In my 15 years with the Walton Family Foundation, we’ve taken steps toward the vision that Sam and Helen Walton inspired – each year moving forward with greater urgency, but measured patience. The urgency to create immediate individual opportunity – for the kindergartener who needs and deserves a good school now, or for the fisherman whose livelihood depends on a healthy fish population today – and the patience to stay involved over decades to ensure broad opportunity for generations to come.
In 2015, our grantmaking totaled nearly $375 million, and we are poised to invest $2 billion over the next five years.
I’ve watched the work of our grantees change lives and communities for the better. Sleepy downtowns have become vibrant hearts of active cities. I’ve witnessed the preservation of entire ecosystems, while the livelihoods of people and communities were protected. And countless children have been given a greater chance to succeed in life because their families had access to high-quality educational options.
All of this was possible because the foundation staff and our board were eager to think — and act — big. I am humbled and proud of the work we’ve accomplished, but I know there is room to do more.
In our K-12 education program, we hold fast to our belief that access to a high-quality education can lead to a lifetime of opportunity and can be a path out of poverty. We know that good schools alone aren’t enough; to truly make a difference, we need to cultivate leaders who embrace quality, communities that press for change and public policies that foster greatness in schools and classrooms.
In our environment program, by creating local economic incentives through the preservation of oceans, rivers and coasts, public and private partners are working together to develop long-term solutions that will benefit communities for generations to come.
The Walton family believes strongly in giving back to its home region, and that’s never been more evident than now. In the Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi, we increased after-school programming, and in Northwest Arkansas, we are supporting a new independent school, and we launched an initiative to elevate architectural and landscape design for public buildings and spaces — all of which will make our corner of the world a better place for residents today and those of tomorrow.
The children and grandchildren of Sam and Helen Walton who lead the foundation today have embraced and built upon their values and vision, and they continue carrying forward their legacy. We have set an ambitious course for the future that’s built upon the strength of our past, and I’m optimistic about what’s ahead.
Buddy D. Philpot