COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — A new philanthropy in Colorado Springs is working to create a more inclusive and equitable community. The Racial Equity Fund was launched in late 2021 under the umbrella of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.
Zuleika Johnson serves on the fund's advisory board. She explained the purpose is to uplift the generosity that exists in communities of color while also providing grants to charities in the community who are led by and serve communities of color.
"What we try to do is really identify organizations that were getting to the root cause of the racial disparities that exist and how those racial disparities impact educational outcomes, health outcomes."
The Fund awarded roughly $84,000 to 11 non-profits in the community this July.
One group is Food to Power. Over the past decade, Executive Director Patience Kabwasa has guided the charity from a food distribution group to a multi-faceted equitable food provider.
The non-profit fed more than 100,000 people in the Pikes Peak Region last year. Much of the produce distributed to clients comes from the greenhouses and fields located on their 1.5-acre property in the Hillside neighborhoods.
"We aren't just feeding our community, we're feeding our community fresh nutritious food," said Kabwasa.
She recognizes the strong connection between nutrition and health outcomes and is working to make meals healthier for families who face barriers to accessing such foods.
"What intersections affect the ability of folks to be able to be able to access food," Kabwasa asked. " Transportation, income, where's the grocery store in my community."
The unexpected closure earlier this year of the King Soopers grocery store on South Academy drove up demand for their services.
Another non-profit to receive grant funding is Peak Education. The charity provides mentoring and education support to students in Harrison School District 2 and Colorado Springs School District 11.
CEO Carlos Jimenez said only around 40 percent of students at many of their partner schools pursue post-secondary education options.
"In order to have a living wage in Colorado, about 75 percent of jobs require some kind of post-secondary option upon high school graduation," Jimenez said.
Those options are not limited to enrolling in college or a university. Many participants complete job training certifications. However, Peak Education's most recent annual report shows 93 percent of program participants pursue higher education. And 9 out of 10 will become the first in their family to complete a college degree.
"What makes this organization so unique is the stick-to-it-tiveness, that we stay with students for 10 years," Jimenez said. "It's not just like a drop-in and out service. It's something where we're with a student or a family for the long haul."
In addition to supporting local charities who are bridging racial gaps in health, income, and education in Southern Colorado, Johnson said the Racial Equity Fund is also reshaping philanthropy by introducing new donors and networks to groups that didn't have connections before.
"We really wanted to uplift the generosity that exists in communities of color, and create a community for donors of color and their white allies to combine and pull together their wealth to be able to make an impact."
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