Spirit of Generosity: The Independence Foundation
Susan Sherman says she “owes S. Mary Scullion for poisoning her years ago.” Sherman, President and CEO of the Independence Foundation, offered sandwiches to S. Mary and staff member Helen Brown when they met for the first time.
Both S. Mary and Helen did indeed contract food poisoning years ago, but the Independence Foundation has long since repaid any “debt” owed to Project HOME. The Foundation has supported various projects at Project HOME since 1996, including core funding for housing, but also special projects like internships for teens in the College Access Program and a much needed van for the St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence.
The Foundation’s most notable support was for the inception of our St. Elizabeth’s Wellness Center, which now provides over 1,200 medical visits each year to our underserved North Philadelphia community. The Independence Foundation’s mission – to support organizations that provide services to people who do not ordinarily have access to them – certainly dovetails with Project HOME’s mission.
Jennifer Bohnenberger, Program Director for Arts, Culture, and Human Services at the Foundation, says that she looks for organizations with strong leadership first and foremost, and thenlooks for projects at those organizations where the Foundation can create the most impact. Jennifer’s first site visit after she was hired by the Independence Foundation 14 years ago was to Project HOME’s 1515 Fairmount residence. Jennifer says she realized then that co-founders S. Mary and Joan McConnon were good examples of that strong leadership.
“Susan and Jennifer are also great examples of strong leadership,” says Amy Burns, Vice President of Development at Project HOME, “and not just at the Foundation. Susan has provided valuable guidance and leadership at Project HOME throughout the years, as a trustee and in other volunteer positions. And Jennifer’s leadership was so impressive at her previous employer, Staples, they named a store after her!”
The Independence Foundation’s current partnership with Project HOME involves our newest residential project at 810 Arch Street in Chinatown. The Independence Foundation was looking for the right project, “something significant,” when they learned about the project: Project HOME has teamed up with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) to build a 94-unit affordable housing residence which will provide permanent, affordable housing for formerly homeless men and woman, as well as Chinatown seniors.
The Foundation has a longstanding interest in Chinatown; in fact, Susan received an award from PCDC in2002 for her work on behalf of that community. A decade later, Susan and Jennifer agreed that the 810 Arch project was the right fit. Always strategic, they committed a matching grantof $100,000 – matching gifts to the project 4 to 1, to enable Project HOME to raise $500,000 in total.
With this match the Independence Foundation continues the partnership born 17 years ago over those sandwiches, and honed through both strategic grantmaking and careful stewardship. Project HOME is immensely grateful for that lunch, after all.