Latino donors giving back

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — About 200 Latino families in central North Carolina, mainly in Guilford County, have formed a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to raise money to build a nursing and retirement home in their native town of Mezquital in the Mexican state of Durango.

Spearheaded by Maria Rodriguez, who with her husband operates Peak Performance Dental Lab in Winston-Salem, the new Patronato Mezquital fund already has raised more than $10,000, says Tara Sandercock, the foundation’s vice president for programs.

The Mexican government, through a special program, will match $3 for every $1 raised by the fund for the nursing and retirement home, and will staff and maintain the facility.

The fund, whose name means “patron of Mezquital” and which grew out of a long-standing “hometown association” that immigrants from Mezquital had formed to raise funds to jointly support activities there, also may receive matching dollars from the Durham-based North Carolina Latino Coalition.

Fund organizers also are considering raising money for student scholarships and charitable projects in the Greensboro area.

“This group will always have its tie to its homeland,” Sandercock says. “But this is their home and they are interested in continuing their philanthropy just like any other group.”

The fund also is talking to the Durham-based Latino Credit Union, which has a branch in Greensboro, about developing reduced fees for immigrants to wire money, known as “remittances,” back home.

The fund is an outgrowth of a larger effort by the community foundation to better understand and support emerging philanthropy, Sandercock says.

The goal of that effort, funded over the past three years with a $100,000 “Circles of Giving” grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich., examined philanthropy among immigrants, African Americans, professional women, Jewish donors, entrepreneurs, youth, and gays and lesbians.

Flowing from that effort, for example, has been a revival of the community foundation’s youth philanthropy program in which 100 high school students over four years through 2003 gave away roughly $50,000 contributed by the foundation and United Way of Greater Greensboro.

Another initiative growing out of the Kellogg-funded effort is the Piedmont Unity Project, a partnership with the Guilford Green Foundation that has established an endowment at the community foundation to benefit organizations serving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The initiative, which was launched quietly last fall and has raised $132,000, exceeding its first-year goal by $32,000, is part of a national partnership that will provide matching funds of $100,000 over two years if the local effort raises $200,000.

Bob Page, founder and CEO of Replacements Ltd., serves as honorary chair for the initiative, which has hired Cecelia Thompson, a recent graduate of Elon University and former project assistant at the community foundation, as its staff member.

Sandercock says the Circles of Giving effort also has informed strategic planning at the community foundation, which has seen its assets grow to $85 million, an increase of $25 million over five years.

In that period, the foundation has redesigned its grantmaking program, taken part in several community partnerships and helped create the Guilford Education Alliance, a group that raises money to support local public schools.

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