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Sparking Change in 2017: Announcing the Recipients of the Inaugural Spark Prize

Dear Friends,

With the dawn of a new year, I want to extend my deepest thanks for your partnership as we move forward in 2017.

In this time of great uncertainty and concern for our communities, so many of our neighbors are working together to help make Brooklyn a fair and just place for all who call it home. And while our challenges may be mounting, so too are our victories. 

Just last month, a few of our Board members stepped up to seed an Immigrant Rights Fund, which New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante highlighted among the reasons New Yorkers should be optimistic about the year ahead.

Right now, the Fund stands at over $700,000—I’m confident we will soon reach our $1 million goal to fuel the essential work of immigrant-serving, immigrant-led nonprofits across Brooklyn in the coming months and years. You can join us in supporting the Fund here.

Today, I’m pleased to share even more promising news: 
the recipients of our Spark Prize for Brooklyn nonprofits!

We created the Spark Prize to celebrate our borough’s thriving nonprofit sector by honoring five organizations each year with “no strings attached” grants of $100,000.

This year’s recipients were selected from a highly competitive pool of over 150 applicants by a distinguished committee of civic, business, and neighborhood leaders all hailing from Brooklyn. The Spark Prize Committee narrowed applications to 20 outstanding finalists, and then selected the five recipients following in person interviews with finalists.

Drumroll please…  


The five recipients of the inaugural Spark Prize are:

Audre Lorde Project

An inter-generational organizing center for LGBT people of color that promotes community wellness and progressive social and economic justice in New York City. Founded in Brooklyn in 1996, it works with over 8,000 members; its work includes creating safety models against police brutality and hate crimes, as well as training small businesses, community organizations, and neighborhood leaders on de-escalation and safety strategies.

Common Justice

A restorative justice program of the Vera Institute of Justice that works with responsible parties and those harmed by violent crime in Brooklyn. Founded in 2008, it is the first and only alternative to incarceration program for violent crimes in the adult courts in the United States. It works with 16 to 24-year-olds to address the criminal justice system’s over-reliance on incarceration, to halt cycles of violence, and to meet the needs of victims of crime. To date, fewer than 8% of its participants have been terminated from the program for committing a new crime.

Make the Road New York

An immigrant-led organization that develops grassroots leadership to mobilize Latino and working class communities. MRNY provides legal services, education, and employment access to achieve policy change and is dedicated to building community power and racial equity in Bushwick, where it was founded in 1997. MRNY now has over 20,000 members and 200 staff working across New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.


A “museum without walls” that serves the African Diasporan community through art exhibitions, education, and community programs to promote African diasporan art, racial equity, and social justice in Brooklyn. Founded in 1999, this year the museum is expanding from 2,000 sq. ft. to a new 20,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Fort Greene.

Neighbors Together

A dynamic soup kitchen, social service provider, and community center committed to ending hunger and poverty in Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and Bedford-Stuyvesant since 1982. Neighbors Together provides empowerment and community action programming to organize community members to advocate for policy change, in addition to serving 80,000 meals annually out of its community café.

Learn more at


As Brooklyn’s community foundation, we are honored to shine a spotlight on these five outstanding organizations that stand for and build equity and strength in Brooklyn’s communities. 

Please join us in honoring these outstanding organizations at the Spark Prize Celebration breakfast on Thursday, February 16th, where we will also pay tribute to Robert Catell, founding Board Member of Brooklyn Community Foundation, Former U.S. Chairman of National Grid, and Brooklyn native, whose generosity and commitment to giving back has “sparked” change in our borough and beyond for decades.

The Spark Prize is made possible with the generous support of our lead sponsor TD Bank, as well as National Grid and the Brooklyn Nets Foundation, and our partners at the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

Lastly, I want to extend heartfelt thanks to Brooklyn’s nonprofit community for all of the outstanding work you do each and every day for our residents and neighborhoods. May your 2017 be filled with resistance and love, and may our communities grow even stronger because we stand together.

Yours sincerely,

Cecilia C. Clarke
President and CEO

As Brooklyn’s community foundation, we are honored to shine a spotlight on these five outstanding organizations that stand for and build equity and strength in Brooklyn’s communities.