One of the nation’s largest private foundations is committing as much as $6 million over several years to help transform an impoverished Buffalo neighborhood.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation will provide the funding as part of efforts by Buffalo Promise Neighborhood to improve the well-being of children and families in 11,000 households within the 14215 ZIP code, in the northeast section of the city.
Buffalo Promise Neighborhood was one of three projects from across the country chosen by the Casey Foundation to participate in its new partnerships. The others are in Columbus, Ohio and San Antonio.
The Casey Foundation programs are expected to focus on adult education and job training.
The Baltimore-based foundation plans to invest $300,000 in the first 18 to 24 months to design, plan and pilot intervention programs and strategies aimed at assisting families with young children. The foundation’s investment will then grow to $750,000 to $1 million annually, covering the cost of implementing services and evaluating their effectiveness.
The Casey Foundation partnership is the latest in a string of big grants for Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, which has secured about $20 million toward helping the 14215 community raise academic achievement, reduce crime, boost health and wellness, improve parenting skills and build economic opportunities and financial stability.
Last December, the federal Department of Education awarded the nonprofit organization $6 million over five years – an amount that M & T Bank has agreed to match.
Other major grants have come from the John R. Oishei Foundation and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The 14215 ZIP code in the city is bordered by Cheektowaga on the east and runs north from just below Delavan Avenue to Winspear Avenue in University Heights. It is split by the Kensington Expressway.
The Casey Foundation money will allow Buffalo Promise Neighborhood to “expand more aggressively” its work within the 14215 neighborhood, said David K. Chamberlain, chief executive officer.
Founded in 2010, Buffalo Promise Neighborhood so far has had mostly an academic focus on early learning, curbing absenteeism in schools and providing more after-school and summer academic programs for kids.
The organization, for example, broke ground in October on a new 10,0 00-square-foot early-childhood learning center at Bailey Avenue and Amherst Street that will begin enrolling up to 150 infants, toddlers and preschoolers in September 2013. Other initiatives, such as the Johns Hopkins Talent Development Secondary Program and Closing the Gap, also have been launched in Highgate Heights Elementary School and Bennett High School.
The Casey Foundation’s “two-generation” family approach will bring attention to adults, as well, concentrating on parenting, job skills and financial security.
“We thought this fit perfectly with us,” said Chamberlain. “We have a tremendous opportunity, but we now have a challenge ahead of us and we’ve got to show results.”
The foundation’s approach will pull Erie Community College into the growing list of partners and service providers involved with Buffalo Promise Neighborhood.
The college is being asked to create a satellite location within 14215 to deliver its GED program and Pathways to Success pre-collegiate program to residents who can’t commute to one of ECC’s three campuses.
ECC President Jack Quinn said the college was thrilled to be partnering with Buffalo Promise Neighborhood and “lucky to be working with a foundation of the stature of the Casey Foundation.”
Established in 1948 by Jim Casey, a founder of UPS, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has assets of more than $2.3 billion, ranking it among the 25 largest private foundations in the country.
Foundation staff first became aware of Buffalo Promise Neighborhood about 18 months ago, while the foundation was conducting a national search to find new initiatives dovetailing with its mission of improving the lives of disadvantaged children and families, said Charles Rutheiser, senior associate in the foundation’s Center for Community and Economic Opportunity.
Foundation officials visited Buffalo this past spring. They expect to see improvements in employment and income levels among parents in 14215 households, which should lead to greater stability in the neighborhood, said Rutheiser.