While many funders steer clear of funding capital projects, anyone who works with youth can attest that providing safe and friendly physical spaces for young people is all-important. Programs are great, but having a place to do them is even better.
Two funders who get that are the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation (LSFF) and Jennifer Pritzker, a billionaire and retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. (Pritzker, who was born James Pritzker, is also the world's only openly transgender billionaire.)
These funders are putting up $2.5 million for construction of a new Youth Development Center in Evanston, Illinois, as well as its youth development programs.
The LSFF is a small family foundation created with the wealth of retired Merrill Lynch investment banker, Charles Ashby Lewis, and his wife, Penny Bender Sebring, who is a senior education researcher at the University of Chicago. The couple have made numerous grants in the Chicago area, including to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. They've also given regularly to their alma maters, Grinnell and Amherst, as well as the University of Chicago. Their foundation made $1.3 million in grants in 2013.
The organization receiving the funds, Youth Organization Umbrella (YOU), will be moving from older, cramped facilities, to the new building by summer of 2016. YOU serves about 700 students with after-school programming. It has been running programs in the schools since the 1990s, and now has its own space.
One of the unique features of the new space will be a "maker lab" where kids can do exploratory, interactive projects to learn STEM skills. The space will also host programs in the evening, and be shared with other nonprofits for youth who need space for educational youth projects.
As we said, when it comes to helping kids, place matters. A lot.