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Originally published Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Two Seattle-based foundations lead in difficult times

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are helping the region and a troubled world through difficult times.

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The generosity of neighbors has sustained families and communities through difficult times for centuries. We in the Northwest are most fortunate to benefit from that social spirit on an epic scale.

Two family-centered, Seattle-based foundations continue to help this region, and large swaths of the planet, sustain themselves and find the strength to look ahead.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the co-founders of Microsoft, enriched society with ideas, technology and employment. Their commitment to share their economic bounty with others has been equally extraordinary.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were both in the news. Their presence is always felt, even when they are not in the spotlight.

The Allen charity announced $2.5 million in grants to Northwest organizations that support arts programs, help maintain food banks and promote employment programs. The 38 recipients include 24 nonprofits in Washington, eight in Oregon, three in Idaho, two in Montana and one in Alaska.

Annual giving by the Allen foundation, between 1990 and 2010, topped $428 million. The grants announced Wednesday keep that tally growing.

The Gates Foundation announced last week that it gave away $2.5 billion in 2010. Times reporter Kristi Heim explained how the growing organization is working hard to maintain productive connections with the programs and people it endows.

Consider the durable term span of control which in military and business settings is a measure of one's capacity to oversee and manage people and projects. The Gates Foundation operates, well, virtually everywhere.

In July the foundation provided money to people in Yakima County to provide mentoring and case management for young people in gangs. Earlier this year, the foundation gave $10 million to support a Washington center with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.

For 2011 the foundation has brought its global influence to bear on vaccines, especially for polio, while still leading efforts on HIV/AIDS, malaria, agriculture and education. Challenges to test the capacity of any organization, no matter how well-intended and generous.

Seattle and the world are the beneficiaries of two strong neighbors.

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