Get to know Amber Slichta, Vice President of Programs and Learning with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and Treasurer of the GIA Board of Directors.
Can you tell us about the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation and your role there?
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. I joined the Foundation in 2016 and currently serve as Vice President of Programs and Learning. By leading the Foundation’s learning efforts, I work to ensure informed decision-making and evaluation are incorporated into every facet of the Foundation's initiatives. I also oversee the development and execution of grantmaking strategies in two focus areas: Caregivers and Preparing for Success, the latter of which encompasses early childhood, afterschool, and support for young adults and working families.
What are your current funding priorities and where do you fund?
The Foundation’s focus on funding in Southeast Michigan and Western New York reflects the devotion of our namesake, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his beloved Buffalo Bills NFL team. The Caregiving focus area, in particular, holds a special place in my heart as Mr. Wilson himself was passionate about the importance of caregivers and their role in society. I deeply enjoy working to impact caregivers, where we focus exclusively on caregivers of older adults.
Are you working on any new initiatives within your focus areas?
We partner in both of our regions to co-fund an initiative, with several other GIA member foundations, called Exhale, which is dedicated to increasing respite opportunities for family caregivers of older adults. With the help of Lindsay Goldman, we are carving out a new track for Exhale called the Memory Café Collective. Here we aim to provide family caregivers the opportunity to enjoy public spaces with their loved ones who have dementia. We’re particularly excited that the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY is participating!
We’re excited to have the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation serve as our host sponsor for our annual conference in October. What are you most looking forward to as we convene in Detroit?
What I’m most looking forward to is working together with many Michigan foundations that are GIA members to support the GIA team in making this conference the best ever! Detroit has so much to offer from Motown to a world-class art gallery, fabulous culinary experiences and amazing philanthropy that is dedicated to keeping aging in the spotlight! We’re ready to share how wonderful the Motor City is!!
What about GIA’s mission really motivates you?
GIA’s mission is action-oriented— “funders mobilizing money and ideas,” specifically “to strengthen policies, programs, and resources for all of us as we age,” and recognizes we’re all aging every day. Given the shifting demographics toward an aging population in our country and much of the world, GIA's work to encourage and attract increased philanthropy is crucial, emphasizing that virtually every aspect of society is influenced by aging. I’m motivated every day to share this message and encourage funders to join GIA and those that are members to get the most out it!
We’re all aging personally, but how did you get involved in aging professionally?
My professional journey in aging began as a registered nurse where I saw, on a regular basis, how much can be offered to people as they age and how much can go wrong. During my 12-year tenure at the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York and now at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, I have the privilege of addressing challenges at the system level where one policy change or a scalable program can make a difference for thousands or even millions of people.
For some fun insight, can you share with us what you enjoy doing most when you’re not working?
Outside of work, my interests include cooking, travel, and fly fishing with my husband. I also adore our two canine companions, Winston and Gia. My mother and stepfather are in their late 70s and my mother and father-in-law are well into their 80s. All are completely independent, living at home, and amazing examples of aging well!
What are you currently reading or binge-watching?
I’m proud to say I have recently completed almost every book by Erik Larson. He brings key historical events together through powerful storytelling. The last book I read was In the Garden of the Beasts the story of Hitler’s Germany told through the experiences of William E. Dodd, ambassador to Germany from 1933-1937, and his daughter, Martha.