The Cambridge Community Foundation awards $533,000 in grants to local nonprofits this spring
Published On: April 1st, 2021
Photo by Nick Surette for Central Square BID of Project Restore Us, a new CCF partner.
April 1, 2021 | Cambridge, MA
In response to sustained demands on nonprofits in Cambridge, the Cambridge Community Foundation (CCF)increased funding allocated for its springgrantmaking by50%, awarding a total of $533,000 in grants to 73 local nonprofits involved in youth programs and education, housing, hunger, homelessness, elder services, financial empowerment, the arts, COVID-19 relief, and racial justice.
To meet heightened needs in the community, the Foundation went beyond the regularCommunity Fundallocation for the spring grantmaking cycletotaling $353,000 to tap additionalresources. This included$95,000 from the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund, $50,000 from CCF funds earmarkedfor racial equity,and $35,000 from other Foundation Fundsto help nonprofits maintain key servicesandfoster new initiatives and collaborationsin responseto the pandemic. Extending the flexibility offered to nonprofits in the wake of COVID-19, grant recipientscan use the funds at their discretion, including for general operating expenses.Jump to a list of all CCF spring cycle grant recipients.
“Over the past year, Cambridge’s nonprofit sector has shown remarkable resilience and creativity in meeting the needs of constituents: many had to increase services tenfold, while others were forced to cut back; some agencies reimagined their services in creative ways, and newprograms emerged to fill in gaps exposed by elevated needs in our community,” said Cambridge Community Foundation president Geeta Pradhan.“The data in our upcomingreport, Equity and Innovation Cities: The Case of Cambridge, paints a stark picture ofchallenges faced by our most vulnerable populations.The nonprofit sector’sinnovative new partnerships and creative responseswillbe much needed to help bridge the gaps and meet emerging needs in a post-pandemic world.”
As part of this spring’s dynamic, responsive grantmaking process,applicantswere asked to self–categorize a target focus for funding in one of three ways: “ongoing work,” “innovative ideas and collaborations emerging from responses to the pandemic” and “internal racial equity work.”
Innovations from longstanding and emerging nonprofits
Many of the spring grants were awarded to longtime nonprofit partners – such as Adbar Ethiopian Women’s Alliance, East End House, Central Square Theater.Seventeen percent of the funds were awarded to new nonprofit partners, those never funded before or not funded within the last three years, including three organizations fighting food insecurity–Project Restore Us, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, and Rescuing Leftover Cuisine– as well asequity-driven, grassroots nonprofits likeCambridge Families of Color Coalition, which trains caregiver advocates for equity in our public schools; and VLA Dance, a Black-owned contemporary dance company using performance, education, and community advocacy to empower and amplify historically under-respected voices.
Project Restore Us (PRU)emergedlocally in response to COVID-19.Formalized last June, PRU began much earlier in the pandemic when Dr. Marena Lin needed a bag of flour and went to her friend Tracy Chang, chef/owner of PAGU in Central Square. The two women realized that the restaurant supply chain could be leveraged to support neighbors in need. To date, PRU has delivered 202 tons of food to 4,210 households, and has new initiatives underway, thanks to a volunteer-powered coalition of 200 drivers, 30 coordinators, staff of five local restaurants, and dozens of community partners.
“It really is a community effort: neighborhood restaurants, community organizations that know and address neighbors’ needs, drivers from all walks of life, our behind-the-scenes organizing team, and funders and donors like the Cambridge Community Foundation,” said Quantum Wei, development director. “PRU started to solve very real problems in our neighborhoods, and it’s worked so well because it is a win-win solution for restaurants and food recipients. Looking ahead, we plan to move beyond emergency food aid and build a solution that reimagines our food system to be more equitable.”
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES), a longtime nonprofit partner, has responded creatively to many challenges for seniors this year. While non-essential in-person services were limited, their hotline became an essential resource for up-to-date information in a rapidly changing world, including how to navigate vaccinations. At the outset of the pandemic, they established a new partnership with FriendshipWorks to match volunteers to SCES senior clients for weekly “visits,” via phone.
“Social isolation has always been an issue for our population. It’s now a pressing issue that’s that transcends everything—ability, language, age. Technology is also clearly becoming a necessity,” said Colleen Morrissey, SCES director of volunteers & special projects. “A lot of community members want to give back and have more time to do it. We’re hopeful that the experience of the pandemic will continue to increase empathy for older people whose regular state is effectively homebound.”
Atthe core of many nonprofits’ work, racial justice
Onenonprofit in this cycle – Cambridge Arts Council – specifically targeted their grant for internal racial equity work andfivemore nonprofits with racial justice at their core were granted dollars from funds set aside by the Foundation to address racial equity.
One of these partners is theYoung People’s Project (YPP), an afterschool program that empowers high school students of color to be Math Literacy Workers for younger students in their communities. YPP transitioned smoothly to a fully virtual environment last year by intentionally prioritizing connectivity for all students and focusing on recreating fun and collaboration in an online setting. Racial equity is deeply embedded in their organizational mission.
“We understand our work to be fundamentally about shaking up, dismantling, putting cracks in the way that our country’s caste system expresses itself in the education system such that many Black students and students of color get relegated to the bottom tier,” said Maisha Moses, YPP executive director. “Our strategy comes from lessons of the civil rights movement: the idea that people most affected by the problem have to be part of working on the solution. In education, that’s the students. Math literacy work creates a space to organize young people to both address an immediate need – learning math, a gateway to 21st-century knowledge, skills, careers – and bring awareness and talk about how to grapple with the education system in our community and our country.”
CCF grantmaking and civic leadership at a glance
Grant decisions are informed by a diverse committee of grant reviewers comprised of over 20 community residents and leaders from nonprofits, arts organizations, law enforcement, universities and schools, and other sectors of our city. The committee is led by program committee co-chairs Lori Lander and Rev. Lorraine Thornhill.
Lori Landersaid: “The work being done by nonprofits is extraordinary. In many cases, they see neighbors facing intractable problems, some brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism. Nonprofits are among the first to present effective, hyperlocal solutions. The Foundation proudly stands with our nonprofit partners to make Cambridge a better place to live for all.”
As acommunitygrantmaker, the Foundation invests in approximately 150local nonprofits each year, as well as new and multi-year initiatives that align with the three pillars of the Foundation’s mission: shared prosperity, social equity, and cultural richness. It also responds to pressing community needs. Since March 2020,in partnership with hundreds of generous donors, the Foundation awarded a total$4.2 million in grants through its steadfast biannual grantmaking,the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund, the Cambridge Artist Relief Fund,and the Cultural Capital Fund, launched in partnership with the City of Cambridge.
On April 7, the Foundation will launch a new research report, called Equity and Innovation Cities: The Case of Cambridge, which reveals how the city has emerged as a leader among innovation cities, and how its population across all income levels has fared. The data makes the case that not everyone in the city is sharing equally in the city’s prosperity. The Foundation sees the report as a platform for common knowledge, and to bring the city’s sectors together to forge solutions. Learn more here.
Spring 2021 Grants
Innovative ideas and collaborations responding to the pandemic
The designated anti-poverty community action agency, offering free services including a food pantry and financial education, is now launching a program to give small cash grants to income-eligible people in Cambridge.
A collective working to train caregivers of color to advocate with and on behalf of other caregivers of color experiencing disenfranchisement due to the hoarding of resources, lack of family engagement, and exclusion from decision-making within Cambridge Public Schools.
Engagement with Maria L. Baldwin School students, families, and educators in an equity design process to reimagine the rituals and traditions that build and deepen school community during recovery from the pandemic.
Support along the continuum from homelessness to housing stability; providing voucher administration, housing search assistance, and emergency transition funding, and housing support services. Launching a new colocation site at Mt. Auburn Hospital in 2021.
Services to low-income older adults and some younger people with disabilities, helping them to maintainindependence and quality of life. A primary goal is to reduce loneliness through volunteer interactions.
Grassroots power building for pan-Asian communities through political education, creative expression, and issue-based and neighborhood organizing. South Asian youth and young adult programming in Cambridge.
CCAE is working to enhance its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion; keep programs accessible by expanding ascholarship program by 25%; renew community partnerships that were delayed due to pandemic; and fully activate a new Tandem Learning Program for ESOL & world languages students.
Campus-Based Coaching is designed to advance the six-year college completion rate of students from groups underrepresented in higher education so their graduation rate is the same as their higher–income peers.
TDC seeks more efficacy and impact for the community, as a nimble and reimagined organization that continues to learn from the COVID-era, from dialogue with its communities, and from organization-wide antiracism work.
A longstanding community center using a holistic approach to promote the wellbeing, academic achievement, and successful transition to adulthood of children and youth from under-resourced families in Cambridge and surrounding communities.
Enabling men and women unemployed due to COVID-19 to participate in a treatment program for those who abuse intimate partners and/or free parenting education groups for fathers with histories of domestic violence.
A Black theatre company committed to advancing racial equity. Its Racial Unity Movement Project is a collaborative, devised performance piece using dance, spoken word, and music to inspire our community to take real action towards racial unity and equality.
An online and outdoor performance season in 2021 working with local, national, and international performers who are chosen for their artistic talent and their cultural relevance to Cambridge’s under-represented communities of color.
Engagement in collective environmental stewardship, advocacy for spatial justice, promotion of cross-silo collaboration between social communities, and informal place-based, STEAM, educational discovery opportunities.
Emergency shelter, housing, and support services to Cambridge residents experiencing homelessness.
The Henry Buckner School: $25,000 (This is aCommunity Foundation COVID-19 Relief Grant,from the Baker-Polito administration through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing andEconomic Development)
Infant and toddler care, preschool education, and afterschool enrichment in a nurturing, secure, positive, and challenging environment.
An emergent literacy and social-emotional health program that partners with pediatricians to encourage economically disadvantaged parents in Cambridge to read aloud regularly with their children and provide parents with tools they need to nurture early learning and growth.
The Read Aloud Mentoring Program at two elementary schools in Cambridge continues to serve students despite COVID-19 challenges, with a goal to foster a love of reading, improve literacy skills, and empower underserved children by inspiring adults to read to them regularly.
Continued immigration legal services to Cambridge immigrant youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and education on navigating immigration policies to youth and educators and staff who work with them.
A supportive network for low-income South Asians, particularly women and girls living in public housing. The work includes economic empowerment, mental health and wellness education, political mobilization, and educational activities for children and youth.
The Removing Barriers to Health program seeks to improve health outcomes by addressing social and economic concerns for vulnerable Cambridge home health care patients with characteristics that result in a disproportionately high disease burden.
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Today, the Foundation supports more than 150 local nonprofits annually, conducts research and initiates cross-city conversations, and serves as a collaborative philanthropic partner to donors, nonprofits, businesses, and engaged citizens, helping to address community needs.