Stepping Up for Social Justice
The idea behind The Seattle Foundation is simple and inspiring: when people pool their money, the collective impact of their giving can make a big difference in the local community.
The foundation comprises 750 individual donor funds as well as a collective grantmaking program. Its early support to build Bailey-Boushay House — and its ongoing support to keep our doors open to those who need us most — is an example of collective philanthropy helping the community to define its values.
“I wasn’t at The Seattle Foundation then,” says former Seattle Mayor Norman B. Rice, who became the foundation’s leader in 2009. “But I really applaud the foundation for being there early.”
It’s important to remember, he says, that tension was “thick and deep” — with fear, anger, even hatred — after AIDS Housing of Washington proposed building an AIDS care facility in the Madison Valley neighborhood. “A large number of property owners were livid, thinking the real estate investment they’d made in the area was going to be lost. And the stereotypes and the prejudice were overwhelming — and making no sense,” as though patients would somehow “be coming out the doors and spreading AIDS.”
In this heated context, The Seattle Foundation’s capital grant of $25,000 was both a practical and a principled act.
Then-president Anne Farrell and the foundation board “weren’t afraid to stand up and say this is a social justice issue,” says Ceil Erickson, director of grantmaking.
As mayor, Rice saw at the same time that “the public political will in Seattle was good.” No one on the city council and from the mayor’s office doubted that building the facility was the right thing to do. “And I think that really helped.”
On opening day in 1992, Mayor Rice was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony before an overflowing crowd of community supporters.
“It was like walking a gauntlet past the silent, staring, unhappy property owners, but we knew we were right,” he says. “I was proud of Seattle at that moment. I was proud to be mayor.”
More was at stake than property values and homophobia. “I believe in the good Samaritan,” he says, “and that everyone deserves safe passage and a place to be secure. If you can’t find places for that in your community, then you’re failing.”
What does Bailey-Boushay mean to Seattle? “Bailey-Boushay speaks to a profound and wonderful experience of human dignity and opportunity that we all ought to remember exhibits the best of what Seattle is.”
From that first capital grant through a 2011 grant for general operating support, The Seattle Foundation contributed more than $400,000 to serve the patients of Bailey-Boushay House.