News & Event
May 10, 2017
The foundation created by the late Buffalo Bills founder Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. has awarded $5 million to Rochester Area Community Foundation to expand and improve opportunities for youth sports and recreation programs in the greater Rochester region.
This gift established the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Youth Sports, which will provide annual and ongoing grants to support current and new youth sports programs run by local communities or organizations and to make them more accessible to all youth. An additional gift of $250,000 was included to allow the Community Foundation to have a substantial first grant round later this year.
“We are honored to build on Mr. Wilson’s lifelong love of sports by helping our region’s young athletes and those participating in local recreation programs enjoy quality programs in their own communities and learn from knowledgeable, well-trained coaches and adult organizers,” says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Community Foundation.
“By establishing this endowed fund at the Community Foundation, it allows us to permanently support very localized projects in the region for which a smaller grant can make all the difference,” says David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “In addition, while we continue to seek out opportunities to invest in broader youth sports and recreation programs, this fund will provide an opportunity to test out ideas and programs on a smaller, pilot level.”
A Youth Sports Task Force for the Rochester Region, comprised of more than three dozen representatives from organizations involved in youth play and sports in Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties, has been meeting since last summer. Its main purpose is to provide input on local priorities and needs related to youth sports and low-income youth participation in sports programs.
“Many youth sports programs in our region are held together heroically on a shoestring budget and this new fund can help provide stability and enhance what is being offered,” says Hank Rubin, vice president for community programs at the Community Foundation, who convened the task force. “This all-local task force has been instrumental in helping us to better understand the youth sports and play landscape and establish a common understanding of what constitutes quality.”
For this effort, youth sports is being defined as formal sports teams that are part of out-of-school-time programs (before and after school, expanded learning, and summer enrichment); sports and recreation within local school districts; general recreational activities and facilities; and organized community programs that offer sports for youth up to age 18 as part of their overall offerings.
The Community Foundation and the Michigan-based Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation have partnered with the Aspen Institute to study existing youth sports opportunities in Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties and highlight where the gaps exist. The Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, based in Washington, D.C., tracks and reports on the state of youth sports nationally. The youth sports task force members provided valuable input to Aspen researchers on what is happening in our communities and in their youth sports programs.
Aspen’s study, to be released this summer, will help focus the Community Foundation’s grantmaking investments from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Youth Sports. The overarching goal is to strengthen the quality, quantity, and accessibility of youth sports programs in the region. Also, an expanded task force will assist Community Foundation staff to identify areas of focus and strategies for grantmaking in youth sports and recreation activities for children under age 18 in our region.
The Community Foundation expects to launch its youth sports grant opportunities in Fall 2017.
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., a native of Detroit, considered Western New York his adopted hometown because of his passion for the Buffalo Bills football team, which he founded in 1959. The foundation established after Wilson’s death in March 2014 is concentrating its investments in Southeast Michigan and Western New York, which includes greater Rochester. The Wilson Foundation focuses its efforts on four key areas: children and youth; young adults and working class families; caregiving; and healthy communities. Funds for youth sports already were established in Buffalo and Southeast Michigan and grants have been awarded in those communities.
The youth sports fund is the second endowment established at the Community Foundation by the Wilson Foundation. In December 2015, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Smart Strategy was created with a $500,000 gift from the Wilson Foundation. This permanent fund provides ongoing grant support for expert research, evaluation, intelligence gathering, and assessment of best practices for community improvement.
The first grant from the Smart Strategy fund was used to research and write “Poverty and Self-Sufficiency in the Nine-County Greater Rochester Area,” a report released in September 2016. This report updated the 2013 poverty report compiled by the Community Foundation and ACT Rochester, which brought the depth and breadth of Rochester’s poverty to the forefront.
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation released State of Play, an independent assessment conducted by the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program that examines access, quality, and participation in youth sports in Livingston, Ontario, Monroe, Wayne, Seneca, and Yates counties.
“Research shows active children do better in life,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program. “They’re healthier, more often go on to college, and as they move into adulthood are more likely to raise active kids. So how do we get more kids off the couch, without running them into the ground?”
Farrey said answering that question starts with a clear-eyed account of how well a community is currently serving kids through sports. “We hope this report — the first of its kind nationally — provides valuable insights that can help mobilize stakeholders.”
Among the 40-plus findings in the report:
“Our vision is to have a Greater Rochester community in which all children, regardless of ZIP code or ability, have the opportunity to be active through sports,” said David O. Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The State of Play report identifies the challenges we face as a region, but more importantly, it also shares the opportunities that all of us in the community — parents, educators, funders, and leaders — can pursue for improvement.”
In State of Play, sport refers to all forms of physical activity which, through organized or casual play, aim to express or improve physical fitness or well-being.
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation commissioned the report and partnered with the Community Foundation to create and oversee a Youth Sports Task Force for the Rochester Region, comprised of more than three dozen representatives of youth sports, recreation programs, and local communities who provided insights, expertise and feedback throughout the eight-month research process.
“For the first time ever, we have a clear picture of what the state of youth sports looks like in our region,” said Jennifer Leonard, President and CEO, Rochester Area Community Foundation. “State of Play is a playbook that will drive community conversation and action around how we can collectively and effectively address youth sports for years to come.”
More than 1,000 local adults and youth informed the State of Play report through interviews, roundtables, focus groups and surveys. The Aspen Institute analyzed the region through its existing framework of eight strategies, or “plays,” designed to increase sport participation with urban, suburban, and rural youth.
The eight “plays” include:
While the State of Play report and an expanded local task force will help to inform grantmaking strategies for the Community Foundation and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the broader hope is that the region’s communities will begin to engage in this conversation and collectively rally around our youth. The two foundations are planning to host a series of community roundtables and discussions in the near future.
This fall, Rochester Area Community Foundation will announce grant opportunities for the new Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Youth Sports. The overarching goal will be to strengthen the quality, quantity, and accessibility of youth sports and recreation programs for children under age 18 in the region.
Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes’ State of Play is one of three regional youth sports and recreation studies commissioned by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, in partnership with community foundations in Greater Buffalo and Southeast Michigan. These are the Foundation’s primary regions for investment and were the home and adopted home of the Foundation’s namesake, the late Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., a Detroit area native and lifelong resident, and founder and long-time owner of the Buffalo Bills professional football team.
To receive updates and learn more about upcoming efforts to improve the local state of play, visit RCWJRF.org/StateofPlay.
Learn more about why youth sports and recreation are so important to the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation efforts here, in Buffalo, and Southeast Michigan by watching this video.
December 17, 2015
The foundation created by Buffalo Bills founder Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. has awarded $525,000 to Rochester Area Community Foundation to find, analyze, and share data that can advance powerful solutions for positive community change.
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Smart Strategy will provide annual and ongoing grant support for expert research, evaluation, intelligence gathering, and assessment of best practices for community improvement. In addition to the $500,000 gift to establish this fund, The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation also awarded a grant of $25,000 to start the necessary data gathering and analysis immediately.
“Today’s announcement marks yet another milestone in The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s commitment to charities and communities throughout Rochester and Western New York,” said Mary Wilson, wife of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. “Ralph cared deeply about this community and it is wonderful to see that this donation will be used in such an impactful way — especially during this time of year. We are proud to be a part of today’s announcement to help ensure a strategic community investment approach in Rochester.”
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation was created with $1.2 billion from an irrevocable trust after Wilson passed away in March 2014. This grantmaking foundation, based in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., is dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life for the people in Western New York and Southeastern Michigan. Per Wilson's directive, the foundation’s assets will be spent over the course of 20 years.
A native of Detroit, Wilson considered Western New York his adopted hometown because of his passion for the Buffalo Bills football team, which he founded in 1959. Rochester’s connection to the Bills became even stronger in 2000 when the team moved its summer training camp to St. John Fisher College in Pittsford. About 15 percent of the Bills’ 60,000 season ticketholders live in the greater Rochester area.
“We are honored to help The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation continue Mr. Wilson’s philanthropic legacy in greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes region,” said Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO at the Community Foundation. “We so appreciate the Foundation’s investment in our community’s capacity to invest smartly in our future, at a time when the Finger Lakes region is preparing for a $500 million infusion from New York State to fund projects, create jobs, and support our community’s work to reverse the trajectory of our extreme and concentrated poverty.”
The Community Foundation will use the current $25,000, in part, to update and analyze poverty information for the nine-county region using the most recent U.S. Census information from the American Community Survey (2010-2014). This report will help provide baseline data for measuring the anti-poverty efforts, which officially got underway earlier this year.
This $500,000 gift and the creation of the Smart Strategy fund is part of a Transitional Legacy Grant Program that trustees for The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation initiated this year to distribute a limited number of grants before launching its formal grant cycle in 2016.
In early November, the Foundation awarded $4 million to the University at Buffalo to support its sports medicine program. Later in the month, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo received $7 million to establish endowments to provide annual support forever to three areas of interest that were important to Mr. Wilson — cancer care, community assets, and youth sports — as well as endowments for Hunter’s Hope, the Western New York Amateur Football Alliance, and the Buffalo foundation’s leadership work.
To date, The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation has provided more than $20 million in gifts to support organizations in Western New York.
February 9, 2016
Rochester Area Community Foundation has received the largest gift in its 44-year history from the Sands family, known for building Constellation Brands, Inc. into a leading beer, wine and spirits company in the United States and around the world.
Contributions totaling $61 million from brothers Richard and Rob Sands and their mother, Mickey, have established the Sands Family Supporting Foundation at the Community Foundation to expand the family’s philanthropic legacy and to perpetuate it through future generations of their family.
“We are truly honored to assist the Sands family with their legacy of local, high-impact giving. This is great news for the Rochester region,” said Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Community Foundation.
“We are excited to create another platform for future Sands family generations to participate, learn, and continue to support the Rochester community,” said Richard Sands, chairman of the board of Constellation Brands. “The Sands Family Supporting Foundation adds a third pillar to our philanthropic enterprise, further enabling us to take a strategic, long-term approach to how we can benefit the community in a sustainable way.”
The Sands family legacy of giving and community involvement began with Mickey Sands and her late husband, Marvin. It is continued by their children through the family’s private foundation and the long-standing corporate giving and outreach by Constellation Brands and its employees.
“When our father founded Constellation Brands 70 years ago, he knew that our business would only be successful if we could also make a positive and lasting difference in our local community,” said Rob Sands, president and CEO of Constellation Brands. “He was fond of saying, ‘You can’t save the world, but you can take care of your own community.’ We commit to being actively involved in order to make our financial contributions more impactful and, when appropriate, to introduce more business-like strategic and financial planning, evaluation, and reporting.”
The Sands Family Supporting Foundation will operate under the auspices of the Community Foundation with a board of directors overseeing and approving all grants. This board includes Sands family representatives Richard and Robert Sands and their niece, Abigail “Abby” Bennett, along with Community Foundation representatives José Coronas, Tom Richards, James Brush, and Leonard.
The Supporting Foundation will allow the family to further enhance their local giving for arts, education and health while beginning to involve the next generation, and future generations, in the Sands philanthropic legacy. Bennett represents the members of the next generation of the Sands family. She is the daughter of Robert and Richard’s sister, Dr. Laurie Sands, who passed away in 1995.
“I’m excited to be part of this new philanthropic venture in Rochester. And I’m honored to learn from the Sands who came before me and to begin to follow in their footsteps when it comes to making a difference in our home community,” said Bennett.
The first round of grantmaking will be announced by the Community Foundation on April 1.
The Sands Family Supporting Foundation will be the third such entity under the Community Foundation’s umbrella.
The Feinbloom Supporting Foundation was created in 1989 when the family sold their Rochester-based Champion Products, Inc. It provided a vehicle for Harold and Joan Feinbloom to continue their support of the arts, healthy development of young people, and citizen participation in community affairs. The Helen L. Morris Supporting Foundation was established in 1999 by Joseph Deblinger and his daughter and has been the primary supporter of a Lifespan program that trains volunteers to assist families caring for a loved one with dementia.
“These supporting foundations, in addition to the new one established by the Sands family, are perfect examples of how the Community Foundation achieves its mission — to engage and partner with philanthropists who help make our communities better,” said Coronas, chair of the Community Foundation’s board of directors.
Before the Sands family gift, the Community Foundation held more than $300 million in 1,150 charitable funds established by other local families, individuals, and organizations. Three in every four dollars of those assets were permanently endowed for the future.
September 15, 2015
Rochester Area Community Foundation's board of directors has approved 36 grants totaling $1.3 million - the largest-ever quarterly grant distribution in the Foundation's history.
The grants represent the Community Foundation's shift to fewer, larger grants with particular focus on the Foundation's two broad goals for grantmaking and leadership - creating an equitable community and strengthening regional vitality.
"By purposefully aligning our grantmaking with these two main goals, we are committed to transforming the greater Rochester region by tackling some of our toughest issues with help from our nonprofit partners as well as the community philanthropists who make this possible," says Hank Rubin, vice president for community programs.
This round of grants also dovetails with the Community Foundation's leadership efforts in the areas of education, poverty, early childhood, and race. Because the equity and vitality goals are so broad, each is accompanied by detailed action areas that focus on challenges confronting our communities: From reducing the academic achievement gap and fostering racial and ethnic equity to preserving historical assets and promoting vibrant and diverse cultural offerings.
Under the "Creating an Equitable Community" goal, $1,070,909 was approved to support 24 grants. Among those grants are five, totaling $465,000, that comprise a comprehensive approach to evaluating, improving, and sustaining effective and accessible out-of-school-time programs. These programs include before-school, after-school, expanded learning, and summer enrichment. This investment includes:
A $160,000 grant - $40,000 each to four organizations providing out-of-school-time programming - will be used to conduct a deeper, more intensive review of programs for Rochester City School District students that are operated by Quad A for Kids, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Community Place, and the YMCA of Greater Rochester. Employees in these test programs will receive additional coaching and training and be connected with necessary outside resources. Program data will be reviewed and compared to student performance in school to see if what is happening before or after school is influencing academic achievement.
"National research indicates that significant, sustained participation in out-of-school-time programs contributes to youth success in school and in life. The initiatives supported by these grants will provide the data needed to determine if our strategic investments in youth are paying off," says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Community Foundation.
Also falling under the "Equity" goal is a related grant of $60,000 to the Public Policy & Education Fund, Inc., which will continue to staff the Community Task Force on School Climate. The grant supports organizing and planning for this grassroots collaboration charged with transforming the teaching and learning environments in Rochester city schools. The task force developed a draft Code of Conduct (now open for comment on the District website) and expects to finalize it in the coming year. The Code is aimed, in part, at reducing school suspensions, introducing resources to help all school personnel use restorative approaches to classroom discipline, and engaging a number of "model schools" to implement and evaluate the new Code.
Under the "Strengthening Regional Vitality" goal, 10 grants totaling $183,250 will assist historical preservation projects. These include support for restoration of an historic house at Genesee Country Village & Museum, the East Porch at George Eastman House, a Civil War sesquicentennial monument in Mt. Hope Cemetery, the gardens greenhouse at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park in Canandaigua, and a chapel in the Orleans County town of Clarendon. The Community Foundation is the region's largest private funder of historical preservation efforts.
February 8, 2016
More than 200 educators, advocates, and community members participated in a four-hour session today to learn what role trauma plays in the lives of Monroe County school students and how they can help students succeed.
Data and analysis from the most recent Monroe County Youth Risk Behavior Survey helped set the stage for the morning’s discussion. This local survey, completed 11 times since 1992 by students ages 13 and older, has typically measured youth risk behavior, which includes drug use, violence, and sexual risk behaviors. For the first time, questions were included to assess the exposure to trauma — such as abuse, neglect, witnessing violence — enabling the connection to be made between traumatic life events and risky behavior.
The latest survey found that 70% of students in Monroe County reported experiencing one or more traumatic events, with 28% indicating that they had directly encountered three or more instances of trauma.
“These numbers indicate that far too many of our school children are being adversely affected by traumatic events. This means we need to raise awareness about trauma and to help adults working directly with young people to think differently about how to address it,” says Mary Hartstein, program associate at Rochester Area Community Foundation and co-founder of the Trauma-Informed Care Network in Rochester.
National research has demonstrated that experiencing or witnessing traumatic events before age 18 can create dangerous levels of stress and derail healthy brain development if there is no intervention or support. As these students get older, this exposure can increase the likelihood they will engage in risky behaviors and have more incidents of poor mental and physical health outcomes in later years. An accumulation of these adverse childhood experiences compounds these risks.
“The Monroe County data is a game-changer,” says Elizabeth Meeker, director of training and practice transformation for Coordinated Care Services, Inc.
“Like many communities, we have traditionally focused on reducing high-risk behavior and indicators, such as violence, substance use, suicide ideation or attempts, and poor academic outcomes without understanding what may be driving those behaviors. If we continue to focus on ‘What is wrong with you?’ instead of asking ‘What has happened to you?’ we are missing the opportunity to address the underlying issue of trauma,” Meeker adds.
The event at Monroe Community College also featured clips from Paper Tigers, an evocative documentary that chronicled a year in the life of an alternative high school that has radically changed its approach to educating students. The school in rural Walla, Walla, Wash., has become a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence, and disease that affect families.
Since its premiere at the Seattle Film Festival in May 2015, Paper Tigers has been screened in more than 250 venues across the United States, including its premiere in Rochester today. The film was incorporated into the session to illustrate how tenets of trauma-informed care can be, and have been, applied with the hopes of inspiring more local buy-in.
A panel discussion included Denise Quamina of the Rochester City School District and Jessie Joy of the Jamestown City School District, who have introduced trauma-informed care into their schools. They shared their successes and challenges, as well as practical steps to be more responsive to all students, while particularly helping those who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events.
“Implementing trauma-informed care in our community is not adding to the workload of teachers, social workers, and other adults who work with children. It’s about adopting a new approach, a new way of thinking to better serve our youth,” says Hartstein.
Participants represented school districts from throughout Monroe County — East and West Irondequoit, Webster, Brockport, Greece, Spencerport, Rush Henrietta, Rochester, Pittsford, Penfield, Hilton, Honeoye Falls-Lima, Gates Chili, Fairport, East Rochester, and Brighton — and multiple community-based and government agencies.
“We were thrilled with the enthusiasm surrounding this event, and the fact that an extensive wait list was formed proves that our community is ready to get involved in this important work,” says Megan Bell, executive director at The Wilson Foundation, which co-sponsored the session.
Other sponsors included Coordinated Care Services, Inc., the Consortium on Trauma, Illness and Grief in Schools, Monroe County Office of Mental Health, and Rochester Area Community Foundation.
Click here to download or print the Trauma-Informed Schools Resource Guide.
May 1, 2013
In an effort to better understand the racial and ethnic disparities in our community, the African American Giving Initiative of Rochester Area Community Foundation commissioned a book to provide that overview.
The State of Black Rochester 2013: Education + Employment = Equity, a 140-paperback, is a compilation of essays from prominent community leaders and experts and includes current data compiled by ACT Rochester. Proceeds from sales of the book will be used for the Giving Initiative’s future grants in our community.
“It is extremely helpful to know where we have been and what continuing challenges we face as the Giving Initiative and the entire community decide what to support in order to make the greatest impact,” says Dana K. Miller, vice president for advancement at the Community Foundation, who wrote the preface and a summary chapter for the book.
The book, modeled on the National Urban League’s State of Black America, includes essays written on the following topics:
The book opens with a foreword by Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. A chapter on the implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act for minorities, written by Kathleen Rand Reed of Washington, D.C. and an associate editor of Rochester’s About … Time Magazine, also was included.
In the books’ summary chapter, Miller writes that “the challenges preventing people from taking advantage of opportunities can be described in four words: availability, access, awareness, and ability. ... Our mission should be maintaining or increasing the availability and access to opportunities while also finding ways to significantly improve awareness and ability.”
The hope of the Giving Initiative is that the community will use information in The State of Black Rochester 2013 to guide decisions on budgets, spending, philanthropy and development opportunities, Miller says.
Publication of this book was made possible by a $10,000 grant from Rural/Metro Corporation and a $6,000 grant from the Community Foundation.
The African American Giving Initiative, formed in 2011, provides an opportunity for people in the community to combine financial resources and have a say in how the available grant money should be distributed. A group of nearly two dozen people aligned with the Initiative’s mission — to make a positive change in problem areas experienced most strongly within the African American community — have been regularly meeting to discuss ongoing issues, recruitment of new members and plans for the book. Membership levels start at $1,000 a year.
Jim and Carolyne Blount, publishers of About … Time Magazine, assisted with editing, page design and publishing. The book was printed locally by Panther Graphics.
The State of Black Rochester 2013 is available at Mood Makers Books in Village Gate, The Library Store at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, Writers & Books, and Baobab Cultural Center for $19.95. Print and e-book versions also can be ordered through Amazon.com.
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An initiative of the Community Foundation, ACT Rochester uses data to assess our region on key indicators of well-being.