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50th anniversary gets front-page coverage

May 10, 2009

From Sunday’s Birmingham News: A new role for The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham emerged 2½ years ago, as Kathy Stiles Freeland faced a roomful of people who fund nonprofit groups.

“Every chair at the table was filled,” said Freeland, executive director of Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. “The chairs along the wall were filled. It was — if you’re a fundraiser — it was like your dream.”

Foundation President Kate Nielsen had gathered the group to hear Freeland and others pitch a joint park plan for Ruffner, Railroad Park and Red Mountain Park. The foundation was priming the pump with $1 million and asking others to join in. Ten foundations quickly pledged $6 million for the parks, and funding grew to $15 million within a year.

“Nothing like that had ever been done in Birmingham in all the years I’ve lived here,” Freeland said. “Only Kate could pull it off.”

“Rather than each of us doing our little thing,” she said, “we created a much bigger picture than any of us.”

As it meets Monday for its 50th anniversary [4:15 p.m. at Birmingham Children’s Theatre], the foundation wants to stimulate more big-picture projects such as the three-park model.

“For the parks we said, ‘We want you to consider joining us,'” Nielsen explained. “It was very successful. … Imagine if we were able to do that again and again.” Click here for the full article.

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