LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A major investment will pour money into five west Louisville-based organizations that would impact educational opportunities from early childhood through adult learning.
The Brown-Forman Foundation announced the $50 million donation on Tuesday, and it includes a commitment to help the organizations increase their reach in the community.
They include AMPED and the Louisville Urban League receiving $5 million; Louisville Central Community Center and Simmons College receiving $10 million and the West End School receiving $20 million.
It’s something West End School Board Chair Dan Hall said would expand their reach, allowing them to open their doors to girls for the first time in their history.
“They are more than just investments in our school, they are investments in the lives and future of our precious students,” he said.
AMPED founder and director Dave Christopher said he couldn't believe his ears when he was first told.
"I just started crying because what hit me in that moment was the confidence they said they had in me and what we could do with that money,” Christopher said.
He said the pandemic opened people’s eyes to the reality many Black-led organizations face.
“The pandemic allowed us to see how ugly we had gotten and all the wrongs that were there,” Christopher said. “All those things existed for Black folks way before the pandemic. It was like a spotlight was put on it when the pandemic happened.”
The call out for decades from west Louisville has been loud and clear; there was no meaningful investment for years and a lack of basic services.
A few investments announced in recent years include the Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Center, the Opportunity Campus, also sponsored by Norton and Goodwill, new JCPS schools and the Kentucky legislature just announced 10 million for the Waterfront Park west expansion.
Lamont Collins, founder of Roots 101 African American History Museum, agrees with Christopher. He said the past two years have opened people's eyes to inequality and Collins said this is another step in the right direction, but he raised a question.
"Is it enough? We know how long the West End community has been neglected,” Collins said. “The question is, as beautiful as the number is, can it do what needs to be done in the community it is serving?"
Collins said all of the organizations have done a great job providing resources to the West End and he's hopeful this donation will serve as a catalyst for other non-profits to receive funding.
"Other Black-led non-profits, we just have to continue to do what we do, understand that it's a small pie at the table and you just have to be at the table for people to understand that you're deserving of what you get,” Collins said.
The $50 million investment is Brown-Forman Foundations largest since it was created in 2018.
“We see you and we want to acknowledge that this work matters, and you matter," Ralph De Chabert, president of the foundation and VP of Brown-Forman said.
Lawson Whiting, CEO of Brown-Forman Corporation and director of Brown-Forman said the donation will have a “transformative impact” in the community they’ve called home for more than 150 years.
“We believe that quality education, from cradle to career, is critical to lifelong success and helps ensure a brighter future for generations to come,” he said. “Today’s announcement is another step on that journey and our commitment to positive, long-term change here in Louisville.
The investment will fund programs over the next 10 years.