SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady Foundation, a charitable trust dedicated to improving the health and well-being of those living and working in Schenectady County, is commemorating its 60th anniversary with a full year of new activities.
“We’re celebrating the 60th anniversary, but really we’re using the celebration as a way of rededicating ourselves to the community that we serve and putting more of ourselves out there to try to make some change,” said Robert Carreau, executive director of The Schenectady Foundation.
“I think that the foundation is so unique,” noted Michael Saccocio, executive director at the City Mission of Schenectady. “They’re major funders, but they’re also active in the neighborhoods, in the streets, and at a relationship level with people.”
As a part of their rededication, The Schenectady Foundation is launching major new initiatives, such as the One Schenectady Resident-Led Change Movement, the Grassroots Grant Fund for Equity, and the relaunch of the popular Community Hero Awards.
For their 50th anniversary, the foundation first initiated the Community Hero Awards. “It was very popular because anyone could send in a nomination for someone in the community who showed their leadership, volunteering, and involvement with making changes and having an impact,” said Carreau.
A panel judges the submissions, and the ten selected community heroes will be recognized. Each of the heroes will designate an organization for a $10,000 grant from the foundation.
“It was both a way of recognizing the people who have done so much for their community, but it’s also a way that they can then have more impact by looking at an organization that means something to them and giving them the power to make that investment,” continued Carreau. “It fits nicely with our Resident-Led Change Initiative.”
Over the last 10 years, the foundation has become increasingly resident-oriented and increased its community presence. “We believe that the people who are closest to the problem are the closest to solutions,” said Carreau.
“We all need help achieving our dreams,” said Saccocio. “Nobody does that on our own. It’s a community-centered approach, but one where individuals, families, and neighborhoods decide what they want their future to look like.”
“The Schenectady Foundation has only continued to grow, expand, and become aware of listening to the needs of the community,” said Kim Siciliano, CEO of YWCA NorthEastern NY.
“The foundation has invested in that and is doing it in so many creative ways as they’re hitting their 60th anniversary,” he added. “They have momentum and concrete successes to build on.”
The Schenectady Foundation has worked with the City Mission of Schenectady and the YWCA for the past several decades, over time creating what Saccocio called ‘trust’. Siciliano emphasized the combined efforts’ ability to ‘bring it down to reality.’
“We can’t sit in our offices and say that we know what the community needs,” she said. “We have to go to the community, listen, and help them implement and do the work, whether it’s dollars, knowledge, skills, or tools.”
“The best way to address these is to get residents more engaged, so it’s not just organizations talking about what needs to shift,” said Carreau.
The Schenectady Foundation also plans to announce details of a new scholarship and grant program. This new program will give each high school in the county an opportunity for its students to receive a scholarship for college. One scholarship per school will be awarded, allowing for more equity among Schenectady County high school students.
Donations that are matched by the foundation are encouraged, as is community attendance at events. A forthcoming neighborhood assembly will bring local residents together to identify common needs, concerns, and solutions to those issues.
“I value the partnership and collaborative climate that the foundation brings, whether it’s about homelessness, domestic violence, education, or food insecurity,” said Siciliano. “That includes everyone not just having a seat at the table but also having a voice and having an impact.”