanthropy Award recipients have been recognized for their creative and effective giving that inspires others while strengthening the communities in eight counties in the Greater Rochester region. Known as the steward of charitable funds and endowments, the Community Foundation connects donors with the region’s current and evolving needs, with the goals of creating an equitable community and strengthening the region’s vitality.

Rochester City Council this week approved legislation to memorialize a portion of East Avenue from Alexander Street to Goodman Street as Joe U. Posner Way. The vote took place 46 years to the day that Posner founded the organization.

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Youth recreation programs receive Rochester Area Community Foundation grants

action-active-athletes-264312Rochester Area Community Foundation will award nearly $330,000 in grants to 20 local youth sports and recreation programs from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Fund for Youth Sports.

The grants range from $5,500 to $25,000 and support projects that will have a direct impact on more than 6,500 youth in Monroe, Ontario, Seneca and Wayne counties. RACF received 82 proposals, including 19 from outside Monroe County, and requested a combined total of more than $1.5 million.

“The amount of interest in this first grant round for youth sports was impressive,” RACF President and CEO Jennifer Leonard said in a news release. “We are honored to further Ralph Wilson’s love of sports by introducing new and improved opportunities to as many children as possible.”

The inaugural grants were made possible by the $5 million endowed fund established in 2016 by the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation at RACF. Beginning this year, the fund will provide annual and ongoing grants to support and strengthen the quality, quantity and accessibility of regional youth sports and recreation programs.

The nonprofits to receive funding for youth sports-related programs and projects are:

• AutismUp: $5,500; A “Youth Sports Series” will provide 60 youth with autism and related disabilities a chance to learn the language, rules and skills of a variety of sports (basketball, soccer, swimming) at their own pace and with individualized support. Coaches will be trained to support the unique learning and behavior needs of participants.
• Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester Inc.: $24,850; The “Weekend Free Play Zone” program on Saturdays will provide youth the chance to participate in alternative sports and activities to that are oftentimes inaccessible due to fee-based restrictions. Activities will include dance instruction, golf lessons, bowling, fencing, tennis and others. The Genesee Street clubs also will allow non-members to access Saturday programming to encourage them to join.
• Center for Disability Rights: $15,356; Support for the Rochester Rookies, a wheelchair and ambulatory track and field sports program for disabled athletes (5 to 23 years old) that provides a customized approach focusing on each athlete’s interests.
• Coordinated Child Development Program Inc.: $7,698; A “Partnership for Play” program allows sharing of the CCDP school-age program in Canandaigua, Ontario County, and the Salvation Army school-age program less than a mile away. During 42 weeks of the school year, nine different sports will be offered at both locations to introduce sport sampling and free play to 68 children.
• EquiCenter Inc.: $24,500; The “Horseplay” program will provide a non-traditional recreation program to 117 youth ages 5-14 years old at the Mendon ranch, combining life lessons and skills using interactive play and learning with horses. This approach combines equine-assisted learning with the exploration of nature, along with structured and free play.
• Girl Scouts of Western NY Inc.: $25,000; Offers 550 girls the chance to experience and participate in archery and a ropes course, with certified instructors, during their time at Camp Piperwood in Perinton. Also includes archery and ropes training for Girl Scout leaders to address a shortage of trained instructors.
• HOPE Academy: $9,910; Based out of the City of Rochester’s Flint Street Recreation Center, this program will provide at least 10 scholarships for athletes ages 8 to 16 from low-income households in the city to participate in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for 12 months, and cover the necessary expenses to participate.
• Ibero-American Development Corp.: $14,720; Providing play activities in the El Camino neighborhood, including six weeks of supervised play (three hours a day, five days each week) at Conkey Corner Park and pop-up play at several pre-identified streets and sites. A neighborhood survey will provide data on interests and utilization by area youth and families.
• NYSARC, Inc. Wayne County Chapter: $25,000; Based on the “Rec on the Move” model used by the City of Rochester’s Department of Recreation and Youth Services, the Free Activities and Sports Trailer Program (FAST) will be a trailer fully stocked with equipment to create an inclusive mobile sports and activities center to serve 2,400 high-needs youth, ages 7 to 15, across Wayne County. Recreation opportunities would include collaboration with 12 partner agencies.
• Pop Warner Little Scholars Inc.: $25,000; Refurbish 530 football helmets to increase youth safety for the Rochester Rams from Rochester’s School 33. Also includes coaching football certification costs and transportation for youth to games.
• ROC E6 Inc.: $8,975; In partnership with the Rochester Knighthawks and several other lacrosse groups, the community youth sports program will provide 200 youth ages 6-18 in the City of Rochester with the opportunity to play lacrosse through four different sessions throughout the year, while also providing mentoring and educational tools.
• Rochester Area Fencing Foundation Inc.: $25,000; The program, in collaboration with the Rochester Fencing Club, will provide 24 weeks of after-school fencing instruction to 40 students from Canandaigua Academy and Middle School during the 2018-19 school year. Also includes purchase of equipment and substantial discount for entry to two tournaments.
• ROCovery Fitness Inc.: $15,040; Provides addiction recovery support through development of a youth fitness program for 25 to 50 youth, ages 13 to 21, in collaboration with Villa of Hope. The activities will include hikes, bike riding, group running, basketball, soccer, baseball and yoga.
• St. John Bosco Schools: $14,749; Enhance the athletic program at the East Rochester-based Catholic school so that students can participate in Section Five sports and adults can receive coaching, first aid, CPR and injury prevention training. The project also includes the purchase of sports equipment and materials needed for competitive play.
• St. John Fisher College: $21,650; Introduce a “Teaching to Initiate Play” pilot program to empower youth to develop skills for engaging in independent play and for organizing team play with peers through the college’s summer basketball camp and in fifth- and sixth-grade physical education classes in the Gates Chili Central School district. Roughly 830 youth will participate. Scholarships will be provided for youth from low-income households to participate in the college’s summer program, including support for transportation.
• St. Paul’s Lutheran School: $20,000; Encourage sport sampling with opportunities for free play for 100 to 140 youth ages 4-14 in North Greece, Hilton and Hamlin areas in partnership with the local town recreation departments.
• Seneca Falls Development Corp.: $5,840; The “Team Active8 Youth Program” will provide a series of non-traditional sports, games and activities for up to 80 youth in third through fifth grades in Seneca Falls, Seneca County, over an eight-week span in Fall 2018 and again in Spring 2019. Activities will be overseen by the recreation and community center staff.
• Seneca Sailing Academy Inc.: $6,524; Supports 13 scholarships for youth sailing lessons on Seneca Lake, including transportation and lunch. Plan also includes launching a community outreach campaign to promote the opportunities.
• South East Area Coalition: $8,690; Work with Rochester neighborhood groups to paint playful sidewalks around two parks, which will act as a natural way to lead area youth to play spaces. At the park will be a toy library with balls, bases, Frisbees, jump ropes and other toys for youth and families to engage in play together.
• Village of Phelps: $25,000; Supports building a safe and innovative playground for 1,375 youth, ages 2 to 13, to experience free play by replacing the deteriorating and outdated playground equipment on the grounds of the community center and library.

RACF, collaborates with philanthropists and community partners to improve the quality of life for people who live in the eight-county Rochester/Finger Lakes region through its leadership and strategic grant-making. RACF has distributed more than $440 million in grants and scholarships since its founding in 1972.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is a grant-making organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. Prior to Ralph Wilson’s passing in 2014, he requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a lifelong generosity of spirit by funding the foundation.

The foundation has a grant-making capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period.

“This first round of grants will be a game-changer for programs that do great work with small budgets,” said Simeon Banister, interim vice president of community programs at the Community Foundation. “We expect to distribute more than $400,000 next year with hopes that more programs will be offered, more youth will be able to participate and that the benefits of training coaches will pay off.”

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