Paula Sammons, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer

FUNDING AREAS: Family economic security

CONTACT: prs@wkkf.org, 269-968-1611

IP TAKE: On her Linkedin profile, Sammons provides refreshingly clear information about what she intends to do with her grantmaking: Move "low-income families to 200% and above the federal poverty level thru increasing sustainable income and assets thru two objectives: (1) family stability and (2) workforce mobility." Sammons champions a "dual-generation lens" that intervenes early in the education of children but devotes equal focus to the needs of their parents.

PROFILE: Paula Sammons has been with Kellogg since 1992. In 2008, she began managing the Family Economic Security (FES) initiative at the foundation's office in Battle Creek, Michigan. FES promotes the "stability and financial independence of families and fostering quality jobs, careers and entrepreneurship." In October 2013, she took on additional responsibilities as a program officer to work more directly with the grantmaking process, where the main areas of focus are urban centers in Michigan and New Mexico.

To achieve "family stability," Sammons works toward reaching Kellogg's program goals "in efforts that help increase families’ economic and social mobility. We help make connections to financial resources and job skills training, so that families can be debt-free, pay their bills and feel empowered to help their children succeed." Additionally, she aims to provide banking services to those who otherwise do not have access to them and asset protection for those people and their families. "Workforce mobility" means improving job training for those who do not otherwise have access to it and making sure the training they receive is directly applicable on the current labor market.

Sammons coordinates with some of the larger, pre-existing projects set in motion by Kellogg over the past 10 years dealing with urban renewal. Living Cities, Inc. received a total of $6 million between 2001 and 2010. Sammons signed off on the most recent of the three grants, for $2 million, in 2010. She also recently chipped off an additional $1 million for Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) on top of an initial $35 million that the foundation set aside for BCU in 2008 to introduce incentives for employers to hire low-income residents in the area. BCU is a local developer seeking to revitalize the downtown area of Battle Creek, Michigan.

One angle to the project is building the actual infrastructures required to employ people; another is making sure the people who need work receive the proper education and vocational training required to excel in these positions. Digging from this end, Sammons made smaller grants to programs such as the National Skills Coalition and $100,000 to Goodwill Industries of Central Michigan's Heartland Inc. for providing reliable transportation to help them physically get to their jobs.

Before Sammons promotion at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, she spent some time during the 2000s doing volunteer work within the communities they support and beyond. First, she counseled high school students at Battle Creek Central High School. Later, in Austin, Texas, she volunteered as a therapist at S.A.F.E. Place, working with victims of domestic abuse. Those years clearly contributed to Sammons's current view of urban poverty and tumultuous family life as interrelated problems. As she explains in an interview with one of Kellogg's grantee organizations, "The fiscal health of families is critical to nurture and increase sustainable well-being for children so they can succeed in school and in life."

Sammons also received her master's degree in social work from Western Michigan University in 2001, which included field work and clinical placements in community orginazations that deal with domestic violence, high school counseling, mental illness, and individual and group therapy.

Lastly, it's interesting and perhaps telling to note that Sammons is a loyal company woman.  Before joining the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, she first worked as an office assistant to a dean at Kellogg Community College, and later was employed by the Kellogg Company itself, as a food reviewer and in the purchasing department.