Dear Friends, 

There is a typical cadence to these end of year nonprofit letters. If we are playing to form, we would thank you for your support, share some of our accomplishments, preview the new year, and express our gratitude and hopefulness.

Yes, we are grateful.

Yes, we are going to share some of our accomplishments.

Yes, we are excited about the opportunities of 2020.

But these are not typical times, and 2020 will not be a typical year. Someone mentioned to me recently that they don’t believe in stasis. In a complex world, where every action has a reaction, it is impossible to maintain the status quo. People, projects, and organizations are always in flux. For more than six decades, The A.J. Fletcher Foundation has been reacting to the needs of our community. As we look forward to 2020, our organization and our community must adapt to the changing times. To that end, here is what you can expect from us in the new year:

First, we are going to talk less and listen more. There is an old saying that goes “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” While it is important for foundations like ours to tell our story, it is more important that we listen to the stories of others. You will probably see less of us on social media. But we are going to use the extra staff bandwidth to facilitate more face-to-face encounters. We are recommitting ourselves to dialog over monologue.

Second, we are going to dig deep into existing projects. In 2019, we were privileged to be a part of some of the most important and significant projects in our foundation’s history. We worked hard with the Southeast Raleigh Promise, YMCA, Wake County Public Schools, and DHIC to create a beacon site for innovative services in SE Raleigh. We supported the creation of Dorothea Dix Park; the launching of the Durham Food Pantry; the opening of  Oak City Cares; the expansion of Healing Transitions. And, of course, we were behind the Fletcher Academy as they sought to expand and improve their operations. These big projects extend well beyond Fletcher Foundation’s efforts, but we were happy to play our part. In 2020, we will continue to support these (and other) projects; with financial grants, technical expertise, connections to others, and opportunities to share.

Third, we are going to take our civic responsibility seriously. These contentious and polarizing times make us want to throw up our hands in disgust and walk away. While it might be tempting to exit the public square, it is incumbent on all of us to deeply engage in civic conversations. The nonprofit sector must be thoughtful and unrelenting. Nonprofits have a unique vantage point to see what is happening. We witness first-hand the results of public policy decisions.  A.J. Fletcher Foundation’s support for fact-based journalism and research from organizations like WUNC, The Hussmann School of Journalism at UNC, The NC Justice Center and others is one way we can contribute to a healthy information ecosystem and better civic discourse.

Lastly, we are going to laugh as much as we can. When your job is to improve human lives, foster education, and combat poverty the work can be very serious. While we never want to make light of the challenges we face; we will do our best not to take ourselves too seriously. Organizations (like the humans that create them) are contradictory, messy, wonderful, silly and constantly striving. We work hard. Sometimes we will succeed, other times we will fail. But through it all, we recognize that life is painfully short and ridiculously absurd. Sometimes it just makes sense to laugh. 😉

We all have much to do next year. I look forward to seeing you in 2020 and thank you for all you do.


Damon Circosta 
Executive Director 

While this isn't a comprehensive list by any means, we are grateful for the efforts of all our grantees. Take a look at some of the extraordinary work that has filled our year with extra joy!
The A.J. Fletcher Foundation supports The Fletcher Academy (TFA) as they work diligently to provide a supportive and transformative learning environment for students with learning differences. This year, the academy went through some renovations on its main campus in North Raleigh. The renovations provided students and faculty with a fresh and cutting-edge look to enhance learning for all.
This summer, TFA acquired the former Hope Charter Leadership Academy located at 1116 N. Blount St. The building, former home of Building Together Ministries and the Barbee School, has always had the purpose of improving access to opportunity for those who need it the most. TFA plans to renovate the building and locate its elementary school in the Summer of 2020.

TFA's partnership with William Peace University’s Education Department continues to blossom with the academy serving as a school site for aspiring teachers. The academy also continues to provide developmental reading services free of charge, to over 100 students at PAVE Academy and Exploris Elementary.
Communities Improving Communities
It has been nearly a decade since AJF made its initial grant to fund a coordinated, neighborhood-based approach to ending poverty in our region. Informed by Geoffrey Canada’s work in Harlem, and similar efforts in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta, we continue to support two ‘backbone’ organizations that are making real strides to improve the lives of our neighbors. 
The beacon is burning bright in Southeast Raleigh. The Southeast Raleigh Promise Beacon site celebrated a huge milestone this summer with the opening of the Southeast Raleigh YMCA and Southeast Raleigh Elementary School. Construction of the 120 affordable housing units is well underway. This building is the first step of a dream being realized and a source of joy and pride in our community. It’s been a big year for Southeast Raleigh Promise, the community quarterback organization leading efforts. This fall, they were selected as the beneficiary of the Enloe Charity Ball which raised $207,000.
In Durham, construction started on the Willard Street Apartment Complex with a groundbreaking this August. The foundation is a key partner in the project by providing a grant of $500,000. The apartment complex is set to open in December 2020 and will provide 82 affordable housing units alongside community and retail space.
AJF strives to serve as a catalyst for change in every grant we make. While philanthropic foundations account for a tiny fraction of the budgets of operating non-profits, those resources can spur new ways to solve old problems. Homelessness has been a deplorable component of the human condition for far too long. Fortunately, the nonprofit sector is getting better at coordinating efforts and making great strides to alleviate the burdens some in our community face. In April, Oak City Cares opened its doors.  Their goal is to make homelessness become brief, rare, and non-recurring in Wake County. They aim to be a hub to connect those experiencing or at risk of becoming homeless. They are located on S. Wilmington St on the edge of Downtown Raleigh.
Creating Innovative Pathways to Education
Supporting organizations, programs, and initiatives that improve access to education have been a major part of our work from the very beginning. North Carolina’s population is expected to grow to over 12 million by 2035.  An expanding and diversifying economy calls for innovation in access to education to help all of our young people reach their full potential.

The “WayMakers” program, a partnership between Durham Public Schools and Durham Tech started this fall at Southern High School in Durham. Juniors and seniors are taking courses in construction, engineering, plumbing, and maintenance. The curriculum is also heavy on leadership and entrepreneurship. Durham Tech extends the pathway by expanding offerings in its Core Constructions Fundamentals course; new apprenticeship opportunities in plumbing, construction, HVAC; and collaborative programming with Durham Public Schools.

The future is about collaboration. Empowering our kids to excel in the 21st-century means they’re going to need real-world experiences. Durham Tech and Durham Public Schools working together to make that happen are what Durham is all about. Graduates from the program will have the opportunity to seek employment or apprenticeship opportunities or continue their education at Durham Tech or a four-year college.
Transformative Pledge for a Transformative Organization
This summer, the foundation pledged $1 million dollars to Healing Transitions Capital Campaign: “Recovery Can’t Wait.” Healing Transitions has served more than 18,000 people since opening in 2001 providing shelter and programming to help others get back on their feet. This campaign aims to expand their capacity to serve more people: More beds, more space for programming, and more connecting to community resources. Healing Transitions is aiming to raise a little over $11 million dollars.
Our Fletcher Fellow
In July, we welcomed our new Fletcher Fellow, Kenneth Brown Jr. Kenneth is a native of Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a recent graduate of Elon University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Human Service Studies and served as Student Body President. He is most interested in how to decrease barriers to opportunities that can help all people thrive.

During his fellowship, Kenneth will lead our engagement efforts through enhancing our communications structure to better help us tell our story, running our social media pages, and developing ways to increase our involvement with our community. He will also support our grants process helping with grants administration and support our grantees in a myriad of ways. We're grateful he chose to spend his first two years out of college working with us. 

We strive to be at the forefront of major issues in our region and state. Working alongside community leaders who are dreaming big and fighting hard, we are honored to be a part of this important work.

2020 is going to be a big year for the foundation and we don't want you to miss a moment. Give us a follow on Facebook: AJ Fletcher Foundation or Twitter: @AJFfoundation. If you liked this and want more, forward this to one of your friends or subscribe to our newsletter.
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Fletcher Foundation · 909 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC · Raleigh, NC 27605 · USA

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