As you might have heard, this year brings big changes to the Foundation. After 30 years, I’ll be stepping down from this wonderful post. It’s a bittersweet transition, but change is something to be embraced.
In efforts to get ready for the new, I’ve been unearthing the old. As I come across materials like “The First Twenty Years,” a book we published in 1995 to honor our early days, I’m humbled. In many ways, the Foundation and the community we serve have come so far.
Other writings I find remind me that when community foundations like ours first emerged in America, people were navigating socio-political strife that today feels all too familiar.
In the early 70s, when Greater Worcester Community Foundation was born, Civil Rights legislation, escalating protests against the Vietnam War, and huge gaps in social services were forefront in community dialogue. As Robert K. Massey, the Chair of our founding committee put it, the climate was one of “turmoil and also some hope.”
In response, insightful folk asked tough questions. If communities had funders agile enough to respond to emerging issues and bolster the work of nongovernmental organizations, could the needs of the day be better addressed?
The community foundation model has taught us that the answer is “yes.”
Defined as place-based grantors, community foundations are supported by the philanthropy of people who care about their neighbors. Over the years, we’ve democratized the charitable giving scene by elevating previously unheard voices and directing funding at previously unmet needs. We don’t offer “one-and-done” solutions to problems. Instead, we drive problem-solving by bringing people together to face difficult issues.
The strife I mentioned earlier feels all too familiar, because it is all too familiar. Then and now, inequality sits at the core of all that needs to be addressed.
Turmoil and some hope.
People who care about their neighbors.
Courage to face difficult issues with integrity.
These are the ingredients that get a community foundation started. They also keep us going.
As I pour through the archives of our starting years, I’m reminded that the recipe for the work we do was once experimental. I know now it’s tried and true.
| Me and a friend at the Boys & Girls Club, 2006