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Foundation airs plan to increase philanthropy

Reducing the area's racial divide, lifting low-income families out of poverty, enhancing natural, historic and architectural resources and strengthening regional arts and culture will be focal points of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo now through 2011.

Leaders of the foundation unveiled "The Way Ahead," a new strategic plan, at a breakfast meeting Thursday in the Erie County Historical Society.

The plan is expected to be a blueprint for increasing philanthropy in Western New York and addressing the community's most pressing problems.

"It's a pretty aggressive and, I think, ambitious agenda," said Clotilde Dedecker, foundation vice president.

Dedecker will take the reins as president on Nov. 1 and be responsible for implementing the plan. Gail Johnstone, the foundation's current president and chief executive officer, is retiring after 10 years.

With assets of $159 million and giving in 2006 of $7.3 million, the foundation is one the the area's largest philanthropic organizations.

Dedecker said the foundation would "have to have the backbone to go at a lot of these issues."

Buffalo's poverty rate, at nearly 27 percent, is the sixth highest in the country.

The foundation will work with other nonprofit agencies, governments and business leaders to improve education -- and thereby boost families' long-term chances to be self-sufficient.

"Education is the key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty," Dedecker said during the meeting with 200 area nonprofit, business and government leaders.

The foundation worked for the past year with a consultant to craft the strategic plan.

Citing world-class assets in the region, such as 1,000 acres of parkland and the presence of architectural masterpieces, the plan calls for the foundation to be involved in restoring and enhancing the area's water resources, public green spaces and historic landmarks.

"We have what it takes in this area," Dedecker said.

The foundation is inviting community members to help implement the plan.

The board sought a "living road map" for the next five years, board member Reginald Melson said.

"We are very excited about where we're headed," he said.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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