Filling gaps – Initial grants announced

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem Foundation is working on several fronts to bring together people divided along lines such as those of race, class, gender, ethnicity and age.

Reflecting similar efforts in a growing number of communities, the foundation believes that people who know one another better can work together more effectively to fix social problems.

The foundation aims to encourage citizens and civic groups to be more involved in community activity through a $2.5 million fund it has created and through a national study it has joined involving 36 community foundations.

The $216 million-asset foundation has announced the first group of grants from the fund, which it created last year. Grants will be made every three months over the next five years.

Five grants from the initial round will support projects by local nonprofits, while a sixth grant will create a new initiative at the foundation that aims to increase philanthropy among blacks.

The Piedmont Opera Theatre, for example, is getting $15,550 to create after-school workshops for youngsters using culturally sensitive subject matter that will be performed.

The project will include more than 100 black and white children from churches and public schools, as well as disabled adults from The Enrichment Center.

In another project, which is receiving $50,000, the Southside Community Development Corp. will create partnerships among racially diverse neighborhoods to physically redevelop the Happy Hill area.

The area is split roughly two to one among blacks and whites, and its Spanish-speaking population is growing quickly.

The foundation hopes the Southside project can be a model for building partnerships in other neighborhoods.

Other grants include $36,500 to the YWCA of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County; $10,000 each to the Youth Activities Fund and the Neighborhood Institute for Community Leadership; and $6,798 to KUDZU.

The foundation’s new initiative on black giving will be funded with $50,000 of its own money that is being matched with $50,000 from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, also in Winston-Salem.

Scott Wierman, the foundation’s president, says the black philanthropy initiative is designed to strengthen the way the foundation promotes itself to black donors, and to create new vehicles for black giving.

“We would hope that would mean even more money flowing to charities serving the African-American community,” he says.

The foundation plans to hire a staff member to oversee the new initiative.

The foundation also is part of a national study — involving 36 community foundations and led by Harvard professor Robert Putnam –designed to involve more people in fixing social problems.

The study, to be release early in 2001, will poll 29,000 Americans, including 750 each in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, which also is part of the project.

The survey will look for ways to strengthen each community’s “social capital,” or the formal and informal civic groups and activities in which individuals participate in a community.

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