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Jeff Webster is proud of the transition the Excellerate Foundation has made in the past few years in redefining how it helps address problems in northwest Arkansas.
The charitable organization, formerly known as the Endeavor Foundation, was created by the sale of Springdale Memorial Hospital and Bates Memorial Hospital in 1998. To date, it has donated more than $110 million to causes in northwest Arkansas.
A few years ago, the foundation decided to change things up. Rather than operate as a traditional charity foundation, writing grants to worthy applicants, the Excellerate Foundation changed its name and decided to take a more active role in the hard work.
“The issues are here and they’re coming faster and we need to go faster,” said Webster, the president and CEO of the Excellerate Foundation.
Examples include a $40 million fund the foundation helped put together for low-income housing and Upskill NWA, a $3 million investment made in partnership with the Walton Family Foundation to retrain workers for high-demand industries.
“We changed from a classic grant-making foundation to help other nonprofits; yes, we still do that,” Webster said. “We are far more of an operating foundation now. We drive a lot of the major initiatives within northwest Arkansas.”
The foundation’s work is aimed at helping people who are considered asset-limited, income-constrained and employed (ALICE). Webster said that group in northwest Arkansas consisted of households that make between $20,000 and $65,000 annually.
Excellerate operates Hark in partnership with the United Way so that when someone in northwest Arkansas dials 211 for social services, he or she is immediately connected with operators at the foundation. The service helps connect those in need with help but also creates data that helps other nonprofits better understand the needs of the region.
“We’ve helped, in the last two years, probably 15,000 people get connected to resources around food, around housing, around legal help — you name it,” Webster said. “It helps us peel the onion and really get to what is the person really needing? We build a comprehensive plan for them and follow up with them. It’s our listening device for what are the big needs out there in the community.”