July 2023 Newsletter

July 2023 Newsletter

July 2023 Newsletter

Welcome to the July 2023 edition of the Daniels Foundation Newsletter. In this issue, we explore the following topics. Click on the links to read the articles!

The Best Laid Plans! You know what they say about the best laid plans…  Click here to read more…

Program Spotlight: African Community Education (ACE)! Liberia was experiencing civil war in 2005, which caused many children and families to flee their country. Some came to Worcester… Click here to read more…

Generation 2: Eleanor Daniels Bronson Hodge! Eleanor Daniels was the daughter of F. Harold and Eleanor Goddard Daniels, first president of the Daniels Foundation… Click here to read more…

Program Spotlight: Worcester Youth Center! At the June meeting, the Daniels Foundation awarded a grant to the Worcester Youth Center (WYC), an organization that has been supported by the foundation for multiple years… Click here to read more…

The Best Laid Plans…

by Fred Daniels

You know what they say about the best laid plans….

Typically what follows is a negative, but in actually the best outcomes usually come from plans that are best laid! In fact, back in 2018 the Daniels Foundation last held a strategic retreat, and from that session numerous key strategies were developed.
One area of focus in 2018 keyed in on how we would best move toward the coming generation of Board members: Generation 4, or G4. As of this writing six Board seats have transitioned over the G4, and two more G4’s are in their shadow year (an approach also determined at the 2018 meeting). At that retreat we also focused on the importance of the Foundation as elemental glue that helps hold the broader family together. This encouraged us to recommit to the quarterly newsletter, and organize the first family reunion (news flash: we are organizing our second family reunion, so stay tuned for updates!).

The Board just completed another strategic planning retreat on June 4. The over-arching focus of this retreat was the fact that the transition G3 to G4 will be complete in 2030, with yours truly being the only remaining G3 as of 2028. That is right around the corner!

So, with eight G4’s in the room (six on the Board and two who will be elected this December), we wanted the G4’s to have an opportunity to envision their complete stewardship of the family foundation. The G4’s met separately several times, and they actively engaged the discussion.

The Board discussed our current mission statement and recommitted to idea that our grants needed to be impactful. We discussed that we don’t always know exactly what impact our funding has, and considered a number of ways we might measure impact 6-12 months out from the grant award. We talked about our focus on Worcester’s “pressing needs” and feel that there is still work to be done to better qualify our grants with this filter.

We considered the recent evolution of the Capital grants criteria, which biases grant decisions away from organizations with large endowments and towards organizations which do not have large donor pools from which to draw. We discussed the possibility of adding another strategic focus, like the girls focus, and considered whether we should move towards a minimum grant size (versus no minimum now) so that we give fewer, larger grants (arguably more impactful).

Every Board member stressed the importance of maintaining our commitment to funding only in Worcester, and we discussed the accelerating issue of organizations based outside of Worcester which claim that 100% of the grant will be spent within Worcester County (how can we easily measure this?). But we also identified a number of ways the Board members can be better informed about what’s happening in Worcester, including sharing public information from news sources. This we recognize as being increasingly critical as few if any G4’s will reside in or near Worcester County.

Considerable time was spent talking about succession planning. While much of the transition from G3 to G4 is (or soon will be) complete, the topic of passion for the mission versus skillset remains important. Board members also recognized that people’s lives and circumstances change, understanding that the current Board commitment to age 75 may not be sustainable for each Board member. Should there be term limits or a periodic renewal time (say, every 10 years) when other family members, whose circumstances may have also changed allowing them to consider Board participation, might be able to participate? This is a very important and long term discussion which the Board will be taking on.

We believe our plans have been and remain “best laid”. Our generational transitions have gone smoothly; we are now engaging our 15th year of the focus on girls, ages 10-14; our financial stewardship remains strong; our focus on Worcester is increasingly tight and impactful by design; our interaction as a team remains congenial and professional; and, perhaps most importantly, the foundation continues to represent the extended Daniels family and the founders with integrity.

There is work to be done, for sure, to implement the specifics of our June 4th discussions and complete the transition to G4 leadership. And so the work begins, yet again.

Program Spotlight: African Community Education (ACE)

Liberia was experiencing civil war in 2005, which caused many children and families to flee their country. Some came to Worcester with no understanding of American ways and unable to speak or understand English. Kaska Yawoi, a Liberian refugee and Olga Valdman, a medical student, decided in 2006 to start the organization ACE, which would address the dire needs of these refugees. ACE has expanded over the years to assist children and families from all of the African countries. A partnership was set up with the Worcester Public Schools and Saturday services were offered with instruction in English and tutoring. In the beginning, ACE meet in different locations downtown offering summer reading, after school programs, work force development classes, and family education, which helped people to obtain citizenship.

Recently, ACE was able to obtain their own building (51 Gage Street) with many funders contributing, including the Daniels Foundation. Kaska Yawko is now the Executive Director and Olga Valdman is the Chair of the Board of Directors. 95% of the children served by ACE over the last 17 years have graduated from high school. Thus, they were able to either join the workforce or attend a 2- or 4-year college. Because of their unusual experiences, these young adults are now able to help themselves and their communities in a positive manner.

On July 24th 2023, ACE held its 17th annual festival in their newly acquired building. The festival included music by the ACE drum team and Crocodile River Music. Stories from ACE students were told. There was lots of energy, joy and laughter, making for a successful festival. ACE truly appreciated all who attended and gave support.

In 2020 – 2021 ACE was able to serve 1,817 individuals, which was 500 more than the previous year. Being in their 16th year of existence and now having a permanent location of their own and dedicated staff and volunteers, they expect to be able to have an even greater impact in Worcester helping African refugees.

G2 Profile: Eleanor Daniels Bronson Hodge 1917-2019

Eleanor Daniels was the daughter of F. Harold and Eleanor Goddard Daniels, first president of the Daniels Foundation.
Eleanor was the quintessential twentieth century New England aristocratic woman. She was the daughter and granddaughter of very proper and prosperous manufacturing giants. She attended Miss Hall’s School, as so many Daniels women did, and then graduated from Smith College.

Perhaps her childhood can be summed up by the following line from one of her numerous printed memories:  “my young life rolled on, undisturbed [by the depression]. I went to private schools, then on to college. I had a coming out party, a clothing allowance, and finally a car. This was my reality, although not most people’s.”

Eleanor spent her junior year of college (1937-8) in France. Thus began a lifetime of travel. So much of these travels were recorded in her diaries and illustrated by adorable little pen and ink drawings.

During World War II Eleanor served in the American Red Cross in England. After VE Day she flew in a B-17 bomber over Germany… “I was lucky enough to fly in the lead ship and sit right in the nose of the bomber. For five hours I had my eyes glued to the plexiglass, looking down at cratered fields and rubble-filled ghost towns. From an altitude of 500 feet, the impact of war’s destructive wrath was numbing.”

What followed was a brief career in publishing, a long marriage to Sam Bronson and adoption of children Peter and Amy. The thread that held this all together, if viewed from the outside looking in, was a wanderlust of moving from one locale to another: Denmark, Austria, Connecticut and then Woods Hole.

Sadly, Sam died in 1981 while in Florida, on the same day Eleanor’s mother died.

It would not be too long until Eleanor married Stuart Hodge, whom she had known as a child in Worcester and reached out to via the United States postal service in 1985 to rekindle a war time friendship. She was never a shy wall flower. When Eleanor entered a room she brought to the atmosphere of a mixture of French culture watercolor paintings and daddy’s girl.

This force of nature would live on for another 34 years. There wasn’t a place on earth the Eleanor did not visit, from Israel to Russia and Belize to Portofino.

Eleanor passed away at 101 years old in her beloved Falmouth home.

Program Spotlight: Worcester Youth Center

At the June meeting, the Daniels Foundation awarded a grant to the Worcester Youth Center (WYC), an organization that has been supported by the foundation for multiple years.

Established in 1994, the WYC is the only no-cost drop-in program in the city for youth ages 14-24. As most youth programming ends at 18, the Center is unique in that is allows youth up to the age of 24. Their mission is to provide a safe place where young people can build lasting, positive changes in their lives; their motto is “it’s not just a place to go, it is a place to go further”.

WYC’s youth development efforts are rooted in a six-phase social-change theory embedded within four service categories: Health/Wellness, Work Preparation, Academic support, and Creative Arts & Leadership Development.

In the area of Health and Wellness, various recreational activities are provided along with healthy snacks. Counseling is available, and Gender Specific Groups are run during the school year. One Circle is offered in conjunction with a local middle school, Plumley Village, and the Latino Education Institute, and is for middle school-aged girls. High school girls and boys can participate in Sisterhood or Man Up.

WYC has an ongoing work preparation program designed to prepare youth to enter the workforce with soft skills like resume writing, interviewing, business letters/e-mails, and workplace expectations and behavior. Vocational training is conducted with local partners in culinary arts, digital game creation, and an initiative for young adults in forestry.

Academic support is ongoing with young people being encouraged to continue their education by staying in school, getting a GED, or going to college. There is daily homework assistance.

Creative expression is encouraged through a Recording Studio, a Dance Studio, and Arts programming is in collaboration with area colleges. A Teen Action Group (TAG) provides opportunities for youth to develop leadership skills through involvement in the day-to-day and overall programming at the center.

As stated in the Foundation’s mission statement, we seek to “fund programs that help people become more self-reliant in their lives and communities”. The Worcester Youth Center is doing just that!

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