By Mark Price
Courtesy of The Charlotte Observer

It’s a big deal when a local foundation unveils $4.6 million in grants all at once, but the Wells Fargo Foundation did it Saturday with an unexpected twist.

Using a place-based approach – “geo-targeting” – the bank’s charitable arm announced it would focus more than a quarter of the money on a slice of the city.

The intent is to spark broad community support for revitalizing the West Boulevard Corridor from Remount Road to the Billy Graham Parkway. The area has a long list of economic, social and educational needs.

Thirteen nonprofits will share $1.4 million for West Boulevard-oriented programs that help children, homeowners, elderly, the unemployed and women who have been abused.

The money represents a concentrated dose of cash intended to be used this year, officials said.

Geo-targeting is becoming a trend around the nation based on the belief that troubled communities won’t rebound based on projects that focus on only one issue, no matter how well funded they are.

“An intervention in health, or housing or education will only go so far,” said Tamara Lucas Copeland of Washington Grantmakers, based in Washington, D.C. “This approach is about realizing they are all connected.”

Wells Fargo Foundation officials say the rest of Saturday’s $4.6 million gift is being spread more traditionally, among nonprofits in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties for community development, education, health and arts programs.

Charity experts and city officials say the bank’s approach along West Boulevard is a first for Charlotte.

The closest the city has come is Project LIFT – a $55 million education enhancement project aimed at West Charlotte High school and the middle and elementary schools that feed into it.

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