Meadows Foundation marks 75 years

The Meadows Foundation, a private family foundation striving to improve the quality and circumstances of Texans’ lives is celebrating 75 years.

Headed by President and CEO Peter Miller since 2020, The Meadows Foundation serves all 254 Texas counties.

Over 75 years, the Foundation has provided $1.36 billion through more than 10,000 grants to 3,700 different organizations and groups throughout the state.

In Odessa-Midland, it has provided approximately $8.7 million through 132 grants benefiting 82 organizations.

The foundation was formed by Algur and Virginia Meadows. Algur Meadows was Miller’s great uncle. Miller has been on the board two different times for four years each and was then appointed president and CEO in January of 2020.

“We’re blessed that we don’t have to fundraise. Algur and Virginia Meadows started this foundation 75 years ago. When he passed away, he left the bulk of his fortune to the Foundation, so we’re a family foundation,” Miller said in a phone interview.

“We were fortunate that during the pandemic 50 percent of our grant making went to COVID-related grants, which again, we’re fortunate that we have an open platform. Our only restriction was we could only grant money in the state of Texas. That was because Al and Virginia felt that they had made their money in Texas and they wanted to give back to Texas, so we’re a foundation in perpetuity and our sole purpose is to serve the people of Texas,” he added.

Grant requests can be submitted online.

“If you’re in rural Texas and don’t have access to internet, we have workarounds, but it’s done online,” Miller said.

The Foundation’s areas of focus are arts and culture, civic and public affairs, education, environment, health, and human services.

“We don’t have to stick to those different areas, but those are the areas we focus on,” Miller said.

He noted that their grant requests are up more than 40 percent year over year.

“Government funding is starting to dry up from COVID. Donors were very generous during COVID. Now that COVID has turned endemic, it’s not quite as robust. The number people are using is donations are down somewhere around 12 percent in ’22-23, so there’s a lot more requests that are coming through our system than we’ve seen — ever,” Miller said.

During COVID, 50 percent of the Foundation’s grants went to things like food banks, healthcare and healthcare workers.

The Foundation still kept its core initiatives funding education, the environment and mental health.

“Certainly as we’re coming out of COVID, mental health has become front and center — whether … it’s young children, or it’s the elderly, or just everybody,” Miller said.

“When we started our mental health initiative 10 years ago, it’s called The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, people really didn’t talk about mental health. It was kind of a stigma. I think pretty much every family has a relative who has mental health issues. Today, people do talk about it. There’s a big need coming out of COVID for help and the 88th Texas Legislature delivered a record $11.6 billion for behavioral health,” he added.

Asked about new objectives and initiatives in its 75th year, Miller said their goal is to serve the people of Texas, be innovative, be responsive to changing needs and ensure the perpetuity of the Foundation.

“We do basic grants, but we also try and be innovative in how we look at things so mental health would be one example; education is another,” he said.

Rural broadband is another initiative.

“There’s a collaborative of funders that got together to help with complex issues such as rural broadband access, mental health access,” Miller said.

In Odessa, they helped with the Angel House for the Crisis Center of West Texas.

“We have committed to being innovative in how we look at things; be strategic. It is a good point in time; 75 years is a long time and part of my job was to set up the Foundation for the next 75 years. I think we’re in very good shape and continue to do great work … We’ve got plenty of work to do in the areas that we’re focused on,” Miller said.

Water is another aspect of the Foundation’s work.

“The forecast is that from 2020 to 2070, the population of Texas is going to go up 70 percent, so we need water. We need to do a better job of educating folks, so we’re really focused on post secondary credentials and educator prep, which is to produce quality teachers. … Statistics show that if you have a … high-performing teacher, it increases student learning by 50 percent or more,” Miller said.

He noted that people often think the Foundation is only focused on the large cities.

“Because we don’t raise money, we don’t do a lot of self-promotion. It’s more about humility than it is about anything else. We’re quiet, but we are in Odessa; we are in Midland and El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley and all over the place,” he added.

Previously a financial services executive, Miller said he saw wealthy families get torn up over money.

“It’s a blessing for me to be in this position. My entire family is blessed that Al and Virginia set this up and that it’s survived through 75 years,” he said.