The Kresge Foundation awarded $63.6 million in grants at its fourth-quarter board meeting in December, making the quarter, together with the $181 million in grants for 2008 as a whole, the most generous in the foundation's 85-year history.
"If ever there was a time for Kresge to put its resources on the line to help nonprofit organizations serving the poor and disadvantaged," says Elaine D. Rosen, chair of the board, "it is now. The magnitude of the economic contraction demands we be both creative and aggressive in our grantmaking."
The foundation made 19 grants to advance the five strategic objectives of Kresge's community development work in metropolitan Detroit, its home town: strengthening the downtown, revitalizing city neighborhoods, re-tooling the regional economy, supporting arts and culture, and enhancing the environment.
A $4 million grant to the College for Creative Studies is emblematic of the kind of investment the foundation believes will be central to re-invigorating the region's economic health. The grant will help complete a $145 million renovation and repurposing of the historic Argonaut Building in Detroit to house a new master's of fine arts program, undergraduate and graduate student housing, and a new charter middle school and high school focused on art and design that will serve the city's youth.
With the opening of the Argonaut Building, the College for Creative Studies, a fully-accredited, degree-granting institution, expects to create 200 new knowledge-economy jobs and expand its enrollment by 250 students with its new MFA program.
"The College for Creative Studies' restoration of the Argonaut is an extraordinary example of a project that ripples in multiple ways beyond the immediate needs of the educational institution," says Rip Rapson, president of the foundation. "It will contribute momentum to the Woodward Corridor's increasingly dynamic creative economy. It will signal the importance of directing investment to the Corridor's historic physical infrastructure. And it will provide a vital updraft for young people aspiring to enter careers in the design professions. We are tremendously excited at its promise on all fronts."
Kresge's Health Program is working to improve the environmental conditions that disproportionately contribute to chronic health problems among low-income populations. It also supports efforts to both increase access to health care and improve the quality of care for the poor and disadvantaged.
Lead abatement is one such effort. Building upon a previous grant in September 2008 to the Get the Lead Out Initiative, the board awarded multi-year grants to Alameda County Community Development Agency in Oakland, California ($225,000); the Department of Family and Child Well-Being in Newark, New Jersey ($1.5 million); and the Detroit offices of the Michigan Department of Community Health ($55,000) and the Southeastern Michigan Health Association (two grants totaling $900,000), in support of efforts to decrease and eventually eliminate lead poisoning in children.
To complement the lead abatement work, a multi-year award of $180,000 was made to Greensboro Housing Coalition in Greensboro, North Carolina, in support of its nationally recognized program to improve health by improving overall housing conditions.
"Healthy housing should be a given for families and individuals at all income levels," Rapson adds. "Greensboro is quite innovative in its approach, using nurses and social workers to identify potential health risks, contractors that employ healthy work practices while making repairs, and evaluation methods to measure the changes in housing and health conditions."
Climate change is the over-arching priority of the Environment Program. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment, accelerate the adoption of renewable energy technologies, and assist in the development of adaptation strategies.
A $5 million grant to the Energy Foundation of San Francisco expands its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings - the cause of approximately 40 percent of carbon emissions in the United States. The multi-year grant enables the Energy Foundation to advance national and state building codes and appliance standards. It also assists in advancing the twin objectives of increasing utility investments in energy efficiency and spurring the adoption of renewable energy policy, particularly in the Midwest and Southern states.
"The Kresge Foundation has been an early and ardent proponent and funder of environmentally sustainable construction and renovation projects in the nonprofit sector," explains Rapson. "We understand the built environment. Through the work of the Energy Foundation, we are able to extend our reach and influence to address the fundamental issues necessary to propel a shift to energy efficiency and sustainability within our nation's building infrastructure."
Advancing adaptation strategies is the focus of multi-year grants made to the Conservation Biology Institute ($1,020,000) in Corvallis, Oregon, and the Center for Resource Economics-Island Press ($600,000) in Washington, D.C. In collaboration with other partners, the Conservation Biology Institute will create an open-access Web database - the Data Basin Climate Center - that will standardize the format and centralize the climate-change related data submitted and used by researchers, policymakers, practitioners and others interested in the field.
Island Press, the nonprofit publishing house for the Center for Resource Economics, is partnering with EcoAdapt, a nonprofit organization dedicated to climate change adaptation issues, to build a Web-based Climate Adaptation Knowledge Environment that will gather, synthesize and disseminate knowledge and informational tools on adaptation to climate change for practitioners as well as create an online environment for users to share information. The Data Basin Climate Center (mentioned above) will be one of the resources available to users.
Awards also were made to arts and culture organizations, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and a broad array of human service organizations.