Boston –The Boston Foundation celebrated 90 years of service to the community at an Annual Meeting Wednesday evening, November 16, honoring partners whose relationships with the Foundation stretched all the way back to the start of what has become one of the largest and oldest community foundations in the nation.
Among the guests were representatives of 20 institutions that received support when the Foundation—then called the Permanent Charity Fund—was first established and which continue to receive grants from the Foundation to this day. Many of these have grown to become leading institutions in the life of Greater Boston in the 21st century.
Each organization received an unexpected, no-strings-attached “grant” of $5,000 in recognition of nine decades of service and connection.
Healthcare institutions honored included the Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Dimock Community Health Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts New England Medical Center. Educational institutions were also represented, including the Perkins School for the Blind, the North Bennet Street School and Associated Early Care and Education.
Community service institutions honored included Ellis Memorial and Eldredge House, Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses, the United South End Settlements, Crittenton Hastings House, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, the YMCA of Greater Boston and the YWCA Boston, The Women’s Union, MAB Community Services, Greater Boston Legal Services and Family Service of Greater Boston.
“We take a long view and build for the future,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “It is a privilege to be able to honor these institutions, which have served Greater Boston through nine decades of extraordinary change and growth.”
Today, the Foundation has a long roster of institutions and programs that it brought into being or helped to nurture that have made a significant impact on the culture or landscape of Greater Boston. Landmarks include the New England Aquarium, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the American Repertory Theater (brought to Cambridge from New Haven).
The renewal of the South End was sparked by a Foundation grant in 1964 that helped launch the South End Community Development, now known as The Community Builders, which in turn proved that rehabilitating row houses in the South End made sense—and then played an important role in Tent City, the award-winning mixed income housing that connects the South End to Boston’s Back Bay. On an even grander scale, a commitment to the newly established Local Initiatives Support Corporation in 1980 formed a beginning for what is now the nation’s largest community building organization.
In Greater Boston, LISC has helped finance 5,000 units of housing and over one million square feet of commercial space, leveraging more than $750 million in additional public and private investment.
One of the greatest environmental repair stories in the country—the clean-up of Boston Harbor—began with a Boston Foundation grant to Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, which continues to work to weave the waterfront back into the urban landscape as an accessible, swimmable, fishable resource for all area residents. Further inland, the Foundation helped to spark a dramatic restoration of Boston’s parks and open spaces, which added a vast civic resource to this city and created a national template for successful park management.
Programs that affect the lives of area residents also trace their beginnings to support from the Foundation, including the Boston AIDS consortium, a pioneer in care at a time when AIDS was—in the words of long-time AIDS activist Larry Kessler—“the problem no one wanted to deal with.” And the Greater Boston Food Bank which currently distributes 18 million pounds of food to 750 pantries, homeless shelters and daycare centers in Eastern Massachusetts received the support it needed to professionalize what had been a church-basement operation.
One issue that has been important since 1915 is the quality of education Boston children are offered. The Boston Foundation was an early supporter of the Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools, and continues on many fronts to work for truly excellent schools that prepare students for a role in the region’s dynamic knowledge economy.
Today the Foundation funds approximately 2,000 non-profit organizations with more than $60 million in grants annually. In addition, it works with leaders and stakeholders throughout the community to make real, measurable change happen in Greater Boston. This is done through a number of activities, including:
• Research. The Foundation’s Indicators Project collects a wealth of primary research data to track key competitive issues that face the region. This information is presented on a special website, www.bostonindicators.org. In addition, the Foundation sponsors research that results in published reports in the Understanding Boston series. Recent reports include the third annual Housing Report Card, which tracks the supply of affordable housing in the region.
• Major convenings. In 2005, 20 forums drew thousands of area residents to join the discussion about critical issues that face Greater Boston, coming together to create and advance a civic agenda. One recent example resulted in the fifth Goldberg Seminar report, entitled A New Era of Higher Education-Community Partnerships, which offered a compelling case for a new alliance of the area’s 75 colleges and universities to protect and promote the region’s world-class status as a critical center of the new knowledge economy.
• Task forces. The Foundation brings together experts and stakeholders and facilitates a conversation designed to build consensus about the best way forward for such issues as affordable housing. The Commonwealth Housing Task Force brought leaders from different sectors together to create and advocate for an effective strategy to create more affordable housing in the region.
• Public Policy. The Boston Foundation also works to inform and shape legislation that addresses key areas of community life, including programs to train and support the workforce the region needs to continue to prosper. Recent efforts have included 40R and 40S legislation, which is designed to increase the supply of affordable housing in the region, and the Cultural Facilities funding included within the Economic Stimulus package, which grew out of a Boston Foundation convening and Task Force and which promises to deliver as much as $500 million to repair and expand key cultural institutions around the state over the course of 10 years. In addition, the work force development aspect of the Economic Stimulus bill, a collaborative project of the Boston Foundation, will enable local residents to gain the skills needed to move up career ladders in an economy that needs skilled, technically trained workers.
“We can look back to the year of our founding and see some themes that still register powerfully,” said Grogan. “The quality of education, the struggle for racial equity, the role of immigration, the effort to include every resident in the political process—these are constants in the history of the city. But we also have to keep an eye on the cutting edge, to make sure we are doing all we can to make Boston continue to thrive in a global and highly competitive age.”
The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with an endowment of $686 million. In 2005, the Foundation and its donors made a record-breaking $63 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $53 million. The Foundation is made up of some 850 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges. For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit www.tbf.org or call 617-338-1700.