News & Event
June 29, 2017
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.
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.
June 7, 2018
Rochester Area Community Foundation is awarding $329,000 in grants to 20 local youth sports and recreation programs from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Fund for Youth Sports.
The grants range from $5,500 to $25,000 and support projects that will have a direct impact on more than 6,500 youth in Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, and Wayne counties. Eighty-two proposals were received — 19 from outside Monroe County — and requested a combined total of more than $1.5 million.
“The amount of interest in this first grant round for youth sports was impressive,” says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are honored to further Ralph Wilson’s love of sports by introducing new and improved opportunities to as many children as possible.”
These inaugural grants were made possible by the $5 million endowed fund established in 2016 by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation at the Community Foundation. Starting this year, the fund will provide annual and ongoing grants to support and strengthen the quality, quantity and accessibility of regional youth sports and recreation programs.
“This first round of grants will be a game-changer for programs that do great work with small budgets,” says Simeon Banister, interim vice president of community programs at the Community Foundation. “We expect to distribute more than $400,000 next year with hopes that more programs will be offered, more youth will be able to participate and that the benefits of training coaches will pay off.”
The 20 nonprofits receiving funding for youth sports-related programs and projects are:
AutismUp: A “Youth Sports Series” will provide 60 youth with autism and related disabilities a chance to learn the language, rules, and skills of a variety of sports (basketball, soccer, swimming) at their own pace and with individualized support. Coaches will be trained to support the unique learning and behavior needs of participants. $5,500
Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester, Inc: The “Weekend Free Play Zone” program on Saturdays will provide youth the chance to participate in alternative sports and activities to that are often times inaccessible due to fee-based restrictions. These activities will include dance instruction, golf lessons, bowling, fencing, tennis, and many others. The Genesee Street clubs also will allow non-members to access Saturday programming to encourage them to join. $24,850
Center for Disability Rights: Support for the Rochester Rookies, a wheelchair and ambulatory track and field sports program for disabled athletes (5 to 23 years old) that provides a customized approach focusing on each athlete's interests. $15,356
Coordinated Child Development Program, Inc.: A “Partnership for Play” program allows sharing of the CCDP school-age program in Canandaigua, Ontario County, and the Salvation Army school-age program less than a mile away. During 42 weeks of the school year, nine different sports will be offered at both locations to introduce sport sampling and free play to 68 children. $7,698
EquiCenter, Inc.: The “Horseplay” program will provide a non-traditional recreation program to 117 youth ages 5-14 years old at this Mendon ranch, combining life lessons and skills using interactive play and learning with horses. This approach combines equine-assisted learning with the exploration of nature, along with structured and free play. $24,500
Girl Scouts of Western NY Inc.: Offers 550 girls the chance to experience and participate in archery and a ropes course, with certified instructors, during their time at Camp Piperwood in Perinton. Also includes archery and ropes training for Girl Scout leaders to address a shortage of trained instructors. $25,000
HOPE Academy: Based out of the city of Rochester’s Flint Street Recreation Center, this program will provide at least 10 scholarships for athletes ages 8 to 16 from low-income households in the city to participate in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for 12 months, and cover the necessary expenses to participate. $9,910
Ibero-American Development Corporation: Providing play activities in the El Camino neighborhood, including six weeks of supervised play (three hours a day, five days each week) at Conkey Corner Park and pop-up play at several pre-identified streets and sites. A neighborhood survey will provide data on interests and utilization by area youth and families. $14,720
NYSARC, Inc. Wayne County Chapter: Based on the “Rec on the Move” model used by the City of Rochester’s Department of Recreation and Youth Services, the Free Activities and Sports Trailer Program (FAST) will be a trailer fully stocked with equipment to create an inclusive mobile sports and activities center to serve 2,400 high-needs youth, ages 7 to 15, across Wayne County. These recreation opportunities would include collaboration with 12 partner agencies. $25,000
Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.: Refurbish 530 football helmets to increase youth safety for the Rochester Rams from Rochester’s School 33. Also includes coaching football certification costs and transportation for youth to games. $25,000
ROC E6, Inc.: In partnership with the Rochester Knighthawks and several other lacrosse groups, this community youth sports program will provide 200 youth ages 6-18 in the city of Rochester with the opportunity to play lacrosse through four different sessions throughout the year, while also providing mentoring and educational tools. $8,975
Rochester Area Fencing Foundation, Inc.: This program, in collaboration with the Rochester Fencing Club, will provide 24 weeks of after-school fencing instruction to 40 students from Canandaigua Academy and Middle School during the 2018-19 school year. Also includes purchase of equipment and substantial discount for entry to two tournaments. $25,000
ROCovery Fitness Inc.: Provides addiction recovery support through development of a youth fitness program for 25 to 50 youth, ages 13 to 21 in collaboration with Villa of Hope. The activities will include hikes, bike riding, group running, basketball, soccer, baseball, and yoga. $15,040
St. John Bosco Schools: Enhance the athletic program in this East Rochester-based Catholic school so that students can participate in Section Five sports and adults can receive coaching, First Aid, CPR, and injury prevention training. The project also includes the purchase of sports equipment and materials needed for competitive play. $14,749
St. John Fisher College: Introduce a “Teaching to Initiate Play” pilot program to empower youth to develop skills for engaging in independent play and for organizing team play with peers through the college’s summer basketball camp and in fifth- and sixth-grade physical education classes in the Gates Chili Central School district. About 830 youth will participate. Scholarships will be provided for youth from low-income households to participate in the college’s summer program, including support for transportation. $21,650
St. Paul’s Lutheran School: Encourage sport sampling with opportunities for free play for 100 to 140 youth ages 4-14 in North Greece, Hilton and Hamlin areas in partnership with the local town recreation departments. $20,000
Seneca Falls Development Corporation: The “Team Active8 Youth Program” will provide a series of non-traditional sports, games and activities for up to 80 youth in third through fifth grades in Seneca Falls, Seneca County, over an eight-week span in Fall 2018 and again in Spring 2019. Activities will be overseen by the recreation and community center staff. $5,840
Seneca Sailing Academy, Inc.: Supports 13 scholarships for youth sailing lessons on Seneca Lake, including transportation and lunch. Plan also includes launching a community outreach campaign to promote these opportunities. $6,524
South East Area Coalition: Work with Rochester neighborhood groups to paint playful sidewalks around two parks, which will act as a natural way to lead area youth to play spaces. At the park will be a toy library with balls, bases, Frisbees, jump ropes, and other toys for youth and families to engage in play together. $8,690
Village of Phelps: Supports building a safe and innovative playground for 1,375 youth, ages 2 to 13, to experience free play by replacing the deteriorating and outdated playground equipment on the grounds of the community center and library. $25,000
The second round of youth sports grants will be announce by the Community Foundation in early October.
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.
January 8, 2015
An analysis of recently released U.S. Census data for a five-year period shows that the City of Rochester's poverty has gotten worse.
The report, released by Rochester Area Community Foundation and ACT Rochester, compares Rochester to 17 other principal cities in similarly sized metro areas. Benchmarking Rochester's Poverty: A 2015 Update and Deeper Analysis of Poverty in the City of Rochester by Edward J. Doherty finds that:
In December 2013, the Community Foundation and ACT Rochester released Poverty and the Concentration of Poverty in the Nine-County Greater Rochester Area, which was primarily based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey over the five-year period from 2007-11.
Since that time, the Census Bureau has released one-year survey data estimates for 2012 and 2013 that also signaled poverty increases. The newest five-year survey, which covers 2009-13, is based on a larger sample and considered more reliable and precise. The Census Bureau released the data in December 2014 and it provided the basis for this update and comparison with benchmark cities.
"The first poverty report and its startling statistics were a wake-up call for our entire region to better understand the depth of poverty that exists in every city, town, and village," says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of Rochester Area Community Foundation. "Benchmarking Rochester's Poverty provides an opportunity to update key data from that report and take a deeper look at the realities of poverty in the City of Rochester."
The Census Bureau data estimates that 66,312 poor people live in the City of Rochester, with more than 95,000 spread across suburban Monroe and the surrounding eight counties.
In an effort to put Rochester's poverty into context, report author and researcher Doherty developed a list of 18 principal cities in similar-sized metro areas (within plus or minus 200,000 of the Rochester population). Included in the benchmark group are Buffalo, Hartford, Conn., Richmond, Va., Birmingham, Ala., Tulsa, Okla., Louisville, Ky., and Honolulu.
In 28 charts at the back of the 20-page report, the benchmark cities are ranked based on their rates of overall poverty and extreme poverty, as well as poverty rates for children, adults, seniors, and female-headed families. The charts also compare poverty data based on gender and race, educational attainment, disability, employment, age, and family size and income.
"Several of the report's child-related poverty statistics are the most troubling," says Doherty, who retired in 2014 as the Community Foundation's vice president of community programs.
"Developing a deeper understanding of poverty includes knowing the statistics, but also going beyond the data to seek out poor people's perspectives that would provide a better grasp of the complex causes and effects of poverty," says Ann Johnson, director of ACT Rochester.
Johnson also believes that gaining insight into what it is like to be poor is essential to making our community more understanding of the issue and related problems. Eighty community leaders and interested residents participated January 7 in an intensive poverty simulation hosted by ACT Rochester and led by Rhonda O'Connor, director of Onondaga County's anti-poverty initiative called "Choosing To Thrive."
September 1, 2014
When the Community Foundation and ACT Rochester released the startling report on the concentration of poverty in our region, Daan Braveman and Kay Wallace had similar reactions: “What can I do?”
“Poverty is an issue I have been concerned about most of my life,” says Braveman, president of Nazareth College and a former civil rights lawyer.
He wrote an op-ed article that appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle several days after the December 2013 release of Poverty and the Concentration of Poverty in the Nine-County Greater Rochester Area. In it, this Rochester native called for community leaders to work together on a coordinated and collaborative strategic plan to address the causes and effects of poverty, similar to an initiative led by the mayor in Richmond, Va.
“My sense of the Rochester community is that it has a lot of good ideas and lots of organizations focusing on aspects of poverty. But it does not have a plan that brings together these things,” he says.
He and representatives from the Rochester Business Alliance board, which he chairs, met with Mayor Lovely Warren and officials from Richmond to discuss that city’s approach.
Then Braveman, together with the Community Foundation and United Way, invited more than two dozen community and business leaders to hear from the report’s author, retired Community Foundation VP Ed Doherty, and discuss next steps. Talks between several key executives are continuing.
Wallace and her husband, Peter Oddleifson, responded with a more grassroots approach to the report’s findings.
“At our age and stage we know a lot of people in greater Rochester. We could help connect people across geographic borders in Monroe County,” says this former strategic planning consultant to nonprofit organizations.
During Warren’s campaign for mayor, the couple embraced her position on the need to build bridges between Rochester and its suburbs. Keeping that in mind, Wallace crafted a program to do just that and include discussions about issues related to poverty.
The goal of Dialogues Without Borders is to create “a more progressive constituency for change that will include many people who live in Rochester and in Monroe County,” she says.
A gathering will be held once a month in a different suburban home with about 20 or 30 of the host’s like-minded friends, family members, work colleagues, and town leaders to hear more about poverty and brainstorm ways to work together to make improvements and tackle the challenges. Mayor Warren has agreed to attend the first ones.
“We face a great set of challenges and together, I think, we can move things forward,” says Wallace.
This story was originally published in the Community Foundation's 2014 Biennial Report.
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.
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