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A $250 Million Commitment to Brighter Futures

$7 Million in New Grants Help HBF Surpass Giving Milestone

November 19, 2014: The Helen Bader Foundation (HBF), a leading philanthropic Milwaukee-based foundation, announced today it has surpassed giving of $250 million. The milestone level of giving was achieved after its board of directors awarded more than $7 million in fall grants to various projects in Wisconsin, the U.S. and internationally.

A native of South Dakota, Helen Bader attended Downer College in Milwaukee before marrying Alfred Bader, an Austrian-born chemist. With the combination of Alfred’s technical skills and Helen’s diplomatic finesse, they built Aldrich Chemical Company into one of Wisconsin’s most successful entrepreneurial enterprises of the time. Helen and Alfred eventually divorced leaving Helen to set out on a new life path. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where her field work at the Legal Aid Society brought her up close to the needs of the homeless, the mentally ill and families in distress.

Throughout her life, Helen brought a generous, joyous spirit to her personal giving. From families facing dementia, to individuals looking for a way out of poverty, she saw their human potential, and she wanted to ensure that anyone in need could rely on strong community organizations that could help them enhance their lives.

Prior to Helen’s death in 1989, her wish was to ensure that people could be helped, inspired and enabled in ways that she had personally experienced. In January 1992, HBF opened its doors to reflect that spirit and create new ideas for addressing some of society’s most challenging problems. Now, more than two decades later, the Foundation has reached a major milestone by awarding more than 6,200 grants and 39 program-related investments supporting thousands of nonprofits, government entities, and the occasional for-profit venture that continually deliver on Helen’s legacy.

“Looking back over the past two decades, I am simply amazed to see the accumulated impact the Foundation has made for people,” said Daniel J. Bader, president and CEO of HBF. “Over the years, we have learned that you only see results in people when you invest in people and the only way to make progress on challenging social issues is to build strength through a diversity of tools and partners. My mom’s spirit is forever felt in the programs and research that help individuals reach their fullest potential.”

In addition to financial resources, HBF has also made an impact by creating an open exchange of ideas and collaboration among various stakeholders, all in an effort to ensure a lasting impact. Since the HBF opened its doors, the power of working together, listening carefully, and building on what works has been felt. For the benefit of all the communities the Foundation and its partners aim to serve across the world, it is to ensure that they can have a collective impact for years to come.

The following three grants are a few of the latest examples of Helen Bader’s lasting legacy to find solutions by connecting partners, building consensus, and creating momentum on crucial issues such as aging, education, and employment in the communities it serves.  

TRUE Skool, Inc., which supports the use of the urban arts as a tool to engage youth in social justice, community service, and civic engagement, is receiving a $65,000 grant from HBF. The grant supports TRUE Skool’s efforts to expand its urban-arts-based community engagement model for Milwaukee youth and young adults. Grant funds will provide for partial support for salaries for the executive director, a part-time accountant and a part-time fund development director.

Grant funds will also seed revenue-generating initiatives to provide paid internships and employment to 18-24 year-olds, who are aging out of the current TRUE Skool Urban Arts Program. This initiative will partner with local organizations and businesses in the creative and entertainment outlets, such as Milwaukee Public Schools, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, and WMSE-FM, among others. The goals of the internship program are to increase the opportunities for young people in creative industries, diversify and retain local talent in those industries, provide specific skills-based training for out-of-school youth and young adults, and provide employment and leadership opportunities for 18-24 year olds who are not typically served by social service agencies.

“TRUE Skool provides a unique blend of instruction for youth to explore being professional artists and musicians by learning how to create and implement time-based projects, how to write contracts and grants, project planning, budgeting, and other skills necessary to become entrepreneurs and ultimately find careers in these fields,” said Sarah Dollhausen, founder and executive director for TRUE Skool. “Our partnership with the Helen Bader Foundation ensures that we are able to continue to offer our unique blend of programming and help take Milwaukee’s talented youth to the next level.”

Since 1998, HBF has given more than $13 million in grants in support of programs serving Milwaukee youth. Focusing on strengthening community learning centers, providing safe harbors for children and teens during out-of-school times, as well as building organizational capacity and providing for emergency and basic needs, HBF and its partners are supporting the community from within to encourage the next generation of leaders.

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Milwaukee, a new, college preparatory high school for low-income Milwaukee youth, is receiving a $100,000 grant from HBF. The grant supports the school’s rigorous academic curriculum and innovative corporate work study experience. Cristo Rey’s unique work-study model instills in students the communication skills, strong work ethic and appreciation for the importance of a college education to reach career goals.

Students work one day per week and job share an entry-level position. In other cities, Cristo Rey schools have increased economic activity, employment, and community development, all while promoting neighborhood stability and growth. One hundred percent of Cristo Rey graduates have been accepted into college, an astounding rate for urban schools that serve low-income students.

“The need for high-quality, affordable education for Milwaukee’s youth is greater now more than ever before,” said Andrew Stith, president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. “The school’s unique blend of quality education, affordability and community investment, gives us the ability to create an environment that will empower our youth and create a healthy, positive and sustainable community.”

The Milwaukee school will open in fall 2015 at the St. Florian’s School building at 1215 S. 45th St., near West National Avenue and Miller Park Way. It will open with 100 freshmen and grow to 400 within three years as more freshmen classes are enrolled.

Kiva Microfunds, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that connects people through lending to alleviate poverty, is receiving a $100,000 grant from HBF. The grant supports the launch of Kiva Zip Milwaukee, an initiative to crowdfund underserved city entrepreneurs who find barriers to traditional financial sources.

In addition to HBF, the City of Milwaukee, the Mayor’s office, and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) are working closely to launch the Kiva Zip program, which will enable underserved entrepreneurs in Milwaukee to crowdfund 0% loans starting at $5,000 from Kiva’s global lender community. In this model, borrowers’ creditworthiness is measured by their trust network, wherein a “Trustee” (locally, WWBIC is an approved Trustee and others who will join on may include local business improvement districts, economic development organizations, churches, minority chambers of commerce, etc.) publicly vouches for the borrower’s character and ability to repay.

In Milwaukee, where the median household income is $33,000, entrepreneurs from low-income and immigrant populations often lack traditional measures of creditworthiness, such as credit history, cash flow, and collateral, making it difficult to receive traditional business loans. In addition, current funding sources for entrepreneurs are typically focused on fast-growth, scalable businesses.

“It is our vision to provide financial opportunities and access for borrowers who otherwise lack them,” said Wendy K. Baumann, president and CVO for WWBIC. “By reducing the cost of capital for borrowers who need it, and enhance the connectedness between lenders and borrowers, it helps to create better lives for themselves, their families and the community.”

Kiva Zip is part of, through which lenders make microfinance loans directly to borrowers in the U.S. and Kenya via the Internet. Kiva Zip was launched in November 2011 and has loaned more than $4.5 million, funding nearly 5,000 small businesses.

About the Helen Bader philanthropies

Milwaukee-based Helen Bader Foundation, Inc. is a philanthropic leader in improving the quality of life of the diverse communities in which it works. The Foundation supports innovative projects and programs through grants, convening partners, and sharing knowledge to affect emerging issues in key areas. Awarding an average of $10 million annually, the Foundation has an emphasis on at risk populations. Since 1992, the Foundation has committed more than $250 million in grants and program-related investments, which include loans and equity investments.

Pictured above: The sound studios of TRUE Skool, Inc. (Photo credit: Mark Avery)


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