News & Event
September 20, 2018
In August 2017, the Community Foundation and ACT Rochester expanded their reporting on racial inequities with a report called “Hard Facts: Race and Ethnicity in the Nine-County Greater Rochester Area.”
The regional report showed wide and persistent gaps in educational and economic outcomes among residents of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, affecting individuals and families throughout their lives and for generations to come. Even more shocking was the more severe disparity in our region compared to New York State and the country.
Community leaders thanked ACT Rochester for sharing this compelling data. Requests came in to talk with groups about the findings. Community workshops attracted hundreds interested in learning more. Discussion of the disparities was featured during the celebration of Frederick Douglass’ 200th birthday in 2018.
Then something unexpected happened: ACT Rochester Senior Director Ann Johnson got a request to speak to the sixth-grade class at Genesee Community Charter School. Then a fourth-grade teacher in the Rush-Henrietta Central School District called to say his students wanted to talk about the report’s findings.
“These young students gave me hope,” said Johnson. “They care. They wanted to know why people of color are treated differently than whites and what we can do to change things. They ask tough questions and they are not afraid to be bold.”
In the fourth-grade classroom of Shane Wiegand at Sherman Elementary School, students peppered Johnson with questions, all starting with the phrase “I wonder:”
Before discussing “Hard Facts,” the students had studied redlining in Rochester and segregation through the stories of Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King, Jr. They also watched The Children’s March and clips from July ’64, the story of Rochester’s riots.
One day, Khaliat Bishi, who is Nigerian-American, and Simra Hamad, who is Pakistani, both commented that they have never had a teacher who looked like them. Together with Bailey O’Connor, who is white, these three spent many lunch periods gathering data on their school and the Rush-Henrietta Central School District.
They referenced U.S. Census data and WXXI reports on the racial makeup of teachers in Monroe County, along with ACT Rochester data on poverty. They identified just one African American teacher in their school and fewer than a dozen teachers of color throughout the very diverse district. The three girls assembled a PowerPoint presentation and met with their school principal and the district’s two assistant superintendents to share their findings.
“I was very impressed,” said Nerlande Anselme, assistant superintendent for student and family services, who is from Haiti. “They had a thesis, did their research, and in their presentation asked, ‘Do you see this as a problem in Rush-Henrietta?’ I said ‘Yes.’ ”
At the urging of its school board, this suburban Monroe County district is making diversity a priority. Wiegand is a member of a new 40-member Diversity Steering Committee that includes teachers, administrators, students, parents, community representatives, and leaders that is gathering ideas and discussing strategies for recruitment and ways to be more inclusive. The district recently hired its first African American superintendent.
Hoping to Make Our Community Better
Genesee Community Charter School teacher Chris Dolgos read “Hard Facts” and believed it should be incorporated into the sixth-grade curriculum because it’s important for his students who are our community’s future citizens “to discover what it does take to make change happen.” It also dovetailed nicely with the yearlong theme of “Bridges and Barriers.”
The 30 sixth-graders’ initial reaction to the report was, “This is not okay. Why are adults letting this happen?” Their research went deep into issues related to affordable housing, poverty, and racism, and they explored ways for Rochester to be more inclusive. They asked great questions: “Why does our community look like it does? Why are some parts shiny and flashy and others are boarded up?”
“ACT Rochester shares information and provides the ‘what’ and ‘why,’ but people have to figure out the ‘how,’ ” Dolgos told his students.
With aspects of “Hard Facts” data on their minds, the students divided into four groups that visited either Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Oakland, or Detroit. Students met with city leaders and community groups to learn about that city’s problems and how they were being addressed. They also looked for ideas to bring back home. Students presented their findings to parents and the school community and created a “Whose Renaissance Is It?” Adobe Spark page, which outlines their research into Rochester’s past and their hopes for its future.
The sixth graders also wanted to show their support for Rochester. With a grant from Expeditionary Learning Education’s Better World Project — and help from local artist Shawn Dunwoody — they painted inspirational murals in each quadrant of the city. At School 12, they invited their family members and several dozen students from other Rochester schools to help with ambitious murals that cover sidewalks and several walls.
Paul Schramm, whose 12-year-old son was in the class, thought the conversations and research into race, poverty, and inequities were well timed. “These kids are very much aware of what keeps things separate today, and it’s never too early to discuss it.”
Top photo above: Sherman Elementary School students Bailey O’Connor, Khaliat Bishi, and Simra Hamad, with fourth-grade teacher Shane Wiegand (photo by Caleb Parker).
Second photo: After completing murals in each quadrant of Rochester, sixth-graders from Genesee Community Charter School and their mural advisor Shawn Dunwoody returned to each location to sign their names. Here they are at Passaro’s Deli on Clifford Avenue (photo by Erich Camping).
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.
What does paint color have to do with trauma? The staff of the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County discovered the answer when updating its vestibule. They spruced up white walls with a mossy green color to make the room look less institutional and more welcoming.
Once it was painted, Carrie Michel-Wynne, vice president of strategic partnerships, met with some of the women who live there to get their feedback. “When I asked, they had their heads down and didn’t want to look at me. Then one woman said, ‘Carrie, those are Monroe County Jail colors.’ ”
That response was a profound reminder that colors can be strongly associated with traumatic experiences, such as visiting relatives in jail. “It’s also when we realized that part of the trauma-informed movement is including the vision of people who live here,” said Michel-Wynne, who has shared this painting misstep as a learning experience for others.
The vestibule was repainted a different color selected with input from residents. As other parts of the building were repainted and redecorated, residents were asked for their ideas.
Understanding the many ways trauma affects people and how best to respond to their unique needs is the focus of a three-year funding collaboration between Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation. Together they are investing $244,000 a year to support training of more than 4,400 staff from nine human service organizations to incorporate trauma-informed care into their day-to-day interactions with clients.
Trauma-informed care is an approach that explicitly acknowledges the impact of psychological, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, structural racism, homelessness, and community violence and integrates that understanding into all aspects of serving people’s needs.
This training has the potential to impact the more than 100,000 individuals served by these eight nonprofit organizations and the Monroe County Department of Human Services. The goal is to improve relationships between clients and staff, change rules and policies that derail clients’ progress, and intentionally avoid re-traumatizing individuals while trying to assist them.
“This past year provided a unique opportunity to purposefully pause and reflect on how we might grow as an organization in how we not only care for the families in our programs, but how we care for our staff in a trauma-informed way,” said Lisa Butt, president and CEO of the Society for the Protection & Care of Children. “The mental health of our staff is critical.”
That’s why SPCC switched the focus of its training to better support its staff, many of whom work closely with children and families who witness or experience violent tragedies. If a therapist gets called to work over the weekend and forgets to turn in a time sheet or mileage form, for example, it’s important for the human resources department to be flexible about the deadline. Here are some other things the organization has done:
“If our staff feel truly taken care of, they will be better able to care for the children and families they serve,” said Butt.
For staff at BOCES 1 in Fairport, better understanding trauma provides new insight into behaviors of their students with disabilities (up to age 21) and what staff response should be.
“We have to consider the challenges they have faced along the way, the challenges their families have faced, along with a high degree of disruptions, traumas, and stress. We want to arm our staff with information on how that impacts learning and relationships,” explained Bill Hurley, coordinator of mental health.
Training included top administrators, all the professional staff and direct-care workers as well as those from the business office, technology, human resources, operations, and maintenance. This means the entire organization and every employee embraces the same mission: “I’m here to support you, no matter what,” said Hurley.
He believes this training allows teachers to jointly address, “What is the best way to respond to this kid and to this behavior?” Colleagues also feel more free to evaluate their experiences: “I didn’t like the way that went. What should we do differently next time?”
The agencies participating in the trauma training are also part of a learning collaborative where they share successes and failed experiments, help each other, reinforce the fundamentals of trauma-informed care throughout their organizations, and introduce other agencies to this approach.
“We don’t want them to exist in a bubble. We want them to share resources and ideas, and they are doing that,” said Megan Bell, executive director of the Wilson Foundation.
They have helped evaluate each other’s new or renovated spaces to determine whether or not they meet trauma-informed practices. They have shared revised HR policies. Villa of Hope bought Resilience, a recent documentary about trauma and children, and will open viewing sessions to partners. BOCES brought in a national expert on building resilience in youth and invited the other agencies to participate.
“Our hope is that as staff move around, they take what they learned with them,” Bell said. “After the three years, we hope to have enhanced the community’s capacity for trauma response and sensitivity and also to have the nine agencies be leaders in the community to help drive change, too.”
Photo above: Residents at the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County were included in decisions to choose paint colors and decorations for rooms at the downtown site (photo by Julie Johnson).
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.
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.
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.
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