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Foundations: no shortage of need

   Local foundations give away almost $100 million a year … and it's still not enough.

   Just ask Marlies Wesolowski, who runs a community center in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.

   She had to eliminate a crime-prevention program that helped elderly residents because she couldn't find $22,000 in funding.

   Meanwhile, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra received more money than the total given the United Way, United Jewish Fund and Catholic Charities combined, a Buffalo News analysis of giving found.

   "I don't want to come across criticizing the foundations," Wesolowski said. "We're fortunate to receive gifts from foundations. So I don't want to be critical, too much so, about what they do and don't do."

   But she is disappointed her Lt. Col. Matt Urban Center had to cut a program she called "needed and necessary."

   "Would we like more? You bet," she said. "Could we use more? Sure we could."

   The foundations are quite aware of the need.

   "There are more needs than we have resources for," said Howard Zemsky, a trustee for the Zemski Family Foundation, which has given nearly $4 million in grants since 2002. "We're not lacking in requests and for projects to support."

   As Buffalo hovers near the top of the national list of the poorest cities, even those who run local foundations wonder if they should re-evaluate who's getting the grants.

   Deciding priorities isn't so simple, however.

   Even experts disagree.

   "Too little money goes to benefit those that need it the most," said Aaron Dorfman of the
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

   But Emmett Carson, former chairman of the National Council on Foundations, said foundations
should give to whatever causes they want.

   "That's what makes philanthropy strong … the ability of people to pick the issue that's important to them," he said.

   What do you think?

      -- Patrick Lakamp

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