Wilson's At It Again, With News of Grants and More

I've written before about the Wilson Foundation, recently revamped after the late Ralph C. Wilson Jr. left around $1 billion to charityall of which must be spent over the next 20 years. The foundation's 2015 Transitional Legacy Grant Program focuses on five causes that Wilson cared about, including "healthy lifestyles," and "education, training, and support for caregivers." The Wilson Foundation's philanthropy is just getting started and in October, we dug into a multimillion-dollar gift to a cancer institute in Buffalo. Western New York is an important site of philanthropy for this funder, and in life, Wilson (who founded the Buffalo Bills, by the way) was commited to the region.


Western New York isn't the only region of interest for this funder. Wilson himself was born in Detroit and had strong ties to the region. Now comes news of a series of grants totalling $17.4 million to 20 nonprofits in the Detroit area. Grantees include Alzheimer’s Association – Greater Michigan Chapter, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, Grosse Pointe War Memorial, Grosse Pointe Historical Society, and Walsh College. A big winner here is Angela Hospice, which received a $2.1 million grant to establish a tele-Hospice, a "support system via telephone and Web for caregivers, patients and hospitals who need access to hospice staff." The late Wilson and the founder of the hospice were friends.

Of this grantmaking push in Detroit, Mary Wilson, a trustee of the foundation and Wilson's widow, said, “Ralph loved our hometown of Detroit. He was incredibly passionate and devoted to doing everything he could leave a lasting impression on the people of southeast Michigan and ensure his legacy will be felt by those who needed it most."

So far, the Wilson Foundation has been steered by Mary, Wilson’s niece Mary M. Owen and longtime Wilson associates Eugene Driker and Jeffrey Littmann. The foundation has also recently tapped more trustees and the foundation's first president, David O. Egner, will begin work early next year. Enger has served as president and CEO of the Detroit-based Hudson-Webber Foundation since 1997, a charity that "concentrates its efforts and resources on its mission of improving the quality of life in metropolitan Detroit." Given these additional ties to Detroit, grantseekers working in this region, and not just Western New York, should keep appraised of this funder. There's more than a billion left to give.