Miami-Dade County

Miami Foundation ready to do (at least) $6 million worth of good in 2017

Miami attorney Javier Soto, president and chief executive of the Miami Foundation.
Miami attorney Javier Soto, president and chief executive of the Miami Foundation.

The Miami Foundation is celebrating 50 years of service by looking to the past — and the future.

As a nod to the group’s history in Miami, the foundation will kick off 2017 by awarding $100,000 in total to the eight organizations it funded in 1967, back when it was called “The Dade Foundation.”

The recipients are: the Boys & Girls Club of Miami-Dade, the Children’s Home Society, Florida Memorial University, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center on behalf of The Pap Corps: Champions for Cancer Research, the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida, the Salvation Army, St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center and the YWCA of Greater Miami.

The foundation’s president and chief executive, Javier Soto, said the group chose “Legacy” as one of its four themes this year to remind Miami of the staying power of its philanthropic organizations, even as the city dramatically changed around them.

“There aren’t a lot of civic institutions in this town that have been around 50 years,” Soto said. “It really speaks to the power of endowment.”

The Miami Foundation will award $1 million in signature grants through the year in four different categories: legacy, opportunity, resiliency and creativity.

But the major reveal at the Foundation’s 2017 launch event Friday was the creation of the Miami Forever Fund, which will use a permanent $5 million endowment to fund “innovative solutions” to Miami-Dade’s most pressing problems.

While the full $5 million has not been funded, there is no minimum donation needed to add to the fund.

“It’s for anyone who loves Miami and wants to invest in Miami,” said Rebecca Mandelman, the foundation’s vice president for strategy and engagement. “It will always be there for our community.”

The funds will likely be used to solve problems in the foundation’s focus areas — transportation, sea-level rise and parks — because they affect all of Miami.

The foundation will continue its work with the “Miami Stories” project, where small groups of citizens in different neighborhoods gather and share their stories.

A majority of Miami residents moved from elsewhere, said Matthew Beatty, the foundation’s director of communications, so most people have a story about why they chose this city.

“By encouraging them to tell their story, they figure out what draws them here,” he said. “That’s how we help them find their legacy.”

The stories vary by neighborhood, Soto said, and the foundation’s next step will be in bringing the disparate groups together to address solutions.

“There’s a thirst for this kind of dialogue in our community,” Soto said. “It’s important for the different Miamis to know each others’ problems.”

Alex Harris: 305-376-5005, @harrisalexc