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Making Grants for Today and Tomorrow

From the Desk of Shawn Morehead, Vice President for Grants

 

Headshot of Shawn Morehead

Photo by Ari Mintz

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Many of us started 2021 with a sense of optimism that newly discovered vaccines would end the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trust helped New Yorkers get vaccinated, but the virus proved resilient, and our grantmaking continued to meet the urgent needs created by the ongoing pandemic. At the same time, the program staff did what we always do: keep a focus on the region’s long-term challenges as we tackle short-term crises.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers struggled to feed their families in 2021. Trust grants not only helped distribute more food (including kosher and halal options) to respond to the immediate need, but also helped establish a food co-op in Bedford- Stuyvesant and strengthen the city’s system for distributing emergency food for the long run.

The Trust provided short-term financial support for people struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic, particularly performing artists, who lost their livelihoods as venues remained shuttered. Trust grants helped immigrants apply to the state’s Fund for Excluded Workers, which provided billions of dollars in cash assistance to those ineligible for federal pandemic aid. To promote longer-term solutions, we supported advocacy for improving unemployment insurance, and invested in CUNY’s community college workforce programs to help hundreds of low-income New Yorkers learn new skills and land better jobs in growing sectors.

As a community foundation, when catastrophe hits, we are already here—experiencing it alongside our neighbors and colleagues. And when a crisis abates (as we hope it does in 2022), we are still here to use the hard-won lessons of disaster to prepare for the next challenge. And we hold the course on addressing the difficult problems that affect our communities.

None of this would be possible without generous donors—including those who helped build the endowment, which helps meet the region’s needs for generations, and contributors to our emergency funds, which address the needs of the moment. Of course, these successes are due to the commitment of the region’s nonprofits: their hard work has brought us through the pandemic and will lead us forward into recovery.

All photos are courtesy of the featured grantee unless otherwise noted.

 

As a community foundation, when catastrophe hits, we are already here—experiencing it alongside our neighbors and colleagues.
– Shawn Morehead, Vice President for Grants

JUSTICE & EDUCATION

From reforming the criminal justice system to advancing women’s rights to improving conditions for immigrants and workers, The Trust helps move our region toward equity and fairness. In addition, we fund efforts to ensure the education system gets resources to all of its students, especially those who need them the most.

TEACHING ART THROUGH THE PANDEMIC

Art engages young people in school, gets them excited about learning, and helps them process emotions like grief, fear, and anxiety. But arts education in city schools relies heavily on nonprofits, and funding to these groups was drastically cut during the pandemic. NYC Arts in Education Roundtable helped teaching artists meet the needs of young people through workshops on coping with trauma, addressing learning loss, and working with students with limited English.

HOPE AGAINST HATE

Since the onset of the pandemic, Asian Americans have been increasingly targeted for harassment. Many incidents go unreported— some victims fear drawing attention to their immigration status, while others are deterred by language barriers. Asian American Federation launched Hope Against Hate, which included commissioned posters for its “I’m Really From…” campaign, and a website to report harassment. At left, community activist and Harlem resident for 86 years, Suki Terada Ports, poses with the poster she inspired.

HUMAN SERVICES

Nonprofits provide critical services to New Yorkers in need. We support groups working to address poverty, feed the hungry, champion affordable housing, improve employment practices, and provide childcare.

Two ladies speaking at an event under a tent.

IMPROVING LIFE IN WESTCHESTER

Many low-income and immigrant residents in Westchester face exploitation in housing and employment, including illegal underpayment of their wages, and predatory immigration agencies that take their money but don’t provide services. With funding from our Westchester Community Foundation, Make the Road New York is providing free legal services, rapid-response support for people facing detention or deportation, and workshops on accessing the state Excluded Workers Fund for undocumented workers (shown here).

Residents getting food from the Food Bank from New York City
Feeding New Yorkers

Even before the pandemic hit, nearly 1.1 million New York residents struggled to get enough nutritious food, but COVID-19 sent that number skyrocketing. Many New Yorkers earned just enough to be ineligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), forcing more than 2.5 million people to rely on food pantries. The Trust responded by making a set of grants to improve the city’s food assistance network: to City Harvest to rescue, purchase, and distribute food, to the Food Bank for New York City for delivering supplies to pantries (shown here), to the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty for kosher and halal foods, and the Mayor’s Fund for New York City to coordinate efforts across the city. As a result, these groups supplied unprecedented amounts of food. For example, the Metropolitan Council delivered more than 20 million pounds of food in 2021, a 33 percent increase from 2020. Photo courtesy of Food Bank for New York City.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT & CIVIC AFFAIRS

The Trust works to make sure our communities have the tools they need to thrive, like zoning strategies to relieve housing shortages, strengthened rent protections, and open spaces to foster wellness. In addition, we support groups that get New Yorkers engaged in the political process and increase voter registration and turnout.

An image of the City Hall building in New York.
MONITORING REDISTRICTING

The city charter calls for a redistricting commission to set new boundaries for the 51 City Council districts based on census data. It’s a complicated process with significant implications—Council members decide on budgeting and the delivery of services—and the redistricting will now happen under a new City Council and mayor. With our support, Citizens Union Foundation is monitoring and reporting on the redistricting commission’s work, meeting with public officials, and educating New Yorkers about the process.

A young man and woman work on building a digital device.
BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

The pandemic revealed how important a reliable internet connection is for work, school, and daily life. But nearly a third of city households don’t have broadband access and almost one in five have neither a mobile nor broadband connection—with this lack of access concentrated in low-income neighborhoods outside of Manhattan. With our funding, Community Tech NY is engaging communities in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Far Rockaway, Queens; and Hunts Point in the Bronx to support grassroots efforts to build digital justice. It is developing neighborhood coalitions and identifying community needs, conducting workshops, and building “mesh networks” for broadband access.

ARTS & HISTORIC PRESERVATION

Arts and cultural groups continue to struggle with the effects of the pandemic and lower attendance. Trust grants sustain the arts in every borough by supporting arts education programs, performing arts venues, and artists themselves. We also preserve historic places throughout the city.


 

HELPING OUT-OF-WORK COSTUMERS

The craftspeople in custom costume shops—who create clothes for Broadway, television, and beyond—were hit hard by the pandemic and resulting shutdowns. These small businesses, such as the one pictured, employ hundreds of artisans and sustain Manhattan’s historic Garment District. The Artisans Guild of America used our grant to provide emergency cash assistance through the Costume Industry Coalition to small costume businesses to help them cover expenses such as rent and health insurance.

A group gathers around a table for a presentation.
PRESERVING LOCAL BLACK CULTURE

Brownsville, Brooklyn, is the site of historical social movements and community organizing campaigns, including the 1968 teachers strike, the Black Panthers’ free breakfast program, and Black Arts movement-inspired cultural arts schools. Yet narratives about poverty and crime have often overshadowed the community’s rich history. The Brownsville Heritage House was founded in 1969 by community leader Mother Rosetta Gaston to pass down Black American history to younger generations, and it continues to preserve and promote local heritage through arts and education. BlackSpace is using our grant to create a plan to strengthen the presence of the Brownsville Heritage House and work with the community to develop a historical archive.

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND OLDER ADULTS

Our funding helps people with disabilities and older adults access services so they can lead healthy, independent lives and participate in social, educational, and cultural opportunities.

MAKING CIVIC ENGAGEMENT ACCESSIBLE

One in five New Yorkers has a disability, yet political candidates rarely talk about accessibility or other issues facing these residents. This is due in part to the barriers that New Yorkers with disabilities contend with when it comes to voting and civic engagement. For example, many polling locations lack ramps or poll workers trained to provide assistance. The Trust is funding the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled to work with the city’s four other independent living centers to advocate for a fully accessible voting system. In addition, the groups will register voters and create a policy agenda to improve civic accessibility.

Service Program for Older People
MEETING THE MENTAL-HEALTH NEEDS OF OLDER ADULTS

Many of the city’s social service providers closed during the pandemic, leaving older adults increasingly isolated. This resulted in a spike in depression, suicidal thinking, anxiety, substance abuse, and stress. Service Program for Older People (SPOP) received an unprecedented number of requests for mental-health services due to the pandemic—half of the newest cases were categorized as urgent or high-risk. SPOP is using a Trust grant to adopt new procedures to expedite urgent cases and add training for its clinicians to effectively manage more, and increasingly complex, caseloads. The program is working with providers in Black and Latinx communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. At right, a caseworker meets with a client at SPOP.

THE ENVIRONMENT

The Trust protects our city, our region, and our planet. Trust funding aims to stabilize the climate while strengthening resilience against extreme weather and other destructive effects of climate change. Our grants also help clean our air and water, preserve green spaces, protect wildlife, and reduce exposure to toxins.

BOLSTERING ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY

Southeast Queens is home to several predominantly Black neighborhoods facing a slew of environmental issues. As a waterfront community adjacent to Jamaica Bay, it has experienced worsening flooding as climate change intensifies. Its proximity to JFK Airport exposes it to noise, air pollution, and higher temperatures due to vast concrete runways. On top of this, the community has an inadequate septic system, resulting in frequent basement flooding for homeowners. With our grant, the Eastern Queens Alliance will engage residents in environmental advocacy and education through events, surveys, and workshops, shown here. The Alliance also will raise awareness about its soon-to-open Idlewild Environmental Science Center. 

A boat on the water with
IMPROVING ECOLOGICAL DATA COLLECTION

While the Long Island Sound is a federal “Estuary of National Significance,” it is threatened by polluted runoff and sewage overflows that contribute to dead zones, algae blooms, and degraded habitats. Dozens of nonprofits, community groups, and academic institutions collect large amounts of data to evaluate the sound’s ecological health, but the data is not centralized, making it difficult for regulators and scientists to fully use the information. A Funder Collaborative in The Long Island Community Foundation is funding Save the Sound and its Unified Water Study to streamline how it shares environmental monitoring data. The improvements are helping inform advocacy, research, and regulatory decisions.

HEALTH & BEHAVIORAL HEALTH

Having a patient-centered, cost-effective healthcare system benefits all New Yorkers. The Trust is working to improve the delivery of healthcare, support promising research, and make behavioral health treatment more accessible.

A patient getting a vaccination from a nurse.
BOOSTING VACCINATION RATES

COVID-19 vaccines have been key to saving lives. High vaccination rates significantly reduced community spread and were effective at preventing severe cases. Unfortunately, vaccination rates varied due to factors such as lack of access to vaccines, mistrust in institutions, and the spread of misinformation. The Trust made grants to six groups to improve access and deliver scientifically sound information. We also helped providers collect data on who is vaccinated, who remains hesitant, and why. Grantees worked with more than 300 community groups and contributed to higher vaccination rates in 20 of the least vaccinated neighborhoods in the city. Grantees included the Community Health Care Association of New York State, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Policy, the Fund for Public Health in New York, the New York Academy of Medicine, Public Good Projects, and VOCAL-NY.

A baby being held, wrapped on a soft white blanket.
CARING AND GUIDANCE FOR NEW MOTHERS

In the Bronx, the maternal mortality rate is double the citywide average. Half of all pregnancy-related deaths occur in the first three months after birth, a period experts sometimes call the “fourth trimester.” During this period, not only are women most vulnerable to health issues, but low-income mothers often have difficulty obtaining care as they face financial, legal, and housing issues. With our support, Montefiore Medical Center is establishing the city’s first fourth-trimester clinic in the Bronx to improve postpartum care for low-income women and evaluate whether new American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists postpartum care guidelines will save lives and improve health.

WORKFORCE & YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

Our goal is to build a brighter future for New Yorkers of all ages. The Trust helps train people for good jobs that are in demand. We invest in workforce programs at schools, services for young people aging out of foster care, and after-school programs that guide students toward success in their lives and careers.

An audience of four people sitting together and one man is taking notes.
FOSTERING CAREERS

The pandemic caused the city’s worst jobs crisis in 80 years. New York has regained only about half of the food, hospitality, and retail sector jobs lost. More than 500,000 job seekers turned to nonprofits for training and job placement, but the groups have been unable to meet the unprecedented spike in demand. Trust grants to the City University of New York, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College Foundation, and Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community College Foundation created the NYC Accelerated Workforce Recovery Hub to fill the gap in training and career placement services. The Hub is providing more than 3,000 students with courses and certifications for in-demand fields, as well as scholarships, internship stipends, and career services.

IMPROVING CONDITIONS FOR DELIVERY WORKERS

The city’s 80,000 food delivery workers were hailed as heroes of the pandemic—keeping restaurants open and allowing diners to stay safely at home—but they face tough working conditions and low wages. As independent contractors, they aren’t entitled to a minimum wage, overtime pay, sick leave, or insurance. Their tips are often skimmed by mobile apps, and they have to cover their expenses, such as bike maintenance. Los Deliveristas Unidos, a campaign run by the <strong>Worker’s Justice Project</strong>, won significant protections for delivery workers with our funding. The Project is partnering with the Worker Institute at Cornell University to analyze the wage and expense data of its members, and succeeded in establishing a new minimum wage for food delivery workers.