The George Gund Foundation awarded $11.5 million at its November board meeting, led by significant investments in nonpartisan democracy building efforts across the state. Those investments totaled $2.5 million to nine organizations: Greater Cleveland Congregations, Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association, Khnemu Foundation, Ohio Debate Commission, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Ohio Progressive Collaborative Education Fund, Ohio Voice, Ohio Women’s Alliance, and the Tides Foundation. These investments reflect our belief that a multicultural, power-balanced community is essential to build and sustain a more representative democracy.
In addition to democracy building, the Foundation’s grants reflect priorities outlined in the Foundation’s What We Believe statement around climate change and environmental degradation, entrenched and accelerating inequality—especially racial inequity—as well as priorities across program areas. Grants include the following:
- $150,000 over three years to City Fresh, founded to ameliorate the decline of grocery stores in most Cleveland neighborhoods of color. City Fresh continues to focus on these food desert neighborhoods with a network of 16 Fresh Stops in Cleveland that deliver to subscribers weekly organic produce grown by local farmers. In 2022, City Fresh sold more than 10,000 shares during the growing season, thirty percent of which were sold to low-income households, primarily households of color.
- $500,000 over two years to Union Miles Development Corporation for capacity building support to help advance the City of Cleveland’s Southeast Side Strategy and bolster development in the Union-Miles, Mount Pleasant, and Lee-Harvard neighborhoods. These neighborhoods, which have suffered from historic disinvestment over the years through redlining and other discriminatory banking practices, stand to receive significant levels of investment in the coming years.
- $200,000 over two years to The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive and thedigital repository for the Black experience. In recognition of Cleveland’s rich Black history, The HistoryMakers is developing the Cleveland/Northeast Ohio African American leaders collection, anchored by interviews with 33 local leaders to feature in The HistoryMakers archives.
- $42,000 to support the FIRST Robotics Competition for six Cleveland Metropolitan School District high school teams and Cuyahoga Community College’s Youth Technology Academy team. CMSD students who compete in this national engineering and robotics competition get teamed up with engineers from businesses and universities to get hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, which historically neglect Black and Hispanic students.
- $200,000 over two years to Legal Aid, which provides help to families living in poverty when civil legal issues threaten their health, shelter, safety, education, and/or economic security. Legal Aid provides three services: direct legal assistance—advising and representing clients in court and administrative hearings, negotiations, and litigation; community education and outreach—preventative neighborhood-based work to provide people with the tools needed to avoid or resolve a legal problem; and advocacy—building community coalitions and partnerships to improve shelter, safety, and economic security for our community.
- $300,000 over two years to Brite Energy Innovators, the only Department of Energy sponsored energy incubator in Ohio. Brite provides mentoring, connections to its network of partners, funding assistance, and advanced testing equipment free-of-charge to early-stage clean energy entrepreneurs in Ohio. Brite focuses primarily on start-up companies within the energy grid, energy storage, and transportation sectors.
- $100,000 to Neighborhood Leadership Institute to support the development of grassroots leaders who support and lead community engagement efforts to strengthen neighborhoods. NLI’s focus on everyday residents—without consideration of their profession or status in the community—engages community members from all walks of life who possess a desire to make a difference in Cleveland.
- $50,000 to the Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) for the Total Eclipse Festival 2024, celebrating the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse. The event is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to Greater Cleveland due to the region’s location along the path of totality, which means several minutes of darkness when the moon completely blocks the sun. This three-day, outdoor, family-friendly event will create a broadly engaging experience that includes science and arts, with partners in music, dance, humanities, drama, and visual media. The grant will allow GLSC to underwrite small arts organizations and individual Cleveland artists.
- $150,000 over three years for the Ohio School-Based Health Alliance, a key partner in the Foundation’s efforts to bring sustainably funded, high-quality integrated health care—both primary and behavioral—to all Cleveland Metropolitan School District scholars. The Alliance played an indispensable role in a major victory for school-based health this year, helping secure $15 million in state general revenue funds for direct support of local school-based clinics, the first ever state general fund investment in school-based health care.
- $100,000 over two years to MidTown Cleveland for the AsiaTown Square Pop-up Park, providing new landscaping, updated furnishings, seating, shade areas, lighting, options for winter decorations, and other amenities for this public gathering space. The park will feature programing of all kinds and include multilingual and multi-generational dialogue on civic participation.
- $100,000 to HFLA of Northeast Ohio to promote the self-sufficiency of Northeast Ohio residents by providing access to fair financial resources including interest-free loans to underserved individuals across Greater Cleveland. HFLA’s products include standard loans, which can be applied to almost any financial emergency that may arise; educational loans, which can be used for undergraduate, graduate, vocational, or technical education for students in Northeast Ohio; and small business loans, which can be used to help expand an existing business or start a new one.
- $160,000 to the United Black Fund for continued support for ecosystem building activities related to the FutureLAND initiative. FutureLAND is a collaboration between the City of Cleveland, JumpStart, United Black Fund, and local entrepreneurs that seeks to support entrepreneurs who, because of race, ethnicity, and/or gender, face significant barriers in starting and growing businesses, including access to capital and social networks.
- $60,000 for the Excellence in Teaching Award, a collaboration among the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland Teachers Union, and the George Gund and Cleveland foundations. The award recognizes and rewards CMSD teachers who demonstrate instructional expertise, creativity, and innovation in their classrooms; who make learning engaging, vibrant, and relevant for students; and whose work and accomplishments set a standard of excellence for all teachers. Following their recognition as award winners, teachers agree to share their practice with their peers in the district.
Further details on the November 2023 grants can be found at gundfoundation.org.
In 1952, The George Gund Foundation was established by George Gund—former chair of the Cleveland Trust Company. The Foundation funds programs that enhance our understanding of the physical and social environment in which we live and increase our ability to cope with its changing requirements. Grants are made three times a year in the areas of climate and environmental justice, creative culture and arts, democracy building, public education, thriving families and social justice, and vibrant neighborhoods and inclusive economy. To date, Foundation commitments have totaled over $914 million.