The Greater Toledo Community Foundation – 50 Years of Service to the Community

Keith Burwell

By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor

The Greater Toledo Community Foundation is in the process of celebrating 50 years of service to the community – 50 years of financial service in an attempt to make this area a better place to live.

“Everything we do starts with that word ‘community’ in our name,” says Keith Burwell, president and CEO of GTCF. “We did debate about the entire name but it was important to us to leave the word ‘community’ in there because everything we do is about our community – donors have created funds and it’s about our community. Our partners invest and there is a strategic partnership that helps us make things happen in the community.

“And then the community business leaders and when I say ‘business,’ it’s not just for profit, but also not-for-profit, government … we try to solve problems.”

The GTCF began its efforts to solve problems within the community when they were left an estate by the Terhune family five decades ago and over that time the Foundation has given away over $310 million dollars through the use of over 900 funds, says Burwell. (Alice Crosby Terhune, who lived in Toledo all her life, passed away in the early 1970s. In 1973, $145,000 from her father’s trust – created 45 years earlier – established the Walter E. Terhune Fund, the first grantmaking endowment of Greater Toledo Community Foundation.)

“Our mission has always been to build a better community not by creating band aids but by solving problems. So we want to find out what the systemic change is that has to happen. There’s a lot of conversation around hunger – it’s important to break that cycle of poverty. We’re not just interested in talking about food, we want to talk about why people don’t have food,” Burwell adds.

“The same thing with children – we talk about cradle to career so we’ve been funding early childhood education and issue around children … how do we help a child get off to a start in life in a good way. That said, we’ve also tried to go outside the norm and ask how do we create opportunity?

“We try to create a funding stream that’s not what you would normally think of – by helping to create revenue and solve problems.”

The Foundation also delves into the arts and culture aspects of the community, for example, by arranging for paid apprenticeships because of the value that arts add to the community, says Burwell.

“We’re always looking for strategic partnerships in what we call ‘the power of the community,’” he adds. “That’s the cornerstone of what we are at the Greater Toledo Community Foundation.”

As an example, of the approach that the GTCF has used and how it has impacted the community, Burwell notes that being proactive in bringing in partners to solve problems enables the Foundation to rely on outside expertise.

“We don’t have all the answers but we do try to find partners who may be twice as bright as us – then go about making the change.”

“As an example, we recognized that kids being born here were below weight and dying at birth, particularly in three zip codes – they were Third World numbers. We put together that Pathways program where we incentivized case workers to go into neighborhoods and using the 12 different steps of Pathways we’ve lowered the numbers – it’s been such a success that the state picked it up and now the feds have picked up on it. The CDC [Centers for Disease Control] is using the Pathway model.”

Over the past several years, the Foundation has ramped up its efforts in the diversity, equity and inclusion area.

“We looked at the [George] Floyd murder, and I think you can call it a murder, and said ‘let’s not just put out a statement – everybody is putting out a statement, let’s do something about it.’ Let’s be active, not just talking about it,” says Burwell.

“Our mission is to address concerns raised by the community. We looked at lack of access and we took up the challenge and out together a fund. [Equity and Access Fund] We created an independent committee comprised of some current board members but also community members and gave them the authority to see how we could tackle [diversity, equity and including] issues in our community. They were allowed to make those grants without coming back to the board for approval.”

“Those grants by that committee were pushed forward with the understanding that they would know best what was needed in the community. So, we created a fund – $600,000 over five years. Not to say it stops there but we had to start with a numerical amount.

“It’s been very successful. We looked at four different focus areas – advocacy, economic development, employment and non-profit capacity. A lot of nonprofits are led by minorities that just don’t have the capacity [to do a lot of programming].”

Collaboration is a key word for the committee as the members look at areas in which nonprofits led by minorities can be a great help to the community but cannot do the job by themselves. “Some issues are so big we need to have a collaborative effort,” says Burwell.

Collaboration is also a concern outside of the current Equity and Access Fund when it comes to smaller operations, he notes. There’s a concern for “shared service models,” he says using child-care centers as an example. These are operations that can work together on such tasks as purchasing jointly in order to command the best prices for commonly used goods.

So far the Foundation has funded seven collaborative applications in the Equity and Access Fund: the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo with Issue Box Theatre, Toledo Opera and University of Toledo School of Social Justice; Cherry Street Mission Ministries with Water for Ishmael; GreaterGenerations with City Park League Resource Group; JumpStart with Economic and Community Development Institute, Inc; St. Martin de Porres Parish with Community Reinvestment Coalition and Robinson Community Hub; The Movement Team Lucas County with Lucas County Children Services and The University Church with Rogers High School.

The GTCF provided The Truth with this list of notable successes/highlights in the areas of collaboration:

*   Arts Commission of Greater Toledo with Issue Box Theatre, Toledo Opera and University of Toledo School of Social Justice collaboratively impacted youth and adults. The Opera launched several community engagement activities to increase interest in the minority community and produce Blue, an award winning production about an African American male from Harlem that focuses on his life decisions and family challenges. Issue Box Theatre and Arts Commission worked with 61 YAAW youth to focus on community impact through service and social emotional skills. Of that 61 youth, 16 were selected to produce a social justice focused documentary that was viewed at several in-person locations include Mott Branch and TolHouse. The School of Social Justice measured the impact that these activities had on the youth participants.
*   Jumpstart with Economic and Community Development Institute, Inc. collaboratively invested in 16 local small businesses by providing $20,000 in Boost Funds and technical assistance to scale up business operations.
*   GreaterGenerations and CityPark League provided 50 local youth with seasonal community outdoor work experience and even elevated one of the youth to a supervisory position. This project is still ongoing, meaning, more youth will benefit.
*   Wilber A. Williams Community Life and Technology Center has trained 50 percent of their board to increase awareness of board-level responsibility. This project is still ongoing.
*   YWCA of Northwest Ohio has completed the research and will soon launch an online series that provides training on understanding bias, structural racism, systemic racism and factors that impact outcomes within the Black community. This project is still ongoing.
*   Midstory has completed the research and finalized the list of individuals to interview for a documentary that will capture and uplift the voices of local Asian American Pacific Islanders. Filming is currently underway. This project is still ongoing.

For the Equity and Access Fund, the next round, the fourth round, of applications will be taken by the committee from May 2 to July 2, says Burwell.