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Roots & Branches Foundation Directs Philanthropy to Immigrants and Refugees in 2017

By: Marisa Pooley, member of Roots & Branches 2017

Fueled by the current political climate and their ancestors’ stories of coming to America, the 18 members of Roots & Branches Foundation 2017 chose to fund Colorado nonprofits addressing needs of immigrants and refugees.

A diverse group of Jewish young adults, the 2017 cohort applied to participate because of their service ethic and desire to make a difference in the Greater Denver community through philanthropy.

During the six-month program, members identified their shared Jewish values and learned about needs in the community.

“In the very first stage of the grantmaking process, we determined as a group that the Jewish values that would most inform our giving were Love the stranger, Do not stand idly by, and You shall strengthen” said 2017 Roots & Branches member, Yoni Dobie-Geffen.

The group considered a variety of important issues facing the Greater Denver community, but ultimately chose to focus their giving around providing basic needs to immigrants and refugees.

“After the election in 2016, I decided to start giving monthly to a few organizations that are filling urgent needs in the Denver area, but I had a hard time understanding whether this type of giving was impactful,” said 2017 member Marisa Westbrook. “Roots & Branches exposed me to the beauty of collective action with my peers, and introduced me to a new group of organizations fulfilling these needs within the immigrant and refugee communities of Denver.”

Once the funding priority was decided, the group identified and invited local organizations whose work felt meaningful and impactful for the refugee and immigrant communities. They received nine grant proposals. Members reviewed proposals carefully and evaluated them as a group. They also visited the finalist organizations to get a better sense of their services and to see their impact firsthand.

The Roots & Branches community shared great enthusiasm for supporting immigrants and refugees. Contributions from alumni, friends and family, plus personally meaningful donations made by each Roots & Branches member totaled $13,000. In total, this year’s grantmaking was $53,000.

Each of the organizations that applied for funding provide unique support and services and were worthy of support. Ultimately, however, Roots & Branches members chose to grant five organizations that the group determined were most strategically and effectively serving immigrants and refugees.

Roots & Branches Foundation 2017 awarded grants to the following programs, projects and organizations that welcome, support and transform the lives of refugees and/or immigrants and their families:

African Community Center (Denver) $15,000 to support Job Club, which offers employment training and job placement for immigrants and refugees on the pathway to self-sufficiency.
Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning (Denver) $6,000 to support Ready Tots by Project SHINE, a program that helps immigrants and refugees navigate healthcare systems and provide training to parents and caregivers on young child health and preschool readiness.
Project Worthmore (Aurora) $12,690 in general operating support to welcome immigrants and refugees upon arrival in Colorado through everyday assistance, dental care, English language classes and access to fresh, affordable food.
Re:Vision International (Denver) $7,310 to support the Promotora Program through training and professional development to each promotora (community leader) in computer literacy, public speaking, trauma informed care, and community organizing.
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (Westminster) $12,000 to support the Children’s Program, which provides free legal representation to immigrant children and their families through their network of volunteer attorneys.

Fully addressing the needs of refugees and immigrants in Colorado is a difficult task that will require the collective support of groups across the state, but Roots & Branches members hope that their grantmaking will make a meaningful impact that expands beyond those directly served.

“Our collective hope is that this financial support will inspire other members of the Denver Metro community to support our refugee and immigrant neighbors,” said Dobie-Geffen. “Whether it is through volunteering at one of these amazing organizations, making a financial contribution of their own or raising awareness around immigrants and refugees imperiled status, everyone can make a difference.”

To learn more about Roots & Branches Foundation here.

If you are interested in being part of Roots & Branches please contact Emily Kornhauser ekornhauser@rcfdenver.org


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