Four months after the death of billionaire philanthropist Harry Weinberg, four Baltimore institutions are slated to receive the initial benefits of his magnificent bequest. All are pilot projects for the Weinberg Foundation, the largest in the nation dedicated strictly to help poor people, as the trustees gather experience for later undertakings here and in the rest of the country.
A $944,000 grant to the Bais Yaakov School for Girls, a project approved by Mr. Weinberg before his passing, will wipe out that Jewish institution's existing mortgage. As such it will lower operating expenses by about 4 percent, a needed boost at a time of financial stress for all religious schools.
Meals on Wheels is due to receive $500,000, a sum that will seal the success of its $1,850,000 drive to build a central kitchen facility in an old Acme supermarket structure on South Haven Street. The central kitchen will consolidate cooking operations now scattered in 13 different locations. As with the Bais Yaakov gift, the bequest to Meals on Wheels is the largest it has ever received.
St. Agnes Hospital, which many times provided free care to the Weinberg family when Harry was growing up poor in Southwest Baltimore, is due to get $250,000 to renovate and expand the hospital's Emergency and Chest Pain Services center.
The final grant of $75,000 in this initial batch will go to the Salvation Army for the rehabilitation of its shelter for homeless women and children on North Calvert Street. Once again, the emphasis by trustees William Weinberg, Nathan Weinberg and Bernard Siegel is on a one-shot, leveraged building project rather than on-going operating expenses.
That these first four grants are going to a Jewish, a Catholic, a Protestant and a secular organization may be coincidental, but it suggests some of the potential sweep of the huge Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. One-quarter of its giving is destined for Jewish charities, one-quarter to non-Jewish charities and the rest to charities in general. Assistance for Russian Jews migrating to Israel, where a serious housing shortage exists, is definitely in the cards. In addition, the trustees will be watching how pilot grants work out in Honolulu, Scranton and hometown Baltimore, the three cities Mr. Weinberg knew best.
While Baltimoreans may have had an exaggerated idea about how much of the Weinberg funds would be coming to this region, they surely should be able to count on a goodly share. Harry Weinberg, we believe, would have wanted it that way.