Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson
The change in the nature, role and strength of the family and the community has alienated individuals and citizens from each other and their institutions resulting in a significant decline in the quality of life for all of us.
The vision of the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation is to act as a catalyst for change. Our mission is to improve the quality of life through initiating and supporting projects that measurably demonstrate a means of creating a sense of belonging within the family and the community.
A History of the Wilson Foundation (1963-present)
In 1963, the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation was established by Joseph C. Wilson, then Chair of the Board of Xerox Corporation, and his wife, Peggy. As he shepherded his father's company, Haloid, from a small photographic paper manufacturer to an international corporation, Xerox, Joe Wilson developed a reputation in his own community of Rochester, New York, and nationally as a thoughtful leader, committed to addressing problems head-on. The Wilson Foundation, through its grantmaking has helped to address some of those problems over the years in different ways.
The first grants made in 1963 reflect the lifelong commitments of both Joe and Peggy Wilson to the University of Rochester, Joe's alma mater; the Community Chest of Monroe County, which Joe chaired and guided for many years; and St. Thomas More Church, Peggy's church for many years. As the years passed and more contributions of Xerox stock were made to the Foundation, those commitments broadened. In the late 1960's, grants were made to organizations committed to developing international peace such as the United Nations Association of the United States and the Committee to Study the Organization of Peace. Since Rochester had been the site of turbulent race riots in 1964, the Wilsons also supported organizations focused on improving race relations. They made yearly grants to the United Negro College Fund, Ralph Bunche Scholarship, St. Martin de Porres Center in Rochester, NAACP, and the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing.
Over the years, the Foundation has also taken a special interest in three areas of health: diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. The Foundation has funded research projects, fellowships and home health care projects to help alleviate the terrible personal burdens that these diseases impose on families.
As a family Foundation, we also realize that our ability to respond to diverse and evolving needs requires us to nurture and develop future leaders not only in our own community, but in our own family as well. In the latter regard, we are indeed blessed with 18 grandchildren who are both talented and motivated. In planning for the future in 1990, we established among this third generation of family members a Youth Board as a means of fostering new and creative leadership required of us. This first-hand experience has enabled and prepared the next generation to carry on the ideals and legacy of their grandparents in the context of today's realities and demands.
In 2002, the Youth Board was formally disbanded as the majority of third generation family members are now serving in key leadership roles of the Foundation. We look forward in future years to re-instituting the Youth Board as a means for also preparing the fourth generation of family members for leadership roles.
The most ambitious project undertaken by the Foundation, however, has been the development of Wilson Commencement Park. It is a transitional housing program for low-income, single-parent families. The approach of the Park is to provide shelter and services, including day care to families in transition for a two-year period. The program recognizes that the needs of the homeless or transitional families are multidimensional. By providing an integrated approach to identify and address the needs of each individual family in a supportive manner, families will hopefully be better able to withstand the difficulties they face in their community.
The Project could never have occurred without the collaboration of many in the community including public / government agencies, private service providers and private funding agencies. Having spearheaded the project, the Foundation passed a milestone by providing leadership and financial commitment to address the needs of our community today and tomorrow. Since it's opening in 1991, Wilson Commencement Park has become a national model in helping low-income single parent families break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.
Given the success of this "hands-on" approach together with the fact that Board members are now geographically dispersed from Alaska to Florida, the Board engaged the services of a consultant, Foundation Strategy Group, to assist us in creating a funding focus for the next 5 years. As a result of this in-depth comprehensive process, we learned that as a Board we all had a passion for the issue of struggling families, and given our experience in the development of Wilson Commencement Park, have considerable expertise as well. We came to the consensus that while we are a modest family foundation, we wanted to have a meaningful impact in promoting transitional or transformational housing on a national level. In February 2003, the Board formally adopted the following five-year four-phase strategic initiative action plan:
- Sponsor a rigorous evaluation to document the costs and benefits of transformational housing compared to other approaches to homelessness.
- Build infrastructure for the field by hiring a national coordinator and an Advisory Board to promote transformational housing, and facilitating communication among existing providers through developing web-based resources and national conferences.
- Develop a communications plan to raise the profile of transformational housing among foundations, government funders and policymakers.
- Support replication by identifying funding partners, advocating for legislative changes that increase access to federal funds, and recruiting transformational housing providers to offer technical assistance to new providers.
The end goal of this plan is to dramatically increase the number of homeless families graduating from transformational housing programs, to improve the quality of the programs themselves and, ultimately, the wide-spread adoption of transformational housing as a proven solution to family homelessness. It is our hope to build on our success and to leverage our collective talents and strengths to implement this national initiative.
Recognizing the Foundation's forty-three year commitment to the Rochester community, the Board has also put in place a Rochester Small Grants program. A committee of the Board oversees the grant making process - reviews proposals, conducts site visits, and makes funding recommendations to the Board. Through this program, local non-profits may apply for grants ranging from $1,000 - $25,000. For 2009, the Foundation awarded grants totaling $441,230.
As we undertake our new initiatives, we look forward to serve as advocates for families ..…."the most powerful, the most humane and the most economical system known for building competence and character……."* and to build on the entrepreneurial legacy of our founders whose spirit and strength continue to sustain us.
*Dr. Urie Bronfenbrener
- Wilson Commencement Park