April 23, 1999

The San Diego Foundation is One of Six Selected for National Program to Improve Ethnic Relations

Improving ethnic relations between recent immigrants/refugees and their long-time neighbors is the goal of a new program that links The San Diego Foundation with two national foundations.

The three-year $5.1 million initiative, called the "Community Foundations/Intergroup Relations Program," was announced by its two major founders: the Ford Foundation of New York City and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation of Flint, Michigan.

Phil Blair, Chair of The San Diego Foundation Board of Governors, said they are one of six community foundations nationwide selected to participate in this program. He added that this national initiative emphasizes the importance of community-based efforts that combine honest dialogue about ethnic differences, with action that focuses on shared neighborhood concerns. It also recognizes that community foundations should be well-positioned to promote and support such efforts to build effective and long-lasting multiethnic coalitions.

Superior Court Judge Rafael A. Arreola, an immigrant from Mexico and Chair of The San Diego Foundation's Intergroup Relations Committee, said The Foundation is thankful and excited about the grant's potential to improve ethnic relations while strengthening the community; it encourages diverse groups to work together and jointly identify and address common concerns such as housing, education, health, crime, and other areas of interest to the local community.

"The question we are grappling with now," said Taryn Higashi, Ford program officer, "is how can community and national foundations promote opportunities for new immigrants to interact with long-time neighbors in ways that build meaningful shared interests and achieve common goals?"

The Intergroup Relations Program affirms community foundations as uniquely positioned vehicles of sustainable local change. The San Diego Foundation hopes to increase its involvement with the ethnically diverse neighborhoods in its own communities in order to build stronger relationships. They also aspire to increase these residents' awareness of The San Diego Foundation and how together they can work to improve their communities beyond the three years of national funding.

The Ford and Mott foundations designed a one-year planning phase into this program. During the second and third years of the grant period, community foundations will award grants to local project aimed at strengthening relationships between recent immigrants and long-time neighbors, said Lori Villarosa, Mott Foundation program officer for race relations.

"The reason we built in a one-year planning period is so that each community can set its own agenda," she said. "We want to be sure that communities have input in establishing the program's priorities."

The Ford and Mott foundations are contributing $3 million toward the total $5.1 million cost of the program, and the local foundations are required to raise the remaining $2.1 million.

The San Diego Foundation, the center for charitable giving, is a broad-purpose, permanent endowment built by hundreds of citizens and organizations committed to improving the quality of life in all of our communities. The San Diego Foundation has granted more than $100 million since its inception in 1975, to support nonprofit organizations and their programs throughout the region and will celebrate 25 years of service to the community in 2000.

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