Meet A Lutheran Couple Interested in Fighting Hunger and Poverty in Chicago... Abroad,Too.

Oak Brook, Illinois couple Gerald "Jerry" and Susan Kolschowsky founded their Gerald A. and Karen A. Kolschowsky Foundation in the 1980s. Their son, Tim, now oversees the foundation as   president. Jerry made his money at the helm of OSI Industries, one of the world's largest providers of processed meats, poultry and related products. Susan was a teacher. 

One thing that stands out about this family's grantmaking is their steady support of the Lutheran Church and religious causes. In Chicagoland, they've funded places like Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, ELCA Foundation, Lutheran Campus Ministry at Northwestern University, and Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, home to A Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice, which the Kolschowskys helped establish. 

The couple's Lutheran faith also seems to play a role in their support of local human services organizations. They've supported Bethel New Life, a social services organization in Chicago formed by a Lutheran church. Especially large sums have supported Bridge Communities, a "grassroots, nonprofit organization that provides transitional housing and programs to assist homeless families." Other grantees include Children's Home & Aid Society of Illinois.

The Kolschowskys also engage philanthropy through their alma maters. For Jerry, that's Iowa State, which the couple's son Michael also attended. Susan is a Michigan State Spartan. The couple has awarded at least $25 million to these two institutions in order to address hunger and poverty in the developing world.

What's driving these interests? 

As Jerry once put it, he saw firsthand the devastation that hunger and poverty causes. "In our travels throughout the world, we have been deeply affected by the poverty we have seen in the developing world," he said. "We want to help people help themselves by using a sustainable approach to food production, community development, health and income generation."

Of course, it's no coincidence that a former food services CEO would take interests in hunger and poverty back to his alma mater (where he graduated with a degree in agribusiness) to make an impact. The couple started contributing to the Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (SRL) program in Iowa State's College of Agriculture, which fosters "collaborations with partners in developing nations to find sustainable solutions that improve the agriculture, nutrition, health and economic opportunities of rural communities."

In 2004, the Kolschowskys traveled to Uganda to see the work that SRL was doing in food security and sustainable resource use practices. The couple provided $10 million in operating funds and an endowment for SRL. The family continues to support the program via their foundation.

A few states away, the Kolschowskys engage in similar philanthropy. Michigan State University is home to the Partnership for Sustainable Community Development (PSCD), a "long-term collaborative alliance of local and international organizations dedicated to improving local livelihoods." The couple are founding benefactors of PSCD, as well as its first initiative, Tanzania Partnership Program (TPP), an alliance of local and international organizations dedicated to improving local livelihoods and promoting community resiliency in Tanzania. TPP also runs a study abroad program for MSU students.

TPP began its work in two pilot villages, Milola and Naitolia, and in 2015, began to expand its efforts to adjacent villages. As Jerry puts it, "We wanted to help the neediest people around the world to become stronger and more resilient... MSU has a long history of work in Africa in critical issues like food security, nutrition, education, health and community development. It seemed like a perfect partnership for us, MSU and the communities in Tanzania, to all work together to enhance their resiliency and sustainable livelihoods.”

Thus far, the Kolschowskys and their foundation have committed nearly $15 million toward the TPP and its study abroad program.

Apart from the couple's work at their alma maters via their foundation, they've also supported ChildFund International, Children of Uganda, and EARTH University Foundation in Costa Rica. For a look at the family's more local grantmaking, read our guide below. Keep in mind that the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, at least per a recent 990 tax form. 

Related: Gerald A. and Karen A. Kolschowsky Foundation: Chicago Grants