A Look Back, Part 8: Realizing a Fundholder’s Wish

George & Yvonne Alkemade
George & Yvonne Alkemade

Like all community foundations, CFNJ maintains its commitment and loyalty to its individual fundholders, many of whom seek to make an important difference in the community, but need a trusted partner to help realize their philanthropic goals.

In 1996, the Alkemade Fund was established at CFNJ under the estate of George and Yvonne Alkemade. Its overall goal was to provide assistance to people with poor vision. The Alkemades could have easily willed those dollars to any number of worthwhile nonprofit organizations that specialize in eye care, and those gifts certainly would have made a difference in the community. But with CFNJ’s partnership model and commitment to long-term, positive change, the dollars have been leveraged even more effectively over time.

CFNJ partnered with Helen Keller International (HKI), one of the leading blindness prevention organizations, to bring their ChildSight program to middle school students in Jersey City and Passaic.

Child with glasses
A child receives a new pair of glasses and a new outlook on the world.

According to HKI, in the United States, two million children every year have uncorrected refractive errors. These problems often go undiagnosed due to high cost and limited access, and result in many children being held back from their full potential.

The ChildSight program addresses this by “[serving] at-risk children living in urban and rural poverty by offering free vision screenings and eyeglasses ‘to bring education into focus.’”

In Jersey City and Passaic alone, ChildSight has distributed tens of thousands of eyeglasses to middle school students, thanks to the Alkemade Fund grant. Students who receive the eyeglasses show a marked improvement in academic achievement as well as behavior and overall health.

More recently, the Alkemade Fund has supported arts and music lessons for vision-impaired students of the Newark School of the Arts.