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Weinberg Foundation awards $500K in grants, with a twist

From left, Sarah Kerr, grants and outreach coordinator; Jim Longenecker, senior philanthropy officer; and Bob Gehman, executive director of the Helping Up Mission are introduced by Kyle McNair, controller at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, at the employee giving program luncheon. Kyle’s brother was once a client of Helping Up Mission, and he wanted it to have the $20,000 he was allotted to give. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

From left, Sarah Kerr, grants and outreach coordinator; Jim Longenecker, senior philanthropy officer; and Bob Gehman, executive director of the Helping Up Mission are introduced by Kyle McNair, controller at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, at the employee giving program luncheon. Kyle’s brother was once a client of Helping Up Mission, and he wanted it to have the $20,000 he was allotted to give. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation gives out roughly $100 million in grants each year. On Tuesday, the Baltimore foundation gave out $500,000 in grants but in a unique way – the foundation let 25 employees each present a $20,000 check to a local nonprofit of their choice.

“It is by far the single most important and precious thing we do connected to professional development during the year,” said Rachel Garbow Monroe, Weinberg Foundation President and CEO.

Now in its 10th year, the foundation’s Employee Giving Program has given out $2.5 million to date to Baltimore nonprofits that offer direct services to low-income and vulnerable individuals. The program started in the foundation’s Hawaii office.

The majority of the foundation’s staff that has been there for more than year, from the receptionist to company leadership, takes the time to review a grant proposal, do a site visit and make a funding recommendation.

“It’s an extraordinary way to learn the entire grant process,” said Monroe.

On Tuesday, Weinberg Foundation staff presented their grant checks to their chosen nonprofits at Living Classrooms in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood.

“Staff members who might not speak at any other time talk about why they chose a particular grant and the meaning of this grant,” said Monroe. “I have yet to go through one of these programs without crying.”

Many employees use the program to give grants to organizations they are passionate about.

Kyle McNair, controller at the Weinberg Foundation, participated in the program for the second time this year. He selected Helping Up Mission, a Baltimore organization that works with people with addiction, are homeless or are struggling with mental illness.

Helping Up Mission is close to McNair. His brother received support and counseling for drugs and alcohol abuse at the center several years ago. McNair visited the facility and talked to individuals in the program as part of the grant process.

“It was just great to bring that full circle,” McNair said.

Last year, McNair gave to the Center for Progressive Learning-First Steps, which was also a personal choice. McNair received anger management counseling at the center as a child.

“For people like myself, who just cut the checks on the back end, this is a really good experience to do our due diligence,” he said.

Sheryl Goldstein, managing director of programs & grants, selected My Sister’s Circle, a local organization that mentors middle school girls through high school and college.

“For us, our process really involved getting a sense of the organization, talking to leadership, review financials, talk to people in the program (and) make sure it has the right internal controls to operate,” said Goldstein.

While Goldstein does due diligence for grants on a regular basis, the foundation’s program gives her a chance to help organizations that work with children.

“My whole career has been focused on public safety and criminal justice, working with people who haven’t had support and ended up in dire situations in the criminal justice system,” she said.

Now in the program for the third year, Goldstein gave her first grant to CUPS Coffeehouse, a nonprofit in Baltimore’s Hollins Market neighborhood that provides jobs and job training to high-risk children.

Other foundations and grant-giving organizations have reached out to the Weinberg Foundation over the years to learn about how to replicate the Employee Giving Program, said Monroe.

“We’re proud that other organizations are seeing value in this.”