A Message from the Senior Director of Programs

My arrival at the Wilson Foundation coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding social distancing. Albeit challenging, my background serving across multiple human service systems has prepared me well to help the Foundation make decisions to best aid community efforts during this difficult time. As an individual who has served in case management and clinical counseling roles, I am aware of the challenges those professionals face. I have the utmost empathy for human service providers, and I am proud that the Foundation is leading community efforts on trauma, and the role of vicarious and secondary trauma in the lives of service workers. I too have been faced with individuals who are without shelter, those who feel unsafe, and unfortunately, those who have been failed by the system. Despite the less than ideal circumstances to begin this new role, I am motivated to keep this important work moving forward.

We have completed a Spring grant cycle, where we balanced flexibility in our response to the pandemic with discipline to our strategic grantmaking mission in reducing the impact of trauma and housing insecurity. We conducted a thorough review of grant applications and funded projects that aligned to the mission and provided critical support services in Rochester. We increased our funding amount for the Spring cycle over that previously budgeted. We are happy to announce that we have made nineteen new investments with our partners, which can be found here in Past Awards on our site.

We have also contributed $25,000 to the Rochester Area Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Rochester COVID-19 Community Crisis Fund, to support our local non-profit community as we navigate through this challenging time. As well, as a part of a funding partnership, we recently issued a $15,000 extension of the Trauma-Informed Care Learning Collaborative to continue support of nine Rochester human service providers, and we made a $10,000 contribution to UR Medical Center in aid of their pandemic response.

The pandemic has highlighted stark inequities experienced in the Black and Brown community in Rochester and around the world. Recorded in broad daylight the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year old Black man, by Minneapolis police officers, returned public attention to the uninterrupted experience with racism and police brutality experienced by Black Americans. Activated communities around the world have responded like never before, with diverse groups of people protesting inequity and abuse experienced by Black people. There are many tools to combat racism; funding is one of them. As a funder, the Wilson Foundation remains committed to funding organizations and programs that are mission-aligned and equity-focused.  We will be paying close attention to organizations that promote equity through their boards, leadership, and staffing, and to the cultural and community relevance of programs. In this way, we will ensure that the Foundation’s contribution to combatting systemic racism is intentional.

As the Wilson Foundation strives to be an ally for the Rochester community, we will be taking time to review accountability tools in the months ahead and to avoid undue harm in our grant-giving practices. Just as stated in our strategic grantmaking framework, we are taking an approach to develop true partnerships. I will continue to strengthen our relationships with community-based organizations, develop a deeper understanding of the work you carry out, and identify the best ways to support your efforts.We look forward to sharing more information with our friends and partners as our thinking and processes develop as a result of this listening and learning process.

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