KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Foundation for Excellence is Kalamazoo’s multimillion dollar endowment fund created after two private donors gave more than $70 million to the city.
Kalamazoo’s Foundation for Excellence board of directors has grown from the incorporating two members to a full 15-member board. But directors say the work has just begun.
“I grew up part of a movement of healing disparities and working with young people, and so to be nominated to this board and then its vice chair was overwhelming,” said Dr. Angela Graham-Williams, Foundation for Excellence vice president.
It may be the first of its kind with two private donors giving more than $70 million to a city to create an endowment fund. The money was given to help stabilize Kalamazoo’s budget, reduce property taxes and pay for community projects.
“We anticipate this work will be sustained for years and years to come,” said Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell, who was elected as the foundation’s president Thursday.
“We plant trees under whose shadows we don’t expect to sit,” explained Nathan Dannison, the senior pastor at Kalamazoo’s First Congregational Church and the foundation’s at-large city director. “And the city of Kalamazoo, by taking this approach, is essentially saying that we’re going to sow seeds into this city that will produce fruit for many generations.”
For that to happen, the Foundation for Excellence must raise about $500 million.
“Well, you know, Rome wasn’t built overnight,” said Graham-Williams.
The board wants every Kalamazoo citizen to feel like they have a voice.
“I have a lot of ideas,” Dannison said. “Most important, is that it’s democratic and that every citizen who is going to be affected by this kind of new approach to doing municipal funding feels like that they have a say.”
Board members believe the Foundation for Excellence will prevent shifting the burden of government debt to future generations.
“What we’re doing right now is creating an investment that will pay dividends for those who come after us,” said Dannison.