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Foundation gets half a million to improve community

August 23, 2007, Palm Beach Post, Foundation gets half a million to improve community, by Susan R. Miller.

The Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties has been handed a large grant and a tall order by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The grant? $507,854. The order? Develop a transformational civic leadership initiative.

Before the Community Foundation can do that, it must define what transformational civic leadership means and what kind of a program it should create.

"Transformational civic leadership means lots of different things to lots of different people," said Shannon Sadler Hull, president and CEO of the Community Foundation.

"Sometimes philanthropy tends to embrace words like that and you never can tell what will happen," she said.

The Community Foundation is one of two in the country that will participate in a pilot program. The Long Beach, Calif., Community Foundation received $550,000.

The Knight Foundation is big on transformation. Its 2006 annual report discusses transformational leadership: vision and the ability to implement new ideas.

The Community Foundation will be charged with figuring out how to improve the community, whether it's through education or improved access to health care.

"It's abstract. Our job is to make it concrete," said Jane Maestro, director of communication for the Community Foundation.

That job will fall to Leslie Lilly, incoming vice president for programs. Lilly, who starts Oct. 1, has been president and CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio since its inception in 1999.

In addition to the grant, the Knight Foundation also has handed over the reins of its $5 million donor-advised fund to the Community Foundation.

Previously, the foundation would distribute money from the fund in consultation with members of the Knight Foundation's advisers. In the future, the decision on who gets the money will lie with the Community Foundation.

The foundation's grants management committee and program staff are trying to decide whether to issue requests for proposals or whether agencies will be handpicked, said Sadler Hull.

Each year the foundation must distribute 5 percent of the $5 million endowment. It will be earmarked before Jan. 1.

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