Nov. 23, 2020

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (Nov. 23, 2020) – Baylor University celebrated today with seven local community organizations during a virtual ceremony in which $90,000 in grants were given to the nonprofits through the University’s “Philanthropy and the Public Good” course and its ongoing partnership with the Fort Worth-based Philanthropy Lab.

This fall, funding for the course was provided by the Baylor/Waco Foundation led by the Solid Gold Neighbor Ambassador Council, composed of 25 local community members representing the five areas of focus of Baylor’s Solid Gold Neighbor community engagement initiative: economic development, health, education, cultural wealth and city growth. Additional funding was provided by Aramark and the Philanthropy Lab.

Following COVID-19 masking and physical distancing guidelines, students gathered in the Cox Reception Hall in Armstrong Browning Library, along with President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., to deliver the good news virtually to each nonprofit. The class of 16 students spent the semester evaluating nearly 50 nonprofit organizations, ultimately landing on the seven to fund:

    • Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, $5,000. The Advocacy Center is an umbrella nonprofit organization of programs that serve to bring about healing to children and adults who are victims of crime and to facilitate change to end violence through advocacy, collaboration and community awareness.
    • Care Net Pregnancy Center of Central Texas, $10,000. Care Net Pregnancy Center provides a caring, confidential atmosphere to discuss pregnancy options and sexual health while respecting each individual.
    • CASA of McLennan County, $15,000. CASA of McLennan County’s mission is to provide a trained volunteer, a Court-Appointed Special Advocate, for every abused and neglected child in the county so they may ultimately thrive in safe, nurturing and permanent homes.
    • Community Cancer Association, $8,500. The Community Cancer Association is a nonprofit in McLennan County that works with local cancer patients and their families to address some of the financial issues that occur as a result of their health condition.
    • Esther’s Closet, $25,000. Esther’s Closet is a self-sufficiency program to assist unemployed women in Waco, providing interview and workplace outfits as well as resume writing and equipping women and children to escape poverty.
    • Talitha Koum Institute, $21,700. Talitha Koum Institute is a mental health therapeutic nurture center, focusing on the brain development of at-risk children from infancy to 5 years old.
    • The Cove, $4,800. The Cove is a teen nurturing center designed to provide a safe space for students experiencing homelessness to access the resources they need to thrive.

The leadership of Esther’s Closet had been planning, preparing and partnering since last fall to hire a dedicated employee to oversee and help expand the program to include professional clothing and workforce initiatives. Last week, the nonprofit received the “tremendous news” of the $25,000 grant that will support a new employee and contribute to workforce development expansion, said Rachel Pate, vice president for economic development at Waco’s Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce.

“Our entire organization is beyond thrilled and grateful for the lasting impact this funding will have for our program, clients and community,” Pate said. “We are truly honored to be chosen and very thankful for all of the students, including our group of students Briana Cahill, Alexis Ngo and Austin Gould, who were committed to understanding and undergirding our community’s wonderful nonprofits, especially now.”

Real funds for real needs

Since fall 2014, a full-credit class of Baylor students has stewarded and given away nearly $800,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations. Through this transformational undergraduate experience, students provide real funds for real needs in communities while cultivating a philanthropic spirit and developing as innovative leaders poised for a lifetime of generosity. The fall 2020 class was taught by Jeremy Vickers, B.S.Ed. ’05, Ph.D., associate vice president of external affairs, and Holly Burchett, B.A. ’01, M.S., director of community relations at Baylor.

“Whether it’s Talitha Koum, Esther’s Closet or any of the other fantastic organizations, this class showed me firsthand the passion and ingenuity of the nonprofits who serve the Waco community,” said Austin Gould, a junior University Scholar from Jupiter, Florida. “Working with and learning from nonprofits has been a meaningful experience, and I will continue to be involved with nonprofits well after I graduate from Baylor.”

Senior Business Fellows Maggie Kravchuk of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Kendall Bergeron of Seattle, Washington, were deeply impressed by the passionate leadership and powerful missions of the organizations with whom they had the privilege to work over the past few months.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Vickers and Professor Burchett, our class learned to exercise discernment in the allocation of these grants as we came alongside of Baylor’s Solid Gold Neighbor Ambassador Council to honor our community,” Kravchuk said. “However, the impact of this course goes beyond the funding itself. The integration of financial stewardship and the upholding of Christian values will continue to influence me beyond my time at Baylor.”

“I have been challenged to think critically about the most impactful way to do the most good and to re-envision the impact of a single dollar,” Bergeron said. “I hope to continue building upon the work of this class, strengthening the habit of generosity that I want to cultivate throughout my lifetime.”

The students’ diligent assessment of nonprofits and their foresight when determining how to allocate funds for the greatest impact – while doing so remotely – impressed Benji Gomez, who serves as chair of the Solid Gold Neighbor Ambassador Council.

“The Council’s passion was definitely felt during the decision-making process; it was encouraging to know that, even during a virtual gathering, the intent to enhance the nonprofit community was palpable,” Gomez said. “Our world has certainly become unpredictable, but it was good to hold on to a necessary constant which is giving back to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. I think the chosen nonprofits will do just that with vigor.”

Encouraging thoughtful giving

The primary goal of The Philanthropy Lab is to ignite students’ interest and participation in philanthropy, encouraging thoughtful giving by providing funds to university philanthropy courses, with the goal of becoming self-sustaining, and enabling students to evaluate nonprofit organizations and award grants.

“Baylor University students are equipped to lead and make change in their personal and professional lives, and this course embodies that vision by demonstrating to the community our culture of compassion and service through these grants. We are blessed to give and hope that we create future givers in our students,” Vickers said.

Throughout the course, students were encouraged to consider how to be generous and strategic with their time, talent and treasure, Burchett said.

“As they explore healthy practices within nonprofits they also face a hands-on opportunity to put that learning into play as they grant funding along with select community members into our local organizations that are impacting our city,” she said. “Teaching this course is meaningful and fun.”

Started in 2011, The Philanthropy Lab and its donor partners have given more than $9 million to build philanthropy education at 29 universities across the United States. More than 3,115 students have participated in philanthropy courses affiliated with The Philanthropy Lab. Baylor was the 14th institution to join the program, alongside such current partners as Harvard, Northwestern University, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas at Austin.

Other universities that are part of The Philanthropy Lab are Abilene Christian University, Columbia, Dartmouth, Emory, Pepperdine, Rice, Texas A&M, Tulane, UC-Irvine, Notre Dame, Washington, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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