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Building the Community We'd Like to See

August 08, 2019

Logo_BCYFPresident Trump recently made disparaging remarks about Baltimore that made headlines across the country. His comments stoked anger and outrage. He tarred Baltimore with a broad and reckless brush without offering even a token gesture of support from his administration.

This president has learned it is easy to throw stones. He hasn't learned how to pick up stones and build. Instead of tearing us down, Baltimore needs leaders at the state and federal levels who are committed to building.

Like many American cities, Baltimore struggles with the long-term consequences of disinvestment and segregation: aging infrastructure, dwindling resources, and too few opportunities for young people.

And so our city celebrated the creation of the historic Baltimore Children and Youth Fund as a beacon of hope and possibility, and as a commitment to the city's most important resource for the future: our young people.

BCYF was launched in 2015 by Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who was then the president of the Baltimore City Council. The fund was approved by voters in November 2016 with more than 80 percent support. The non-lapsing fund is supported through an annual set aside of property tax revenue.

Baltimore is only the third city in the nation to create such a fund, and it is the only fund of its kind that has included a racial equity and community participatory lens in grant selections. You will not find this sort of program anywhere in the country.

Why does this matter?

When Freddie Gray died in 2015, many of us came to realize that our institutions, including public and private, weren't setting young people up for success. While a host of needed reforms were launched to address community and law enforcement relationships, a glaring question remained: How do we show our young people we are willing to invest in their future and provide entry points to help them find opportunity and long-term success?

BCYF is an important step forward in answering that question.

Community leaders agree. With less than $11 million available, the fund received $75 million in grant requests through nearly five hundred grant applications.

In its first year, BCYF granted $10.8 million in funding to eighty-four organizations. The grantees were a mix of small organizations and established nonprofits working on everything from mindfulness and mediation to financial literacy. Notably, 63 percent of the organizations funded in the first year were African American-led.

In what city does this happen? It's happening in our city. It's happening in Baltimore.

Too often when community leaders gather to outline solutions to various problems, they fail to include directly impacted people. Not this time. The fiscal steward Associated Black Charities and a team of professionals offered over three thousand hours of help to grantees who may have been new to the funder-grantee relationship or in need of added capacity to ensure maximum impact.

Before BCYF ever issued grants, they held community design sessions, technical assistance workshops, and trainings to ensure the community was prepared to complete the grant application and access resources. As a professional grantmaker with an extensive career in philanthropy, I know that this level of engagement between a funder and the community is rare.

For our president, spewing insults has become the standard response to criticism. He seems to want to drive us apart.

But in Baltimore, we know we can only succeed if we all move forward together. Just as a relay race involves multiple runners, sustained support for children, youth, and young adults requires multiple partners at the local, state, and federal levels.

Headshot_Patrick_McCarthyThe Baltimore Children and Youth Fund is a groundbreaking start. Let's build on it, and programs like it, to shape the future we'd like to see for our city.

Patrick McCarthy, PhD, retired in December as president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a position he held for nine years.

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