Newsmakers for March 2005

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The Los Angeles-based Amer-I-Can Foundation has long been a darling of Congress, receiving $1.7 million over the past four years in earmarks. Of course, it helps to have been founded and led by football legend Jim Brown, who has created a second legacy for himself in youth work.

Amer-I-Can got its latest project in February, when Brown and Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell announced a partnership to reduce crime and youth violence in the city that made Brown famous.

The initiative, for which Amer-I-Can will get a $300,000 budget from the city’s Empowerment Zone fund, will target youth at risk of falling into crime and gang violence. Brown is not one to shy away from challenges. “We go into the belly of the beast and deal with hard-core individuals who would like to change their lives around,” he told a local TV station.

Brown will lead the initiative on the Amer-I-Can side, according to Chad Self, the mayor’s spokesman. James Box, project director for community outreach for the city, will lead the project for the mayor.

The initiative is one of several major partnerships designed to bring peace to Cleveland’s inner city. Community activists are already working on a cease-fire among the gang elements in town.

Gang violence in the city schools has grown into a turf war in a number of Cleveland’s public housing areas. In January, 16-year-old Lennard Pinson was murdered, and a rival gang member has been arrested in the shooting. Contact: Amer-I-Can (310) 652-7884,; mayor’s office (216) 664-2238.


Seven years ago, Kate Sylvester opened the Social Policy Action Network (SPAN) to promote second-chance homes, crisis nurseries to reduce child abuse, and the advancement of community-based responses to statutory rape accusations on the state level.

But rather than treading in deep water by taking on extraneous projects, Sylvester closed the doors in late January (although SPAN ceased most operations months ago).

“SPAN has been instrumental in our success,” says Michelle Ozumba, whose Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP) wouldn’t have expanded from six homes to nine without SPAN’s assistance. “Their focus on our issues is going to be missed.”

Sylvester was gracious and thankful in her farewell letter, and made it clear that ending SPAN was not something she did willingly. “Simply put, we lacked sufficient funding,” she wrote in a letter to Youth Today.

In an advocacy world filled with polemics and political strategists, Sylvester took pride in the fact that SPAN never started with a solution, then went looking for a problem to match it. “We never set out with any idea of what policies we’d advocate for,” she says. “Never had a preset agenda. Never knew an answer before we started our research.”

The strategy has, quite literally, not paid off in a funding climate that Sylvester has come to disdain. “When I started SPAN eight years ago, funders were more willing to trust their grantees’ experience and professionalism in trying out new ideas,” she says.

Sylvester sees the foundation world getting more involved in grantee programming, viewing grantees more as contractors than as partners. “The shift is really unfortunate. It limits experimentation with new ideas – and domestic social policy is in dire need of new ideas.”

If the straight-and-narrow approach didn’t yield cash – SPAN received a total of $230,000 in seven years from its principal funders, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Turner Foundation – it certainly yielded results. In that time, Sylvester says, SPAN leveraged state and federal funding of more than $188 million “that we could track” for the type of programs it supported. Sylvester’s next move? “I’ll be spending some time looking for new ways to promote good social policy at the state level,” she says. She will do some consulting and writing as she weighs her options.

What happens to state-level championing of SPAN’s issues? Advocacy for second-chance homes is in good hands, picked up by Ozumba at G-CAPP, Sylvester says.

But the rest? “There will be almost no state advocacy” for the foreseeable future, she forecasts. Contact: G-CAPP (404) 524-2277,


The Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America named Anthony DiSpigno to serve in a newly created position, vice president of resource development. DiSpigno comes to the organization from Habitat for Humanity International, where he was vice president of development. He is the second financial executive to leave Habitat recently for a youth-serving organization. In December, former COO David Williams left to become CEO of the Phoenix-based Make-A-Wish Foundation. Contact: (404) 487-5700,

The Rev. Larry Snyder took over as executive director of Catholic Charities USA in early February, relieving the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir. Snyder comes to the national office in Alexandria, Va., from Minnesota, where he headed the Catholic Charities office for St. Paul and Minneapolis. Contact: (703) 549-1390,

Gloria Feldt announced that she would resign as president of America’s largest reproductive health organization, Planned Parenthood of America. During her eight-year tenure, Feldt led the organization’s fight for emergency contraception, medically accurate sexuality education, and safe, legal abortion. Karen Pearl, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County (New York), will serve as interim president.

The nonprofit will also move on without Vice President for Public Policy Susanne Martinez, who will retire this spring after four years with the organization. She was a leading organizer of the hugely successful 2004 March for Women’s Lives. Contact: (212) 541-7800,

The D.C.-based Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has hired Jody Michael Huckaby as executive director. Huckaby comes to PFLAG from the Washington Humane Society, where he also served as executive director. Before that, he led New Mexico AIDS Services and the Bering Community Service Foundation. He takes over for interim director Ron Schlittler, who ran the organization for eight months after the departure of former head David Tseng. Contact: (202) 467-8180,


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado named Dave DeForest-Stalls as its new president and CEO. DeForest-Stalls is a former NFL player, winning Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Raiders. After retiring, he collaborated with at-risk youth and gang leaders to create The Spot, a youth center in downtown Denver that was open at night and later merged with the renowned Urban Peak youth program. Contact: (888) 291-7148,

The Character Education Partnership in Washington named Robert Sherman as CEO. Sherman founded RTS Solutions in Minnetonka, Minn., a consultant group on risk assessment. The partnership is a coalition of nonprofits that promote civic and moral character in youth. Contact: (800) 988-8081,

Leila McDowell left her post as communications head of the always creative Center for Community Change in Washington. McDowell, who will stay on in a limited consulting role, says she leaves the job in the capable hands of Germonique Jones. The center released an ad last month (viewable at, using President Bush’s own words in challenging him not to roll back domestic spending. Contact: (202) 342-0519,

Volunteers of America-Greater New York announced that Richard Motta will be its new director. The national, spiritually based nonprofit provides human service programs. Motta had been president and CEO of Help USA, a nonprofit that helps the homeless. Contact: (212) 873-2600,


The William Penn Foundation (assets: $1.2 billion) in Philadelphia appointed Feather O’Connor Houstoun as president last month. Houstoun was the regional president of healthcare organization AmeriChoice, and served as Pennsylvania’s secretary of public welfare under former Gov. Tom Ridge. She takes the place of Kathryn Engebretson, who died of cancer in mid-February at 48. (See Passages, below.) Contact: (215) 988-1830,

The San Francisco-based James Irvine Foundation (assets: $1.5 billion) announced the creation of a new position. Rogéair Purnell, a senior associate for social policy research firm MDRC, will be Irvine’s first program officer for youth programming. The post focuses on soliciting grants for programming to prepare youth for college and career opportunities after high school. Contact: (415) 777-2244,

Craig Wacker has joined the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (assets: $4 billion) as program officer for human and community development. Wacker leaves his job as program examiner in the education branch of the White House Office of Management and Budget, where he had served since 2001. Included in his programmatic purview at MacArthur will be issues related to public education and juvenile justice. Contact: (312) 726-8000,

The California Wellness Foundation (assets: $991 million), based in Woodland Hills, Calif., appointed Elizabeth Gomez and David Barlow to its board of directors. Gomez is executive director of the Los Angeles Youth Network, which provides homeless, runaway and high-risk youth with shelter, food and counseling services. She also serves on the boards of the California Coalition for Youth and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Since 1996, Barlow has been the executive director of the San Francisco Foundation Community Initiative Funds, an organization that funds community groups outside the nonprofit sector. Contact: (818) 593-6600,


After stepping down as secretary of agriculture in January, Ann Veneman was appointed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to serve a five-year term as head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The UNICEF staff of more than 7,000 is spread through 150 countries. Veneman fills the shoes of Carol Bellamy, who left after 10 years, having exhausted the position’s two-term limit. Bellamy took a job heading World Learning in Brattleboro, Vt., a nonprofit that arranges international exchange programs. Contact: (212) 686-5522,; World Learning (802) 257-7751,

President Bush announced a shake-up of his adviser staff. Mike Gerson, a former editor for U.S. News and World Report who has served as Bush’s speechwriter since 2002, becomes assistant for planning. Gerson will focus on projects at the Office of National AIDS Policy and the USA Freedom Corps (led by Desiree Sayle), while also pitching in at Jim Towey’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Contact: (202) 456-1414,

Nancy Freudenthal, first lady of Wyoming, has been tapped to be co-chairwoman of the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol-Free Coalition. The coalition is made up of governors’ spouses, federal agencies and public and private organizations that work to prevent drinking in youth ages 9 to 15. Freudenthal launched a statewide public awareness campaign on the issue in the fall of 2004. Contact:

Before the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 was passed, the College Republican National Committee separated itself from the Republican National Committee, reinventing itself as a 527 status group (so-called after a section of the federal tax code). It might have been better off sticking around and taking a funding cut.

Now, the College Republicans are in hot water because of a funding scandal. The group allegedly included phrases in its fund-raising mail that led people to believe the money was going for the GOP’s election efforts. A number of donors were elderly, some with dementia.

Even local College Republican organizations attacked the alleged tactics of the group’s national leader, calling for the resignation of Chairman Eric Hoplin. “I don’t want to see hard work by all of us be tarnished by a fund-raising scandal,” New York Chairman Dan Centinello told The Washington Post.

Hoplin told the Post that money would be refunded to anyone who claimed to have been deceived. Contact: (888) 765-3564,


Paul Shanley, whose trial for raping and fondling an altar boy helped precipitate a torrent of sex abuse scandals in the American clergy, was convicted last month and sentenced to 12 to 15 years for his crimes. The defrocked priest has become the face of the sex abuse scandal that has devastated the Catholic Church. He was one of the few priests who could be prosecuted under the statute of limitations. More than 20 men have accused Shanley of sexual abuse, and many have received financial settlements.

Another Christian minister, Anthony Guy of the Northside Assembly of God in Ocean Springs, Miss., was sentenced to 20 years in prison for molesting three girls between 1998 and 2000. Guy was the Assembly’s youth minister.


Kathryn Engebretson, 48, president of the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, died of cancer in February. A career businesswoman who once served as Philadelphia’s treasurer, Engebretson joined the foundation in 2001. One of her major achievements, say her Penn colleagues, was the advancement of stronger statewide early education policies.