Demonstrates commitment to Mississippi’s and New Orleans’ vulnerable children
By Ayesha K. Mustafaa
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) held a reception Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, with the Mississippi Children’s Museum as the venue, where its officials came to town to launch the opening of the Foundation’s Jackson office, at Capital Towers, 125 S. Congress.
Among those speaking at the well attended reception were Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.; Sterling K. Speirn, president and CEO of WKKF; La June Montgomery Tabron, executive vice president of operaions and treasurer of WKKF; and William Buster, director of WKKF’s Mississippi and New Orleans programs.
In the audience were many representatives of WKKF grantees from New Orleans, Biloxi, Jackson and other areas across the state. One grantee, the Children’s Defense Fund Southern Region office, with director Oleta Fitzgerald, has offices in Mississippi and New Orleans.
Buster will live in Jackson and will staff the Jackson office from local talent. “Do not come looking for me at the office. This is a fluid operation and I will be moving about,” said Buster. The new site serves as the regional office for Mississippi and New Orleans.
WKKF has partnered with organizations in Mississippi and New Orleans for more than 40 and 10 years, respectively, with a shared vision of positive change for vulnerable children, families and communities.
Buster explained that the new office will enable greater communication, coordination and collaboration with the local community by a dedicated Mississippi and New Orleans team.
“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is committed to supporting local community organizations as they work toward improving the lives of children in Mississippi and New Orleans for at least a generation,” said Buster. “We make this commitment because we know that real and durable change requires long-term support, and importantly, must come from within the community.”
The Kellogg Foundation supports nearly 100 organizations in the Mississippi and New Orleans region with a financial investment of more than $90 million. Current grants in Mississippi are concentrated in Jackson, Sunflower County and the Biloxi area; all focused on removing the barriers faced by many of Mississippi’s children, especially children of color. In New Orleans, foundation work is focused in the Central City.
“We couldn’t be more pleased that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is locating their regional office in Jackson,” said Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. “The foundation does important work and has proven to be an invaluable partner for our community. We look forward to an even closer relationship now and we welcome them to the Capital City.”
Speirn said at the reception that the opening of the Jackson office is one of his biggest accomplishments. During this visit to Jackson, he met with Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Reeves, noting the state’s priority in allocating money for early childhood education.
Speirn said, “We are not dazzled by big names. What we want is to have money flow to change the world. We have made a commitment for at least another generation to be in Mississippi.”
WKKF Executive Vice President for Operations and Treasurer La June Montgomery Tabron has roots in Clarksdale, Mississippi, with her parents. “By opening local offices, we are both confirming our commitment to work in this region and creating a structure in which we can be most responsive to local efforts,” said Tabron.
“We are transparent,” she added. “It is for the kids in education, family and health. We have to have measureable outcomes and work for racial equity, to remove obstacles that impede helping children.
Another major project to be funded by WKKF is the Boys of Color project with RFPs soon to be announced. “Boys of color lag behind all other sectors of society – behind white girls and black girls. It will be termed the ‘Call Me Mr.’ program,” announced Tabron.
Buster related that “children live in communities – not in programs, not in buildings and not in schools. Our charge is to fund programs to make a difference to vulnerable children – Mississippi’s and New Orleans’ vulnerable children.”
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, and is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. It is guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, thus creating conditions where they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
WKKF is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis prioritizes places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success.
Its priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans and internationally in Mexico and Haiti.
For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.