Community Experts Fund Awards $200,000

Author: Nicholas Randell

Actions and Voices

In September, the hard work of the Tower Advisory team culminated in grant awards to 12 organizations in support of their mentoring and counseling work with youth. The ten members of the team independently reviewed a total of 26 applications, then came together to deliberate across two dynamic evening sessions. All the applications were strong, so final decisions were not easy. Every team member came to the table prepared to share their personal perspectives, listen to other viewpoints, and build consensus.

Organizations receiving an award included:

New York-based Programming

  • Accessible Academics
  • Bridges from Borders
  • Buffalo Center for Arts & Technology
  • Compeer
  • Eye to Eye
  • Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York
  • Mental Health Advocates of Western New York

Massachusett- based Programming

  • Above the Clouds
  • Behavioral Health Innovators
  • Express Yourself
  • Friends of the Northshore Education Consortium
  • Northeast Arc

We thought we would tell the rest of this story with comments from Tower Foundation trustees that attended the grant review sessions, with feedback from grant recipients, and with the voices of the Advisory Team members themselves.

From Trustees

One of the Advisory Team members expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to make grants to organizations and was moved to say, “This money might save someone’s life.” Hearing that response I thought I’m not sure I’d ever felt that close to the effects of our giving. In his book Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson writes about getting ‘proximate’ with the people you want to help. In that statement it was clear that the Foundation Advisory Team members are proximate.
Cindy Doyle

With a limited amount of dollars to award and more applications than could possibly be approved, the group made difficult decisions staying true to the requirements that they had established. Various individuals advocated for their choices, and all of the final decisions were accomplished in a very collaborative manner. The agencies receiving funds will now be able to implement advocacy and mentorship activities knowing that they were selected in a very careful process.
Jim Weiss

From Grant Recipients

Can’t wait to share the news with the teen ambassador who inspired our application. We look forward keeping you and the Advisory Team posted on our progress. We would love to connect our young leaders with yours once the program is underway.
Northeast Arc

 We are excited to bring free transition services to students so they can get the help they need immediately. I will be happy to share the impact of this grant during an Advisory Team call in the future. I am looking forward to providing positive updates on our project.
Accessible Academics

From the Advisory Team

The written and Zoom applications/interviews were very brief and coherent, and voting for each application was hard because each organization was SO good and well-deserving of the grant. But the Advisory Team persevered through and was able to award almost half of total organizations that applied! The time spent on this grant-making process was valuable and very much needed. It was a very humbling experience that I was honored to be included in.
Aliya Mathis

 I always felt my voice did not matter, especially being a person of color with diagnosed substance use disorder and mental illness. Fast forward I am blessed to speak for a living with six years sober, however, being a part of this was one of my greatest achievements in life. I got to have a say with other people like me to help people who were once in my shoes. NO GREATER FEELING!”
Freddy Shegog

Overall, the grant decision process was amazing! We worked collaboratively and made decisions based on the key focus areas of the Tower Foundation initiative. It was a wonderful experience and I know over time it will only be perfected! I’m grateful for having an opportunity to be a part of this experience.
Alecia Cultrara

Being a part of the Tower Foundation’s Advisory Team for the Community Expert Fund was an amazing learning opportunity. The Program Officers provided us with helpful strategies for reviewing grants, and allowed us the chance to formulate an RFP that reflected the issues we wanted our funding to address. My fellow advisors opened my eyes to ways that their own experience was informing the projects they wanted to support and through discussion we made decisions as a team.
Nissa Bisguier

From the time I was a child, every system in this world told me to be silent. The Tower Foundation gave me a voice. And in using it, I’ve got to do a lot of things I’d never do. Whether that be sitting in boardrooms where people make important decisions that affect my community, driving forward funding for programs that would’ve helped me when I was young, talking to the leaders or organizations that work with people like me and being able to tell them what we need.
Niko DelValle