The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation’s Board of Directors has promoted its three program officers to Program Directors. Millie Buchanan, who joined the Foundation in 1994, is now the Program Director for Environmental Justice. Wilma Montañez, with the Foundation since 1996, is the Program Director for Reproductive Rights. Kolu Zigbi, who started at Noyes in 2000, is the Program Director for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems and also for EAT4Health, a new multi-funder partnership initiated by Noyes.
The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, established in 1947, supports grassroots organizations and movements in the United States working to change environmental, social, economic, and political conditions to bring about a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.
“The changes grew out of our strategic planning work, during which our program staff was instrumental in crafting new vision and mission statements and a clear theory of change,” said Victor De Luca, the Foundation’s President. “We made the change in titles as recognition of the long-term leadership the three have provided in their respective fields. Through formal and informal networks of funders and relationships with other grantmakers, the Noyes Program Directors promote our values and strategies, helping to magnify the Foundation’s impact. The promotions also properly reflect the authority each has in managing her grants budget and grantee portfolio.”
Millie Buchanan came to the Noyes Foundation in August 1994 after directing a statewide nonprofit environmental organization, the Clean Water Fund of North Carolina, a former Noyes grantee. She was a member of the Management Board of the Environmental Grantmakers Association for three years, serving as Chair in 1998. Before entering the nonprofit world, Buchanan was City Editor for an eastern North Carolina daily newspaper and had lived all her life in the South. After nine years as a Manhattan resident, she moved back to her Asheville, NC, mountain home in late 2002, where she continues to work for the Foundation.
Wilma Montañez joined the Noyes Foundation in 1996 as their Reproductive Rights Program Officer. She has worked in the field of Reproductive Health and Rights since 1974. Her work has focused on women’s health issues in culturally diverse communities across the nation with a focus on community and legislative education, policy development and reform, advocacy, and community-based leadership development concerning health and reproductive rights issues, particularly for women of color and youth. Montañez has also administered women’s health clinics in New York City and in California, she was a trainer on a national CDC-funded HIV/AIDS risk reduction project, and has been involved with the development and implementation of various domestic and international community health education and cultural competency projects.
Over the past decade as a philanthropist, Montañez has served on the board of the Women’s Funding Network, Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health and Rights, and Women and Philanthropy. Montañez’s honors include the California Public Health Association’s Community Leadership Award, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund’s Latina Empowerment Award, and the New York Women’s Foundation Helen Hunt Neighborhood Leadership Award, and she is a Rockwood Yearlong Leadership Fellow. Her professional and personal experience as a Latina involved in the women’s and the reproductive rights and justice movements—locally and nationally—for over thirty years provides a unique and broad perspective necessary to strengthen funder and grantee efforts and effectiveness in strengthening social justice activism.
Kolu Zigbi joined the Noyes Foundation in 2000 and is responsible for grants to bring about a more ecologically sustainable and socially just agriculture and food system. Zigbi has organized several programs for Philanthropy New York and is an active member of its Increasing Diversity in Philanthropy Committee. She is also a member of Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders, which she previously co-chaired, as well as the Environmental Grantmakers Association. She serves on the Leadership Committee of New York Blacks in Philanthropy and is part of the Steering Committee for a new affinity group she helped organize with the North Star Fund called Community Food Funders.
Zigbi is an innovative grantmaker dedicated to supporting the agency of affected people. Through a three-year partnership she developed between the Noyes and Kellogg foundations she helped build the advocacy capacity of ten people-of-color-led organizations addressing a wide range of food policy issues. Recently, she has developed and manages a new multi-funder partnership called EAT4Health to bring to the Washington policymaking table people of color and low-income communities who are normally excluded from national food and health policy debates. Zigbi also co-teaches a course on “Food Justice” for Just Food’s Farm School, which is entering its second year.