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February 16, 2009

A Note To W.K. Kellogg About His Charitable Foundation

BATTLE CREEK, Michigan. -- Thank you, Mr. Kellogg, for your foresight in establishing your charitable foundation with much of your personal wealth 76 years ago.  So, so many good things have been accomplished worldwide because you cared -- and cared especially about Battle Creek.

images.jpgWe read with thankfulness about the continued, quite remarkable record of recent Foundation grantmaking, coverered in yesterday's Battle Creek Enquirer.  And while its portfolio is diversifed today, God Bless Kellogg Company's values, drive and creativity ---all your own personal qualities -- which have sustained and grown the Company and its stock value, and thus much of the Foundation's work. 


Mr. Kellogg, I  suspect -- if you were alive today -- you'd have a few questions about the Foundation that bears your name.


The Good Lord knows it’s a REAL struggle dealing wholistically  with social problems in any community.  So messy.  So unpredictable.  Involving so many people who'se ideas and lives don't match each other.

In its new printed annual report, The Kellogg Foundation announces its focusing future grantmaking around an exclusive  effort to address problems of “vulnerable children” – in select areas worldwide – through hundreds of millions of grant money each year. 


There are lots of “vulnerable children” in Calhoun County – they are poor, they are black, they are white, they come from broken homes where alcoholic parents beat their spouses, have forced sex with their 10-year old daughters, where there are single parents with no jobs and no futures.  Where teenage pregnancy is rampant.


At the risk of you going 'thumbs down' on the next grant application, would it be alright to suggest, after reading your annual report, that the Kellogg Foundation might take a look at its own grantmaking in Battle Creek?

So many good projects -- over those decades: Kellogg Auditorium, Kellogg Arena, Kellogg Community College programs and facilities, The Linear Park, Binder Park Zoo, Math and Science Center. North Pointe Woods,  The Rink, Alano Club facility and services, "Yes, We Can"  initiative, Battle Creek Health System, downtown revitalization, Urban League programs, Neighborhoods, Inc.

But with your "new" focus on vulnerable children, perhaps it would be helpful to "turn the clock back" in terms of both Foundation programming and geographic focus.

 Nearly 70 years ago, you and your new foundation funded the "Michigan Community Health Project," that comprehensive effort to bring together citizens, educators, doctors and physicians TO WORK together -- at the community level -- to change the lives and health of children......all children, in select Michigan towns.

Not too a bad place for your Foundation people to "start again" with vulnerable children, do you think, Mr. Kellogg? Getting the community involved in helping to shape and deliver Foundation strategies and services that relate to children.

Perhaps that is being done today.

Thanks so much for listening, Mr. Kellogg.

-- Jim Richmond

Errata:  several observations about the Kellogg Foundation today:

  • Mr. Kellogg would probably be surprised at how few of the Foundations's senior staff actually LIVE in Battle Creek. From cross referencing an old staff listing over “Google,” it appeared several years ago about 65 percent or so of Foundation program and executive  staff live(d) not in Battle Creek – but in Chicago, Washington, Ann Arbor, Aida, San Francisco, Atlanta, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Portage, Mexico City, South Africa, etc.   The Kalamazoo airport probably loves these folks. 
  • Mr. Kellogg might wonder why only one of his Foundation’s current Board Members/Trustees lives in Battle Creek.   
  • And why so few of the Kellogg Foundation employees seem visibly engaged in volunteer leadership positions with Battle Creek organizations. 

All of these relative changes of the past 10 years seem different from the philosophy, commitment and actions of prior Kellogg Foundation leaders -- when there was an expectation and a commitment that Foundation staff give back personal and job-release time to the community – this community that Mr. Kellogg loved. 

Life moves on.  People and organizations change.  So do needs.

But, the Foundation might be a bit different today…if Mr. Kellogg was alive….and actually sitting at his old desk…..now just on historic display in the Foundation lobby.


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