What is the story behind your family’s foundation?
Kim: Philanthropy has always been important to our family. Our parents started the foundation so their charitable work would last through the generations. Foundation decisions are not top-down; the whole family is involved.
Peter: Our parents included us in charitable decisions at an early age. Dad had established a scholarship for students at Glenville High School, in honor of his father who had been unable to complete high school due to his own family’s financial circumstances. When we were in high school, Dad would bring the scholarship applications home and have us read them and make recommendations.
Kim: We saw how students our age who lived just a few miles away faced very difficult life circumstances. And we began learning how to make choices about charitable giving. We have involved our own children in the foundation in similar ways.
What is the Foundation’s primary focus?
Kim: We focus on helping others become self-sufficient, with a particular emphasis on education, workforce training, and other types of tangible empowerment.
Why have you supported the Fund for Our Economic Future?
Kim: At first, we weren’t sure if the Fund was the right mission fit for our foundation.
Peter: When the Fund was forming, we were very involved with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, where the Strengthening and Growing Jewish Cleveland initiative was just beginning. We decided that strengthening the Jewish community required strengthening the general community and that led us to join the Fund. It was a very large commitment for us. We became involved as volunteers within the Fund so that we could see and understand where the money was going. We now feel that our support for the Fund filled out the spectrum of our giving. We give scholarships at schools where the graduates tend to stay in the area; the Fund works to make sure jobs are available for those students when they graduate.
How has Fund membership benefitted you and your foundation?
Peter: I’ve benefited from meeting the people, making connections, and learning about our region’s problems and the opportunities to solve them.
Kim: Involvement in the Fund has given us the opportunity to see how other foundations operate and learn from them, as opposed to operating within a vacuum. I’ve learned so much about the economic development arena, which on a basic level, touches everything we do. I value the many relationships we have made in the foundation community and the opportunities to share and collaborate. We have also benefited from the expertise of the Fund staff, as well as that of other foundation professionals.
Peter: The Fund has made us better informed boosters for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio!
Can you provide an example of something your foundation has done that you’re particularly proud of?
Kim: We are always trying to figure out ways to be more successful in our philanthropy. Over time, we’ve developed strategies and we revisit them regularly.
Peter: For example, we changed the way we provide college scholarships. We used to provide scholarships for entering freshmen and would then continue to support them if they maintained a certain grade point average. We eventually learned that many students receive a one-year scholarship to cover their freshman year, but are left without funding in subsequent years. As a result, we shifted to supporting students who have already completed a successful freshman year. We’ve had a much higher success rate, helping these recipients complete their college degrees.
We’re also proud of our relationship with Berea College in Kentucky. Our father was impressed with this school, which provides tuition-free education for promising students who couldn’t otherwise afford higher education. When we started providing scholarships, the college had very few students from Northeast Ohio. As we developed a relationship with the College, we introduced them to College Now and encouraged the two to work together. All our scholarship money for Berea now goes to students from NE Ohio. We’re happy our foundation has had a positive impact for students from our community. We like to encourage grant recipients/programs to work together where there are synergies, e.g., we were providing scholarships to Tri-C students and then started a Fund at CSU, which provides scholarships to Tri-C students who matriculate to CSU for a 4-yr. degree.
Kim Meisel Pesses and Peter Meisel are sister and brother. They are both officers of the Carnegie Companies, a mid-sized real estate investment firm that owns retail centers, apartments, offices and warehouses in eight states. In addition to serving on the Executive Committee and chairing the Nominations & Personnel Committee of the Fund, Kim is a founding board member of Engage! Cleveland and serves on the boards of the Cleveland Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, and the Mt. Sinai Foundation. Peter serves on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Cleveland Housing Network, Menorah Park, and is President of Kent State University Hillel.