President’s Message | Stronger Together: Dodge Foundation Investing $2.8M in New Jersey’s Recovery and Resiliency

Imagine a New Way. Illustration by Layqa Nuna Yawar

As I have previously written in Our Path Toward a Just and Equitable New Jersey, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation seeks to address the needs of all New Jersey communities while addressing longstanding inequalities of economic, social, and political opportunity that hold us back as a state.  That approach is especially important now, as New Jerseyans face multiple challenges of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a continuing reckoning with racial injustice.  

The past two years have taught us that repairing unjust systems will require well-resourced backing from all of us. Coalition building that mobilizes the power of many toward sustained action has never been more important.  That is why I am pleased to announce a set of Crisis Response Grants and Mission Investments that, together, advance those interrelated goals.  Consistent with our approach, these efforts address short-term needs while supporting longer-term strategies to build power in underserved communities and to seek transformative change. 

$200,000 | New Jersey Ida Just Recovery Fund – To support a new fund formed and led by a coalition of eight frontline organizations working in immigrant, low-income, and communities of color in New Jersey. These lead organizations are collaborating to determine the parameters of assistance, building organizing power, and supporting equitable short-term and medium to long-term recovery efforts. 

$200,000 | ReNew Jersey Fund – Modeled on the successful New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund (NJPRF), two new funds under the banner ReNew Jersey will help residents recover and build resiliency as they face new crises. The funds will support communities recovering from the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Ida and will aid Afghan refugees as they seek safe harbor and rebuild their lives in New Jersey over an extended period of time. 

$200,000 | South Jersey COVID-19 Relief Fund –  To continue to support the long-term, evolving needs of South Jersey residents as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic.  

$100,000 |  ALICE Recovery Fund – To support training and services, including a pilot community network of quality center-based and home-based child-care, and advocacy for racial and economic equity for ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families.

$100,000 | New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund – To continue to support artists and arts organizations as they work to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. This work is part of an ongoing effort to restore arts and culture to our state’s communities.

$100,000 | Princeton Area Community Foundation COVID Relief and Recovery Fund – To continue to support COVID recovery needs for those most impacted in the Trenton area.

$100,000 | United Way of Greater Newark Community COVID-19 Fund – To continue to support UWGN’s community partnerships to meet the greatest needs of residents, social service providers, and the public health sector in pandemic recovery.

We feel privileged to be able to provide additional support at this critical time.  At the end of last year, in “Lessons Learned for the Year Ahead,” we shared ways in which we have been aligning our endowment with our mission, vision, and values as we bring all of our resources to bear to make the greatest positive impact.  As part of this commitment, we have just launched a new $5 million Program Investment Pilot, which enables us to invest in important community development initiatives to create social impact beyond grants.  Dodge Foundation Trustees approved the following initial pilot investment projects:

$300,000 Equity Investment |Enrich Scholars, a for-profit start-up that provides job readiness, resume building, interview preparation, and job placement services for college students of color. All services are provided at no cost to the students.

$500,000 Loan |Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) for the nascent Affordable Housing Ecosystem Building Fund (AHEB). Under this program, LISC-Greater Newark will deploy capital to housing developers and development projects in New Jersey with a focus on Newark, Jersey City, Irvington, East Orange, and Orange to produce or preserve affordable housing. 

$1,000,000 Loan | New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC) for lending and investing through its Community Loan Fund of New Jersey.  NJCC is the largest Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in New Jersey providing financing to sectors including building and preserving affordable housing, charter schools, childcare centers, and small businesses in underserved areas of New Jersey.

We will continue to listen and learn from the voices of our state’s diverse communities as we determine ways for the Foundation to respond to and support emergent needs in our state.  We are grateful for the leadership and collaboration across New Jersey to deploy coordinated resources to community partners. I also want to thank our grantees, Board and Staff for helping to inform our response on the path to greater equity and justice for New Jersey’s communities.

Tanuja M. Dehne is the President & CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in Morristown, New Jersey.

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