Blacks Impact Philanthropy in the Bay Area

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In celebration of National Philanthropy Day, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Golden Gate held a luncheon honoring leaders of philanthropy Tuesday Nov. 4 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.

One of those that was recognized was Performing Stars of Marin, a nonprofit organization fostering opportunities for low-income children in the performing art, which received the “Vineyards” Award.

For Performing Stars founder and Executive Director Felecia Gaston, the award serves as acknowledgement for the tireless, yet rewarding work she has put into building the organization over the last 24 years.

“I started with a zero budget and a dream. I had eight kids taking ballet. I started connecting them with scholarships and resources,” Gaston said.

A philanthropist in her own right, Gaston has devoted countless hours and resources to providing more than $50,000 in scholarships to more than 1,000 underserved children and youth in Marin.

She is among a growing number of African American leaders in philanthropy. Contrary to public belief, African Americans have a longstanding legacy of philanthropy.

African-Americans have a documented history of donating time and resources to philanthropic organizations and causes including community-based organizations, churches and social welfare causes.

For centuries, African Americans educators, ministers and thought leaders have opened their homes to feed the needy and organize volunteers for political and charitable causes.

Awardees included Kat Taylor and Tom Seyer, who received the “Outstanding Philanthropists” Award, Traci Eckels of KQED, who received the “Hank Rosso Outstanding Fundraising Professional” Award; Mark Buell, who received the “Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer” Award; and Pacific Gas & Electric Company, which received the “Outstanding Corporate Grantmaker” Award.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation received the “Outstanding Foundation or Community Grant maker” Award; Mary G. F. Bitterman, president of the Bernard Osher Foundation, received the “Outstanding Foundation Professional” Award; and high school students Katie Easterly and Paige Blake each received an “Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy” Award.

James Head, the new CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation, says diversity in philanthropy is a key to understanding problems within the African-American Community.

“Black philanthropic professionals in leadership positions are impacting the field by providing visible evidence to communities that philanthropic institutions are sensitive to the unique issues facing Black families and communities,” Head said.

“Conscience efforts to achieve or maintain diversity within philanthropy helps the community to have confidence that we understand their issues from their perspective, and deepens the trust necessary to identify and implement true solutions,” he said.

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