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Meet Lynda Parmely & the Hagedorn Foundation

Lynda ParmelyLynda Parmely knows that she’s only got a certain amount of time to “plant seeds” of change for parents and families in Long Island.

As a Program Director for the Hagedorn Foundation (HF) – a family foundation operating on a “spend down” with plans to end their work in eight years – the finite time frame offers her more determination in her role, confident that those “seeds will eventually start to blossom.”

Right now, her focus is to build capacity for parents and caregivers so their voices are “heard at the table,” with the eventual goal of preparing them to affect policy. But the process isn’t a simple one, as Parmely works to coordinate the various avenues that connect with parents in Long Island.

Along with immigrant issues, one of HF’s focus areas is around the health and welfare of children, working to promote the idea that parents and other community supports play a primary role in advocacy. Parmely came to the foundation with a background in social justice and grassroots organizing, so she’s using that experience to encourage parents to get engaged through the organizations that serve them. She hopes to eventually develop a group of parent advocates “who can look at the issues and communicate at the local, state, and national level.”

She found at first “there was resistance” on the part of some non profits to the idea of organizing parents. Parmely says that many non profits argued that it is difficult, for different reasons, to organize parents – or that the nonprofit’s role itself is to “advocate on their behalf.” Parmely believes it is important to have the parent’s voice at the table, not just the ED of an organization that supports parents.

She also saw that many non profits preferred foundation dollars to be used in developing statistics around issues of children, in order to substantiate the need for policies that support healthy children and families. While she agrees this is important, she argues that the investment in a strong parent base really can’t wait for the numbers “because building the leadership and reinforcing it takes time.”

Parmely is encouraging Long Island non profits to shift their work in ways that reach out more directly to parents, funding leadership development programs and organizational capacity building. She hopes to incorporate grassroots grants as her work evolves, and currently the HF’s work on immigration incorporates this strategy

Grassroots Grantmakers is pleased to welcome the Lynda and her colleagues at the Hagerdorn Foundation to our network of place-based funders.

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