Kevin Ryan: Why I Give

North Star Fund has changed the city. Groups that North Star supported from the beginning have grown to become the most effective ones around.

In 1992, Kevin Ryan had just graduated from the Robert F. Wagner School for Public Service at NYU. He was looking for a job as a community organizer. He answered an ad for a tenant organizer at the Community Training and Resource Center, an organization that championed the rights of low-income tenants. When he went to the job interview, NY1 was there interviewing the executive director. Kevin thought, “Wow, something is really going on here.”

His commitment and enthusiasm carried the day, and CTRC hired him as a tenant organizer. The landscape of housing organizing was rapidly shifting, with city and federal support slipping away in order to expand the section 8 housing voucher program.

According to Kevin, “Many foundations saw community-based tenant organizing as too small and localized. But North Star Fund understood the importance of these campaigns, and funded them.”

During this period, North Star Fund stepped up funding for grassroots groups working to keep people in their homes, preserve stable and safe communities, and tackle the growing problem of homelessness.

After years of building leadership in local communities, in 2002 Kevin went to work for the New York Foundation with a commitment to direct resources to community organizing. Friends told him about the great work that North Star Fund was doing. “The foundation was moving forward, changing strategically to better serve communities in New York.”

So, when asked, he happily agreed to step onto the North Star Fund board in 2006, where he has led efforts to introduce North Star Fund to a broader network of his peers.

According to Kevin, “North Star Fund provides a vehicle to give back and contribute to communities where you may have grown up—communities like Harlem, the South Bronx, Bed-Stuy. It’s critical to give money or time to your local church or food pantry or other direct service mechanisms. But ultimately, we need to change the systems that create the inequality in the first place. But to find those organizing or advocacy opportunities is very hard for people who are busy in their day-to-day lives.”

In New York, after years of rents rising faster than inflation, and the subprime mortgage and foreclosure crisis devastating low-income communities, housing is the bedrock of economic justice. Current North Star Fund grantees working in the arena include CHANGER, organizing homeowners in danger of foreclosure. Housing Here and Now, uniting tenant groups and organized labor. Picture the Homeless, who recently released a groundbreaking study of ‘warehoused’ but habitable housing in Manhattan. According to Kevin, “The community based organizations are the ones who come up with the innovative strategies that can build a citywide movement. And North Star Fund finds them and invests in their promise.”

This profile is from our 2008 annual report.


tags: Donor Voices
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