Wilson Foundation launches special $1M grant program as it seeks to elevate profile

The Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, and it’s marking the occasion with a special round of granting that will focus on prison reentry programs. The Baton Rouge-based foundation has always counted prison reentry as one of its four focus areas, which also include education, health care and human services. But four years ago, the foundation’s board of trustees charged the staff with finding a way to make a significant impact in the community by investing in an area that has been underserved.

“Our board decided they wanted to really make a difference in one area and we, as a staff, looked around and saw a lot of foundations were investing in education, health care and human services,” says foundation President Daniel Bevan. “But there aren’t many foundations investing in prison reentry programs, and Mr. Wilson had a particular penchant for those programs, particularly faith-based programs.”

The total grant amount will be $1 million. The grant application period begins in October and the award will be made in early January.

“A successful reentry program involves education, health care and human services, which are our focus areas,” Bevin says. “So the prison reentry initiative hits all of the areas that we already focus on.”

The special grant round comes as the Wilson Foundation is taking a slightly different approach to the way it markets itself and communicates its mission. The late Huey Wilson, though one of the city’s most successful and respected business leaders until his death in 2008, was known for his humility and wanted the foundation to keep a low profile and remain behind the scenes.

Recently, however, the foundation’s leadership has recognized that promoting the investments it makes in the community is a way to better serve its grantee partners.

“We’re not out for credit, but we recognize sometimes if grantees can use our name as supporting them it does build confidence in the community,” says Jan Ross, vice president for grants and administration. “So for that reason we’re using our name more. We want the community to help support these services and organizations.”

The Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation has amassed some $60 million in assets in its 15 years in existence, and has awarded more than $27 million in grants—about $3.5 million a year, on average—to some 140 nonprofit agencies in the nine-parish Capital Region.

The special prison reentry round of granting kicks off Oct. 8, with a meeting for interested applicants. More information can be found online, or by calling the foundation at (225) 292-1344.

—Stephanie Riegel

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