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Foundation empties coffers to fund Black paper in Baltimore

In a rare move for philanthropy, Adam Holofcener and his family emptied their foundation’s coffers and gave $1 million — nearly all the money it had left to give — to support Lisa Snowden-McCray’s dream: a free newspaper staffed by Black editors and writers in Baltimore to provide news primarily for the city’s Black residents.

Snowden-McCray, a journalist who worked at the city’s major daily, the Sun, and the now-shuttered alternative weekly, the Baltimore City Paper, knew Holofcener, a lawyer-activist who represented artists, from the progressive orbit they both inhabited.

She and Brandon Soderberg, a former Baltimore City paper editor, had tried to launch a new paper, the Baltimore Beat, but the publishing company that supported it pulled the plug. In 2020, Holofcener casually asked the two if they had any plans to resuscitate the publication.

After some more conversation, he surprised the two with an offer. The foundation, which he says had been making a “hodge-podge” of unfocused grants for decades, would essentially go out of business after giving the Beat $1 million.

“I knew he was a nice guy,I didn’t know he had access to a million dollars. The money was a complete shock to me.”

Snowden-McCray says.

His family’s Lillian Holofcener Charitable Foundation joins a growing number of grantmakers that have put time limits on their existence so they can direct more money immediately to charities.

Not only did the Holofcener foundation decide to give away just about every cent it had but Adam Holofcener, 36, and the other relatives on the board did something even more rare by dedicating almost all of its remaining assets to a single project.

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Written by Aliyah Collins