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Living our values: Respect through grantmaking

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is committed to sharing insights and learning to support the philanthropic community in our shared effort to break the cycle of poverty. Each quarter, Christine Mitton, PhD, director of knowledge and learning for the foundation, shares a look into how we’re effectively supporting partners through the lenses of our values. 

While the foundation devotes most of its resources to achieve long-term change in health, housing, and education, our mission also calls us to dedicate some of our funding to those most in need.

Inspired by the parable of Jesus calling us to be good neighbors, the foundation’s annual Good Samaritan grant program supports non-profit organizations by offering $5,000 grants to provide necessary and immediate goods and services to people living in poverty. At its recent quarterly meeting, the foundation’s board of directors approved grants to 30 organizations serving individuals and families throughout Cuyahoga County. Collectively, these organizations ensure our neighbors are afforded profound respect in spite of material, physical or emotional poverty.

As one grantee explains, “the Good Samaritan story is about more than the compassionate actions provided to the wounded man by the Samaritan. It is the unspoken love and care that comes through his actions. It is the dignity that is upheld and respect given to the man that makes the Samaritan a good neighbor. Compassionate actions without humility, dignity and respect are empty actions… It is really up to us to take care of each other.

This program expresses an essential value of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine: respecting the dignity of every person. This expression perhaps more urgently calls us to our work in this time of changing priorities for the poor. Several proposed changes to federal and state programs serving people living in poverty will make it more difficult to meet basic needs, particularly food, housing and healthcare.

Poverty has innumerable causes and consequences, which create complex needs that can intertwine within the lives of individuals and families. Social service providers are obligated to respond comprehensively to meet the physical and social needs of people who are poor, but the future of both public and private flexible spending to support these needs is unsure.

As foundation staff works with grantee partners to prioritize these needs, we are reminded of our founding more than 20 years ago, another time of changing priorities for the poor. In 1996, the national landscape was characterized by the push for welfare reform and a deepening wealth divide.  Within the context of the potential unraveling of the social contract, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine endowed three foundations in Cleveland, Canton and South Carolina that reaffirmed their century-long commitment to people who were poor or living at the margins. Creating these three foundations was understood as a refounding of the sisters’ mission, a clear dedication to the Catholic social teaching that the needs and rights of the poor are to be given special, or preferential, attention.

By responding to the immediate needs of the county’s most vulnerable residents through the Good Samaritan grant program, the foundation commits to the legacy of its founding and its core value of respect and dignity for all people. In following the Gospel, the foundation works hand in hand with the dedicated organizations at the forefront of creating solutions – the true Good Samaritans. These partnerships not only seek to remove the burden of poverty, but nurture the growth of stable communities and a better future for all.

Christine Mitton

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