Our 2012 Recipient – Growing Great

GrowingGreat is a nonprofit school garden and nutrition education organization dedicated to inspiring children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits. Their goal is to help children and families understand where our food comes from, appreciate that food serves a purpose in our overall health and has an impact on our longevity and well-being.They utilize integrated school programs: Classroom Nutrition and School Gardens to create a collaborative school, home and community education model.  Students receive up to twelve hours of instruction per yearThis program has proven to increase knowledge and awareness of the value of high quality, whole foods, close to their source; Increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables; Increase likelihood to try new foods and choose higher quality foods more often; Increase knowledge of where food comes from and how to plant cultivate and harvest and edible garden. What we found attractive, besides their mission, was GrowingGreat's ability to provide these programs at minimal costs to schools or the organization. GrowingGreat has been able to serve over 150,000 students from K-3rd and with our support of their web based program, can catapult those severed to 1 million students in 3 years. 

Women's Earth Alliance – Our 2011 Recipient

This year we chose to partner with an innovative Bay Area organization that's working at the intersection of gender equality, sustainability and human rights. Our gift to Women's Earth Alliance, which was matched by an anonymous donor, had a real impact on the struggle for justice of several Native American communities. Specifically, our gift was used to bring several activists to a strategy gathering in which indigenous leaders shared skills and resources to protect their land from exploitative extractive industries. Several of us volunteered at the inspiring event which no doubt had a major impact on the women present. 

From WEA's Website:

WEA partners with community-based organizations globally to uplift local solutions to issues of water, food, land, and climate change by providing women with trainings, resources, and advocacy support.WEA’s programs are based on the belief that when women thrive, communities, the environment, and future generations thrive. 

Women’s Earth Alliance works at the intersections of women’s rights and the environment. WEA aims to strengthen women’s leadership, help secure women’s rights, and meaningfully address some of the biggest environmental challenges facing our world today

Our 2010 Recipient: La Casa de las Madres – San Francisco

Dedicated to the prevention of domestic violence and aiding in the recovery of its victims for the past 35 years, La Casa de las Madres has grown into a multi-component center featuring 24-hour crisis hotlines, a drop-in counseling center, and an 88-bed temporary housing facility. In addition, La Casa helps victims of domestic violence in finding safe and affordable housing, provides intervention services for at-risk youth, and runs several educational domestic abuse awareness programs. Their wide-ranging approach to confronting domestic violence includes many of the complex details often left to traumatized victims – for example, child custody arrangements with their batterers. Importantly, La Casa is proactive in educating many community groups about the pervasiveness of domestic abuse and its long-lasting detrimental effects. We are happy to name La Casa de las Madres as a worthy recipient of the 2010 Kindling gift.

2009 Potential Gift Recipient's

Peninsula BridgeLouise Paustenbach

I have been involved with Peninsula Bridge for about 7 years; three as a volunteer and four as a Board member.  The program was begun about 18 years ago by a volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club who was struck by the great disparities between the resources and opportunities of young people in towns like Atherton, Palo Alto and Hillsborough and their counterparts in neighboring towns such as East Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and parts of San Mateo.   His idea was to continue the students’ educational experience over the summer, while at the same time introducing them to academic settings that they would most likely not otherwise know about or dream of experiencing.  I love it that the program was started by local people and continues to be supported by locals who are committed to improving the lives of those in neighboring communities.  Funding comes from some grant money, but mostly from local individuals.  So small gifts really do make a difference to this organization, particularly this year when there is a short-fall.

Partnering elementary and middle schools identify students who they believe exhibit a love of learning, strong potential, and a desire to get ahead.  Those children then begin in the program as early as the summer before they enter the 5th grade.  More than 90% of those students stay with the program through the summer before entering the 8th grade.

I am passionate about Peninsula Bridge because the program introduces middle school students to the love of learning, and to an inviting, beautiful private school setting where academics, learning, possibilities, and self-knowledge are fostered.  For the first time, many of these kids see a place where there is space, where people have the time to care about their school experience, and where there is potential for opportunities.    For three summers, I have been working on one of the school campuses when the Bridge program has been in session.  Every day I saw these bright, energetic, funny, awesome kids actively and enthusiastically participating in class (in the summer!!!) and exploring new experiences like learning to swim for the first time, working one-on-one with a teacher, developing a relationship with a high school mentor, learning about nutrition and gardening.  And the added benefit is that students from the partnering high schools are enlisted as TA’s, giving them the opportunity to be a teacher and mentor to a younger kid who looks up to them.  It’s a beautiful thing!


Ella Baker Center: Jonah Sachs

The name Kindling represents to me the small, humble beginnings of what can become an enormous transformation. So I have tried to focus on an organization who can use our modest gift to deeply impact a large number of young people in need of help.

Nowhere is this need more urgent than in the lives of the 2000 young people who have been railroaded and all but forgotten in California’s juvenile “justice” system. 

Though simple morality and common sense would dictate that troubled young people need counseling and support, California railroads them into facilities that are indistinguishable from adult prisons. Twenty-three hours in a solitary cell, sexual assault, prison guards, beatings, warehousing hundreds of miles from loved ones, this is the system that is meant to protect and rehabilitate California’s at-risk youth.

Does it work? Of course not. 70% wind up offending again. 0% get the resources they need to reach high school proficiency while incarcerated. Our state spends $500 million on this travesty every year.

Reading this information, I imagined myself as a parent of one of these children, frantic with worry, desperate to get him help. I imagined Mira in this nightmare and I was inspired to do something to see it end.

There is a real chance that our small donation can actually make a dent in this problem. The Ella Baker Center’s Books Not Bars campaign has already forced the closing of two of the six youth facilities and is now building a powerful coalition to close the other four. They are armed with scientific data about systems that are cheaper, more humane and actually work. Missouri, for instance, moved from a youth prison system to a community-based rehabilitation model and their recidivism rate is 90% lower as is the total cost.

Books Not Bars is now trying to mobilize and educate the families of imprisoned youth to advocate for their release. They are very excited about the possibility of using a Kindling grant to create educational materials and build a program to organize the families. They have an amazing track record of success and I believe that our money and volunteer time can spark a movement that will bring a higher level of justice to this state we call our home. 

Youth UprisingChristy Silness

I am excited to tell you about Youth Uprising, a not-for-profit located in East Oakland, seeded and supported by Alameda County and the City of Oakland. Jonah and I were fortunate to be given a thorough site tour and we were both impressed and inspired by what they have created. 

Youth Uprising is an organization that emerged from the needs articulated by Oakland youth in 1997 after mounting tension erupted in violence at Castlemont Highschool. In response, a group of students surveyed 1200 students and identified lack of employment opportunities, poor educational resources, and lack of community and personal safety as the root causes of problems facing youth. They envisioned a safe space combined with community support and resources where basic needs are met, skills are taught, dreams are encouraged, and potential is actualized. They took their request to the Board of Supervisors.

In response, Alameda County provided a building and staffing to make the students vision a reality. Opening their doors in May of 2005, Youth Uprising is housed in a beautiful and well managed building. It is a community center comprised of a youth led cafe (Corner’s Cafe), Moroccan Soul living room area, indoor/outdoor amphitheater for youth performances/talent shows, classrooms, media rooms, dance hall, and holistic community clinic offering both integrative and traditional medicine. Membership to the Youth Uprising center is offered to Alameda County residents between the ages of 13-24. 

Youth Uprising carries out their mission to develop youth leadership by providing a state of the art environment to offer classes that focus on Consciousness Raising, Personal Transformation, and Hard Skill/Leadership Development. Support is given to youth ranging from training for the GED to actualizing a dream of a career in the music business. The list of programs (each with it’s own curriculum) include Youth Leadership and Community Building, Media Arts, Physical Arts, Performance Arts, Material Art, Health and Wellness, Career and Education, and Social Enterprise. 

I believe that Youth Uprising is worth our consideration for our 2009 Kindling Grant. It is a solid organization offering a beautiful and nurturing environment to protect, educate and inspire the youth of Alameda County and the City of Oakland. The young women who gave Jonah and I the site tour were obviously inspired, motivated, and completely dedicated to their work at Youth Uprising. If we wish, there would be opportunity for us to get involved on a volunteer level, and they expressed to me that they are interested in an ongoing relationship with their donors. I imagine that Youth Uprising will become a leader (if not already) in the development of community and youth leadership around the United States.

It’s a pleasure to make this organization known to you and if you are interested, you can find out more at: http://www.youthuprising.org/

The Kindling Foundation Announces Our 2008 Gift

This October, we chose our first grant recipient, People's Grocery (peoplesgrocery.org) in Oakland California. This gift was tremendously exciting for us for two reasons.

The first and foremost cause for our excitement is People's Grocery itself. The organization is small but powerful and is working tirelessly to correct a shameful injustice right in our own community. West Oakland, just miles from where many of us live, is a neighborhood of more than 50,000 low income, mostly African American resident. West Oaklanders have access to more than 50 liquor stores but not a single supermarket or even a place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Is it any wonder that diabetes and other nutrition-related diseases are rampant in communities like this one?

As the Kindling Foundation seeks to recognize the interconnectedness of our local and global communities, we are especially concerned about such an obvious oversight of the human rights of a large group of people living in our own backyard.

People's Grocery is restoring this basic right of healthy food to West Oakland by providing farmer's markets, cooking classes and discounted organic food boxes to this community. They even have ambitious plans to build a for-profit, full-sized supermarket in West Oakland.

The work of People's Grocery has been a model for similar efforts in several cities around the country and is proving to be a cornerstone of a growing movement.

Beyond the great work of our grantee, this year's gift was also a cause for celebration in that it marked the culmination of six years of planning, dreaming and experimenting within the Kindling community. At the end of 2007, we began our inaugural giving cycle by choosing a Gifting Committee and a Board. By going through the full process of researching, reaching consensus on a recipient and finally giving, we did, with a small group of members, what we are now confident we can do with a much larger community.

We are currently in the process of inviting several new members to join us as we kick off our second giving cycle.

Contact Us

Please email kindlingfoundation@gmail.com with any questions about the Kindling Foundation.

About the Foundation

The Kindling Foundation is an ongoing experiment in building lifelong, inter-generational community philanthropy. We believe that engaging in charitable giving together with friends and family can bring new power to our individual urges to make social change and can more deeply bond us in friendship and community.

The concept of the foundation is unique but simple. Each year, the community chooses three of its members to comprise the Gifting Committee. Membership in this committee is both a responsibility and a privilege. The privilege is that this small group gets to choose the foundation's grantee for that year, magnifying many times the impact they could have as individual donors.

The responsibility of the committee is to choose a grantee in a way that inspires the participation and enthusiasm of the entire community. How this is done is entirely up to the Committee, though a handbook of past Committee experiences help to guide them.

Working hand in hand with the Committee, and also chosen each year from the community is the Kindling Board. The Board has an equally critical role in the giving cycle as they provide guidance and support to the Committee. Once a grantee is chosen by the Committee, the Board makes sure the organization fits the foundation's general criteria.

Thanks to this strategy, each member our community will experience deep participation in certain years, becoming a powerful philanthropist. In other years, the same member may simply provide insight and enthusiasm but be asked to do very little. In these giving cycles, members can sit back and enjoy the knowledge that they are part of something deeply impactful without having to commit a large amount of their time.

It is our goal to grow our community year to year, stopping when we feel we have reached the maximum size that allows for real interaction and inspiration. At that point, we hope to spawn other Kindling groups to magnify the philanthropic spirit in this community building model.

Giving Criteria

Each year, The Kindling Foundation identifies a new worthy non-profit organization to which we grant our annual gift.

While the selection of the organization is entirely in the hands of each year's Gifting Committee, the foundation's Board checks the organization meets the following criteria:

• Organizations must be 501(c)3 non-profits
• Organizations must do work consistent with the foundation's stated philosophy
• Organizations must not be dedicated to the work of a specific organized religion