The T. Rowe Price Foundation will distribute $2.7 million in grants under an ambitious, four-year initiative to boost educational, cultural and financial opportunities for residents of underserved city neighborhoods.
The grants, announced Thursday, more than double the $1.3 million the foundation pledged in 2016 for West Baltimore neighborhoods. That earlier effort, planned in the wake of the April 2015 riots sparked by the death of Freddie Gray of injuries suffered while in police custody, helped make fresh produce more accessible to residents and invested in after-school programs, soup kitchens and financial literacy programs.
For the current round, the Baltimore-based money management firm's philanthropic foundation decided to focus citywide on strengthening the creative economy through art and cultural experiences, better linking city schools with community resources and strengthening households’ financial acumen. The group held hundreds of meetings with community members and leaders and others to determine neighborhoods’ most pressing needs and challenges.
“T. Rowe has been in Baltimore for over 80 years and is committed to the city,” said John Brothers, the foundation’s president. “We see that Baltimore has a lot of beauty, grit and grace. … We can enhance the best assets and knock down the barriers that are preventing Baltimore from realizing its best self.”
A total of $975,000 in grants will fund arts-based programs, including weekly arts instruction for city schools students led by Arts Every Day. The money also will help create an artist “navigator” program managed by Baltimore Corps.
Brothers said that program was modeled on health navigator programs and will offer trained “navigators” who will work with artists to help with needs as varied as finding space, health insurance or collaborators.
Educational initiatives will be funded with a total of $875,000 in grants, including supporting an effort by Baltimore’s Promise to help schools form partnerships with community organizations. In addition, the CASH Campaign of Maryland will work to increase the number of low- to moderate-income families participating in the Save4College State Contribution Program, managed by the Maryland 529 College Savings Plan, which provides state contributions to college savings. A pilot program will target a handful of low-income city neighborhoods.
The idea was to target communities “where children’s savings accounts are not a part of their lives,” Brothers said. “We want neighborhoods in underrepresented communities in the city to begin saving for their kids’ educations.”
An education-related grant also will go toward sustaining One Book Baltimore, a program run by Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City Public Schools and Baltimore CeaseFire, that gives a selected book to all city middle school students. The students then participate in events based on the book’s themes. Last year’s book choice was “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone.
An additional $850,000 of grants will go to help Baltimore families reduce debt, increase credit scores and buy homes. Dozens of for-profit and nonprofit groups that help residents with financial planning will work with Neighborhood Trust’s Trusted Advisor tool, an online application designed to help the working poor budget and manage finances.
In another effort, Brioxy, an organization founded to empower young professionals of color, will work to boost home ownership and entrepreneurship among African Americans in city neighborhoods.