Kresge Foundation celebrates 100 years; partners with Detroit Historical Museum, Urban Consulate

What’s happening: One of the country’s oldest and largest private philanthropies is celebrating its centennial, and it’ll be doing so in the city where it all started 100 years ago. The Kresge Foundation has announced a year-long celebration of its 100th anniversary with a series of events, activations, and more taking place throughout Detroit in 2024.

What it is: The Kresge Foundation was founded in Detroit in 1924 by Sebastian Spering Kresge, founder of the S.S. Kresge retail company that helped to shape commerce in 20th century America, both early in the century with the Kresge five-and-dime stores and later with the iconic Kmart brand. The Foundation’s primary focuses include expanding opportunity for low-income residents of U.S. cities by way of grantmaking and social investing.

Bona fides: The foundation itself is now headquartered in suburban Troy, but Detroit remains a priority – though Kresge routinely invests in projects nationwide and even abroad. But of the $5.1 billion in total grants awarded since its founding, more than $1 billion has been invested in the city of Detroit. Just one such example includes the Detroit RiverWalk and Dequindre Cut projects, which received more than $51.6 million in Kresge Foundation grants between 2002 and 2016.

What’s planned: The Kresge Foundation and the Detroit Historical Society are partnering on a special educational exhibit about the foundation, opening at the Detroit Historical Museum on May 4 and running through January 2025. The foundation will also support renovations of the Kresge five-and-dime store replica that’s part of the museum’s permanent “Streets of Old Detroit” exhibit. Other plans so far announced include a discussion series examining innovative approaches to community development locally and nationwide, a Detroit-based speaker series in collaboration with the Urban Consulate, refreshed and centennial-specific branding, and more.

Additional plans and updates will be available via the Kresge centennial page on its website.

What they’re saying: “Our centennial year will not only commemorate the Kresge Foundation’s arc of accomplishment since its establishment in 1924, but also afford an opportunity to reflect on our future trajectory and impact – on Detroit, on the nation and on the practices of philanthropy,” says Kresge President and CEO Rip Rapson. “We build on the shoulders of our founder Sebastian S. Kresge, who created the S.S. Kresge Company retail chain and who dedicated his generosity in endowing the foundation to making the world a better place. He would, I believe, take deep pride in both what the foundation has accomplished and how it is positioned to fulfill his mission long into the future.”

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.