Foundation Partners

Cultivate: Women of Color Leadership Program is a collaboration
between foundation partners in Chicago, including the Crossroads Fund, Woods Fund Chicago, Chicago Foundation for Women, Chicago Community Trust, and the Walder Foundation also with support from the MacArthur and Field Foundations.

Women of color at these foundations sought to create space/programming that would provide what they felt lacked in their own professional development.

The Chicago Community Trust is a community foundation dedicated to improving our region through strategic grant making, civic engagement and inspiring philanthropy. We are here to serve the nonprofit organizations, the generous donors and the thoughtful residents who strive to make a difference, helping their bold vision create lasting community change. We work with a number of partnerships and initiatives to accomplish this work.

As businesses, local governments and organizations strive to solve pressing challenges, the Trust brings these key actors together. Working together, we leverage collective knowledge, creativity and resources for a greater impact than any of us can make alone.

Maritza Bandera is Program Manager for The Chicago Community Trust

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Maritza Bandera is program manager at The Chicago Community Trust, the region’s community foundation. Bandera manages the Trust’s strategic efforts in supporting community organizing and resident designed and driven campaigns. Bandera is a member of the original design team responsible for creating, planning and implementing On the Table, an award-winning engagement model designed to partner with and inspire residents, organizations and institutions to take action to improve our region. To date, On the Table has engaged over 200,000 Chicago-area residents, and is now being replicated in communities across the nation.

In 2015, Bandera was named one of the Latino 40 Under 40 by Negocios Now for her dedication to empowering community residents to effect positive change in their communities. She is often found at a community block club, park advisory council, Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) or Aldermanic ward night meeting. She served as co-chair of the education and youth development committee as part of the Belmont Cragin Quality of Life Plan, a community-driven planning process looking at opportunities to make the neighborhood a better place for everyone. In 2016, she was selected to join the second class of the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy—an interdisciplinary leadership development program for emerging leaders in nonprofit organizations and local government agencies. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Denison University and a Master of Arts from American University. She resides in the Belmont-Cragin community with her husband and three children.

Chicago Foundation for Women envisions a world in which all women and girls have the opportunity to thrive in safe, just and healthy communities. We connect need, money and solutions.

We evaluate the needs of women and girls who are living at the margins of success in our society.

We seek out and bring together women who have the power to make a difference and organizations that offer proven or innovative solutions.

We raise money to fund those solutions, and we develop women’s capacity to drive change at every level, both within those organizations and beyond them. The Chicago Foundation for Women invests in women and girls as catalysts, building strong communities for all. We value – in ourselves and in every organization we support – the core principles of equality, empowerment, diversity, collaboration, and integrity.

Felicia Davis is President and CEO at Chicago Foundation for Women

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Crossroads Fund supports community organizations working on issues of racial, social and economic justice in the Chicago area. Crossroads Fund leads in the philanthropic sector by supporting innovative organizing models that build strong movements for racial, social and economic justice. By creating relationships between donors, grantees, grassroots groups and community members, we strengthen leadership, build sustainable communities and transform unjust conditions, institutions and policies to create greater equality and opportunity for all. At Crossroads Fund we believe that big change can come from small beginnings. Some of the biggest victories we’ve seen in this city, from accessible public transit for people with disabilities, to the successful campaign to abolish the death penalty in Illinois, started out as small grassroots movements that were considered too radical for most funders. That’s where Crossroads Fund comes in. We give small grants to new and emerging groups, providing critical support from the beginning. We are often the first foundation grant that our grantees have applied for or received.

Jane Kimondo is Executive Director of Crossroads fund

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Jane Kimondo is committed to strengthening grassroots movements for justice through grantmaking, capacity building, leadership development, donor organizing and overseeing special initiatives, including the development of a social movement evaluation tool. Jane has extensive international and local nonprofit experience in both Chicago and her native country, Kenya. She worked at the Chicago Foundation for Women before joining Crossroads Fund in 2005. She holds two Master’s Degrees in Organizational Development and Human Resources and a Certificate in Advanced Study in Philanthropy & Non-Profit Sector from Loyola University Chicago.

Lizette Garza is Program Manager at Crossroads Fund

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Lizette Garza supports grantmaking, special initiatives and database management at Crossroads Fund. She aims to connect people to resources and bridge organizations committed to social change. Previously, Lizette served as a Program Specialist at After School Matters and Teaching Artist at ElevArte Community Studio. She is a third-generation Pilsen-resident with a love for Hip Hop, Yoga and cooking. Outside of trust-based philanthropy she is a Music Curator for ReverbNation.

Alheli Irizarry is Manager at Cultivate: Women of Color Leadership Program

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Alhelí Irizarry is a previous participant of the Cultivate Program. She has over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, working with both state and federal organizations, as well as community based organizations in Pilsen and Little Village. She has years of experience working with youth, adults and allies, advocating for the reform of immigration laws for a humane and just legalization. She also has worked on education and violence prevention issues, as well as taught citizenship and trained on organizing, leadership development and racial equity. She is a passionate hood feminist working on protecting human rights and advancing social justice. Her native country is beautiful Mexico and she became a naturalized citizen in 2018, after 26 years of being undocumented.

Woods Fund Chicago seeks to help create a society where people of all racial and ethnic groups across all levels of social and economic status are empowered and have a voice to influence policies that impact their lives and where all communities are free of poverty and racism. Woods Fund Chicago is a grantmaking foundation committed to the promotion of social, economic, and racial justice through the support of community organizing and public policy advocacy that engages people that are most impacted.

Michelle Morales is Executive Director at Woods Fund Chicago

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Michelle Morales is the President of the Woods Fund Chicago. Prior Woods Fund, Michelle led the Illinois chapter of the Mikva Challenge, a premier youth development civics organization that creates space for youth civic participation and leadership. Michelle’s background has been in the field of alternative education, focusing on and advocating for educational justice, first as a teacher at an alternative high school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community and then as Associate Director at the Alternative Schools Network. In addition, she was an active community organizer for 16 years in Chicago’s Puerto Rican community, advocating for community development, education justice, economic justice, and against the rapid gentrification of the neighborhood. Michelle received a BA from DePaul University, a Master’s in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University. She is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and had the privilege of participating in the inaugural cohort of Cultivate – a women of color leadership program developed by Woods Fund, Crossroads Fund, Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago Foundation for Women.

Michelle has used her varied career opportunities, her experiences as a first generation US born Puerto Rican woman and her platform to raise awareness and consciousness about: the power of youth voice, the dangers of adultism, utilizing community input in decision making, colonialism in Puerto Rican and the diasporic experiences of colonized peoples living in the United States. She is also a vocal advocate concerning racially equitable workplaces and strongly encourages organizations to not only apply a racial justice lens externally, but internally as well.

Michelle is honored to lead Woods Fund Chicago, one of six foundations in the city of Chicago which explicitly funds grassroots community organizing and public policy advocacy.

The Walder Foundation champions Chicago and invests in science innovation, environmental sustainability, the performing arts, migration and immigrant communities, and Jewish life to uplift local communities and elevate our region’s contributions to the world.

We are guided by the values inherent in our founders’ Orthodox Jewish faith: humility, optimism, unity, collaboration, a trust in God’s plan, and a commitment to give back. These principles inform our work and the relationships we wish to build with grantees and partners.

Alma D. Rodriguez is Senior Program Officer, Immigrant Communities

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Alma develops programs and funding opportunities to improve the quality of life of immigrants and refugees coming to Chicago. Her 15-year work experience spans the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, where she has focused on addressing issues faced by underserved communities. Her expertise includes public health, housing, civic engagement, immigration, and community development. As a program officer at the Chicago Community Trust, Alma oversaw health care, health policy, and immigration portfolios, and she managed two funder collaboratives.

Alma is a current board member of Mujeres Latinas en Acción. She serves on the steering committee for the Illinois Immigration Funders Collaborative and the advisory board for the City of Chicago’s Office of New Americans.

Alma holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northeastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.