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Funder fights sprawl – Staff departures a concern

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The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem has become North Carolina’s most influential private patron for smart growth, The News & Observer reported Oct. 19.

The $500 million-asset foundation has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in growth-related projects.

It also has brought planners together, spurred discussion among politicians and people, commissioned a Brookings Institution agenda for the state and created a statewide advocacy group, the N.C. Smart Growth Alliance.

But some people worry that the foundation’s interest in growth may fade because the staff that made the issue a priority will be gone by the end of the year, the newspaper said.

The Smart Growth Alliance, which tries to boost cooperation between environmentalists and people who work with the poor, grew out of meetings that the foundation organized two years ago to get people throughout the state to talk about growth and its impact in their communities.

The foundation gave $100,000 to get the alliance started.

Other grants include $50,000 to the state to support the campaign by Gov. Jim Hunt campaign to protect 1 million acres of land over the next decade, and $30,000 to the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to fund a symposium on growth.

Now, however, the foundation’s senior program staff is breaking up.

Executive Director Tom Lambeth and Assistant Director Joe Kilpatrick will leave at the end of the year, and program officers Valeria Lee and Peter Tavernise have taken positions with other groups.

“There’s a lot of interest in what that will mean for the foundation, said Molly Diggins, state director of the Sierra Club. “You can’t lose all that experience without signifying some sort of change.”

Lambeth’s successor, Thomas Ross, said staff changes will not diminish the foundation’s emphasis on growth issues.

For full story, go to The News & Observer.

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