Funding offered for work to aid poor Soros group seeks fellowship applicants

November 22, 1997|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

If you have a practical plan to help the poor in Baltimore, billionaire George Soros may have a $48,750 fellowship for you.

The first initiative of his Open Society Institute -- Baltimore since he announced plans in August to spend $25 million here will award about 10 "community fellowships" for work "in service to disadvantaged communities" in the city.

The 18-month fellowships will begin in June or July and are renewable for 18 months. The total dollar value of the commitment, with renewals, is about $1 million.

Applicants need not live in Baltimore, but their work must be in the city. They may apply to work at a specific organization for which they they don't work now or they may start a project.

"This is for people starting out, people who may want to change jobs or careers or people who have retired," said Francine L. Miller, administrative assistant to Diana L. Morris, the institute's director. "The work is up to them, but the bottom line is helping a disadvantaged community."

Soros says he wants "to see what difference we can make" in Baltimore.

Morris had said earlier, "Soros is an entrepreneur; he's interested in results."

Interest in applying may be keen. Sixty people inquired this week about the grants within days after the announcement was mailed to nonprofit groups, foundations, hospitals, universities, the bTC mayor's office, the legal community and others.

A one-page initial application form includes the program's goals:

"To encourage public and community service careers, expand the number of mentors and role models available to youth in inner-city neighborhoods and promote initiatives and entrepreneurship that will empower those communities to increase opportunity and improve the quality of life there."

Miller said the choice of projects is "a very wide-open subject," from something new started by an individual to something done with an organization.

She says anything goes "as long as there's a need for the project, the disadvantaged community can get involved in it, and there's some long-term sustainability."

She said the Open Society had awarded other fellowships in this country and in Europe and "believes in fellowships as a way to get new ideas and get people interested."

A similar program was announced a week ago for New York City by the older Open Society Institute -- New York.

Up to 20 fellowships are planned, about 10 for each city. The quality of applicants' proposals may mean one city gets more than 10 and the other fewer.

Morris and others will soon pick a Baltimore board of eight to 10 directors, including an employee from the New York institute. A fellowship director will also be named.

The board will select the fellowship winners. It will also decide other local projects to be funded by the $25 million over five years. The $1 million for the fellowships is the first sum allocated from the Baltimore grant.

A Baltimore office will open soon.

Applicants should send a resume and 600 to 800 words about their project and goals to the institute here by Jan. 9. The board will screen applications, ask some applicants to send more material, interview finalists and decide on winners.

The five-year Baltimore effort of financier and philanthropist Soros, 67, is expected to develop projects to fight drug abuse, joblessness, lack of education and other problems.

His foundations and Open Society Institute have committed about $1.5 billion to promote democracy and better living conditions in the world, mainly in the former Soviet bloc. Last month, he pledged $500 million over three years to improve health care, education and job opportunities in Russia.

Soros of Southampton, N.Y., is U.S. citizen whose Hungarian Jewish family, using false identification, survived the Nazi occupation of Budapest during World War II. He came to this country in 1956, became an arbitrage trader, speculated on financial markets and accumulated millions and then billions of dollars. He began his philanthropy in Russia in 1987.

For information and forms, call 410-234-1091 or write Fellowship Director, Open Society Institute -- Baltimore, Community Fellowship Program, P.O. Box 529, Brooklandville 21022-0529.

Pub Date: 11/22/97

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