The Oregon-based mentoring organization Friends of the Children has been gifted $33 million by Gary and Christine Rood. The grant comes on the heels of a $44 million grant from the Mackenzie Scott Foundation awarded in August.
The gift from the Roods, philanthropists from Vancouver, Washington, is perfectly timed at the beginning of National Mentoring Month, Friends of the Children CEO Terri Sorenson stated in a press release.
“This investment opens up unfettered opportunities for the network and the youth we serve and provides us the unique opportunity to establish the first-ever national learning hub for long-term mentoring,” Sorenson said of the three-year grant.
Friends of the Children is unique in the youth mentoring field because it deploys full-time paid mentors rather than relying on volunteers, and commits to each child for at least 12 years, from kindergarten to graduation. The 30-year-old organization works with children as young as 4 years old who have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in their earliest years, particularly systemic inequities like poverty and criminal justice system impact, or have been impacted by foster care.Their data shows that the children they work with have better odds of academic achievement than their peers in foster care and are less likely to experience juvenile justice involvement or teen pregnancy.
The Roods have supported Friends of the Children since 2018 and intended to include this gift as part of their estate but felt the need was becoming too exigent to wait.
“We are deeply committed to giving generously now because so many children and families need support now more than ever,” Gary Rood stated. “We also want to see the fruits of this gift within our lifetime. It will be an honor to witness how this gift may transform youth and their communities across the country in the next few years.”
The lion’s share of the Roods’ donation, $28 million, will be used to increase the organization’s mentoring capacity across the country, with $5 million of that earmarked for use in the couple’s local community of southwestern Washington. The remaining $5 million will be used to establish the Duncan and Cindy Campbell National Center of Excellence, designed to be a “learning hub for long-term mentoring.”
Sorenson told The Imprint that the center will be used to train professional mentors from their network and others throughout the country and abroad, and potentially provide a certification process for mentors. The hope, she said, is to “fuel paid professional mentoring as a systems change effort.” The center is slated to open in Portland, Oregon in 2025.
Friends of the Children currently operates in roughly two dozen locations throughout the U.S. and in Cornwall, England, serving urban, rural and tribal communities. Last year’s $44 million grant from the Mackenzie Scott Foundation was the largest gift ever received by the organization. It provided a cash influx to chapters in Austin, Boston, Central Oregon, Chicago, Detroit, Klamath Basin, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Tacoma and Tampa Bay.