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Community Foundation announces $1 million in awards to local 'changemakers'

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, a $485 million philanthropic organization, has powered ambitious community initiatives from Kleinhans Music Hall to Say Yes Buffalo, which significantly boosted local college matriculation.

Now, as the organization celebrates 100 years, it’s looking to recognize other regional “changemakers” by awarding grants and endowments totaling $1 million to 12 activists and advocates this September.

Western New Yorkers can nominate potential honorees between Feb. 11 and March 22, the foundation announced Tuesday. It's seeking individuals who have addressed local issues, changed the lives of Western New Yorkers, or drawn out the “hidden potential” of a physical place.

“We want to recognize exceptional commitment to others, to community, and to people and places,” said CFGB president Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker. “The foundation would not be here today if not for that kind of commitment.”

True to the foundation’s mission, the “Centennial Awards" are technically donations given on winners’ behalves. Four individuals will receive $200,000 honors, split between a one-time $100,000 grant to a local nonprofit of their choosing and a $100,000 endowed fund, which will allow them to make future grants.

Eight semifinalists will also receive one-time $25,000 grants on behalf of a local nonprofit. Winners will be selected by a committee of nearly 40 judges chosen to represent the racial, ethnic, geographic and generational diversity of the region, Dedecker said.

Nomination forms, which can be found at any Western New York library branch and at centennialawards.com, are also designed to be simple: There are only three questions on the candidate’s work, impact and partner organizations.

“We wanted the community to select the winners,” Dedecker said. “We’re really leaning into the power of diversity in the community. It’s an asset.”

Funding for the awards will draw from the foundation’s surplus charitable budget. CFGB manages the charitable accounts of more than 1,000 families and individuals, many of whom allow the foundation to decide how their bequests are allotted.

Last year, CFGB gave more than $22 million to dozens of organizations, ranging from Buffalo Opera Unlimited to My Brother’s Keeper, Teach for America and the Geneseo Migrant Center.

Founded in 1919 by George Rand Sr. and Edward Letchworth, the community foundation now ranks among the country’s oldest.

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