From A.J. Fletcher Foundation <[email protected]>
Subject A.J. Fletcher Foundation's 2019 Year in Review
Date December 19, 2019 2:29 PM
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Dear Friends,

Reflection. None of us are good at it. With all that is happening in our world and the millions of bits of information clamoring for our attention, pausing to consider what has happened in a year often gets lost in the shuffle. I am not sure if the A.J. Fletcher Foundation is uniquely bad at looking backwards, but in my seven years of service here, this is only the third time I have penned an annual look back.

We could certainly couch our lack of reflection in positive terms. We could say to ourselves that we are already on to the next thing and that we are forward thinking and that the future is where our attention should be. That all may be well and true, but in the words of 80’s poet and infrequent school attendee, Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss something.”

We are grateful for our grantees and the great work they do throughout the year. Join me as we share a few highlights from 2018. All of us here at the Foundation are thankful for our grantees and an amazing year. We look forward to a productive and successful 2019.

Damon Circosta
Executive Director


A.J. Fletcher Foundation supports The Fletcher Academy (TFA) as it works diligently throughout the year to promote a learning environment that best suits students with learning differences. In 2018, The Fletcher Academy served a record number of students, 20% more than in the previous year. In addition to our day school program, the Academy recently created a literacy outreach program to assist students from a variety of backgrounds with literacy support. The program now has a total of three Southeast Raleigh partner school sites and helped more than 200 struggling readers improve basic reading skills.

TFA also partnered with William Peace University’s School of Education to create a demonstration school environment. Over the last several months, WPU professors and their classes of aspiring educators have used TFA as a place to closely observe special education instruction. They dialogue with master teachers and practice sample teaching with students.

TFA also developed a Senior Leadership class focused on developing students’ abilities to soar beyond expectations as community leaders. This class helps students develop a knowledge and appreciation for community service organizations and a sense of agency through firsthand service internships at local non-profit organizations.

Athletically, the Fletcher Falcons finished the season in second place in three CCAL athletic conference championships for basketball, soccer, and ultimate frisbee. Way to go Falcons!


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 Southeast Raleigh Promise (SERP) Beacon Site is nearing completion. It will house Southeast Raleigh Elementary School, a full-service YMCA, and 120 units of affordable housing. This site will be instrumental in coordinated efforts guided by the Promise and its Executive Director, Kia Baker. The Beacon Site will be up and running by the end of summer 2019.

East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) continues to lead revitalization efforts in an often-neglected part of Durham. EDCI recently linked with Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO). This new partnership, seeded by AJF, will help these organizations to provide services to local youth and their families, beyond each organization’s individual capacity. Their partnership is still in the early stages, so we look forward to all the great work that will come.


In August, we welcomed our new Fletcher Fellow, MaDeja Leverett. MaDeja is a native of Ninety Six, South Carolina and a recent graduate of North Carolina Central University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She is most interested in enhancing the lived experiences of underrepresented groups.

As part of her fellowship, MaDeja is working with Southeast Raleigh Promise focusing on community engagement and leadership development. MaDeja is most excited about the opportunity to engage with the community and to be part of bringing positive change to children and families living in Southeast Raleigh. MaDeja also has taken the lead on our social media efforts.


It has been called the most exciting public park project going on in the world today. The City of Raleigh’s purchase and conversion of the former Dorothea Dix Hospital site is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. AJF has been an early supporter of the Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy, the nonprofit philanthropic partner to the city’s efforts to make this ambitious undertaking a reality.

Mindful of honoring the legacy of the land. AJF helped fund an exhibit at the City of Raleigh Museum entitled, “From Plantation to Park: The Story of Dix.” The exhibit shares the story of those who called Dix Hill home and describes what their lives were like.


AJF made a startup grant to fund WayMakers: Durham’s Skilled Trades Pathway. This is a collaboration between Durham Public Schools, Durham Technical Community College, and local businesses. WayMakers will create a pipeline to high paying employment for students interested in skilled trades. Durham Public Schools will establish a Skilled Trades Academy at Southern School of Energy & Sustainability which opens in Fall 2019. The academy will provide juniors and seniors in the Durham Public Schools system the opportunity to enroll in construction, electrical, HVAC, power line maintenance, and plumbing courses.

These students will also be offered classes in leadership and entrepreneurship. Durham Tech will support these efforts by doubling the number of instructional offerings in the College’s Core Construction Fundamentals Course; establishing new plumbing and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) courses; and apprenticeship opportunities. These students will be prepared to enter the work force or college upon successful completion of the program.


AJF has been a longtime supporter of Common Cause and its HBCU Education and Outreach program. North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have such a storied history of cultivating civic leaders. Providing opportunities for talented young people at these institutions to learn about government and policy will undoubtedly pay dividends for all of us for years to come. This year, Common Cause added three campuses to the program which now includes all 10 HBCU campuses in North Carolina.

AJF strives to serve as a catalyst for change in every grant that 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. Hunger and homelessness have 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.

We made a capital grant to Oak City Cares (OCC) a center for connecting individuals and families to coordinated services offered in one location. OCC provides the long-term strategy for addressing homelessness in Wake County, and is a collaboration of the County, the City of Raleigh, the Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness, and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh. Oak City Cares’ goal is to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in Wake County. The expected opening of OCC is April 2019.

AJF also supported efforts to open the Durham Community Food Pantry in the Lakewood Shopping Center. According to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, 55,075 people living in Durham county (2015-2016 data) are food insecure; this is 18.3% of the total population. These numbers include 12,700 children under 18 years and approximately 2,300 individuals over 65 years who are living in poverty. In addition to ensuring that families and individuals have food throughout each month, the Durham Community Food Pantry will also have space available in the Reverend Joseph Vetter Family Enrichment Center for individuals to meet with staff to address other needs, provide additional financial assistance, and address the non-food challenges that families face.

This year was filled with lots of great work and accomplishments for the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. It was also filled with sadness as we said our final goodbyes to two people who remain close to our hearts.

Our dear friend, Father Joe Vetter, served on both the A.J. Fletcher Foundation Board of Directors and The Fletcher Academy Board of Directors until his passing this May. Father Joe was instrumental in bringing church leaders and community leaders together to work for everyone's benefit. Joe's friendship, thoughtfulness, passion, and humor touched the lives of countless North Carolinians. Not a day goes by without missing his wise counsel and warm words.

Former Executive Director, Thomas McGuire, passed away suddenly on September 4, 2018. He served at the Foundation from 1988 until 2003 and later co-founded Armstrong McGuire, one of the premiere nonprofit consulting firms in North Carolina. Tom left an indelible mark on the A.J. Fletcher Foundation and the North Carolina nonprofit community.

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