“Deaconess dollars” a welcome investment in community

Katie ArnoldJP In The News, News

From The St. Louis American.

About — Tonina

Foundation seeks proposals

Kiesha Davis

Kiesha Davis, director of partnership and capacity building at Deaconess Foundation – The Deaconess Foundation’s support of Justine PETERSEN has helped the non-profit on its initiative to increase wealth and assets through participation in asset-building services. This includes supporting first-time homebuyers like Jerry Johnson. “I am so happy that I do not pay rent anymore. It feels great to come home every night.”

The Deaconess Foundation is accepting proposals for up to $600,000 in community investment funding through its mission-related investments initiative.

The initiative provides low-interest loans to social impact organizations with capital management and a strong commitment to advancing the health and well-being of children and families in the St. Louis region.

Kiesha Davis, director of partnership and capacity building at Deaconess Foundation, said, “We have an opportunity within our portfolio to support mission-related investments through low-interest loans to social impact organizations that have a strong commitment to the health and well-being of children and families in our region.”

Mission-related investments are part of the Foundation’s commitment to spending up to two percent of the market value of the Foundation’s endowment, or up to $1 million, on community investments.

“I would say this work is very crucial, especially since we are navigating an economic downturn created by the global pandemic,” Davis said. “We know that there are many social impact organizations working on behalf of families and the community that could use additional capital.”

The Foundation has supported many mission-related investments over the years, including Justine PETERSEN’s initiative to provide 200 low- and moderate-income families with children the opportunity to increase their wealth and assets through participation in asset-building services.

“The Deaconess dollars have directly resourced familial financial asset building, which is not just building financial assets for an individual but for the family in addition to inter-generational asset building, which is thinking about how asset building can transfer from one generation to the next,” said Galen Gondolfi,  Justine PETERSEN senior loan counselor and chief communications officer.

According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website, a community development financial institution (CDFI) is a mission-driven financial institution that has been certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund.

“In our first partnership with a philanthropic organization as it relates to social impact investing, so in fact, the investment with Deaconess is monumental in many ways, not only for Justine PETERSEN but for community development financial institutions in St. Louis,” Gondolfi said.

CDFIs include credit unions, banks, loan funds, and venture capital funds that operate with a primary mission of serving low-income communities.

“The Deaconess Foundation’s investment in Justine PETERSEN is considered the first social impact investment by a philanthropic foundation with a CDFI in St. Louis,” Gondolfi said. “From a national perspective, CDFIs get a lot of attention on the east coast and there has been a robust history in philanthropic organizations supporting CFDIs on the east coast. This is somewhat of an anomaly, although this has happened in Chicago. Here in St. Louis, Deaconess has made a historic investment,” Gondolfi said.

The organization serves as a port of entry to mainstream finance, equipping and empowering individuals and families with the necessary knowledge, tools and products necessary to build intergenerational assets and wealth.

The Deaconess Foundation gave its first loan to Justine PETERSEN in August 2004, making the partnership just over 17 years old

“Over the past almost two decades, Justine PETERSEN has partnered with the Deaconess Foundation, as it relates to social impact investing and deploying that capital under resource management, our relationship started actually when Nathan Joseph was leading the Foundation, which goes back a number of years,” Gondolfi said.

The Foundation built a relationship with the organization with the common understanding of how Justine PETERSEN assists the community.

Financial health is one of the social determinants of health the United Health Foundation looked at in its 2021 racial disparities report. Economic factors such as child poverty and food insecurity were among the top issues for Missouri.

“I think the Deaconess always had a comprehensive understanding of how Justine PETERSEN impacts the financial health of St. Louis families and that’s somewhat of a new connection that is linking public health to financial wellness,” Gondolfi said.

The Foundation will accept proposals through Friday, Oct. 15.