Jenifer Altman and Her Foundation: A Brief History
Jenifer Altman was an environmentalist, a photographer, and a dancer. She lived in a beautiful loft in Tribeca, in lower Manhattan, before it became fashionable. Jenifer cared about children and about justice. She came to Commonweal with a life-threatening cancer to participate in the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. The experience changed Jenifer’s life.
Jenifer stayed in Bolinas to work at Commonweal as a Senior Research Associate. She studied integrative cancer therapies. She practiced healing through the expressive arts. Jenifer died in Bolinas in her home overlooking the Pacific Ocean on November 15, 1991, surrounded by friends. We had just celebrated her fiftieth birthday.
As Jenifer was dying, she asked me to help her start a foundation that would support Commonweal -- and contribute to other good work in the world. We created the Jenifer Altman Foundation before her death.
Jenifer died before her time. So have hundreds of other young women who have come on the Cancer Help Program since 1986. Cancer is epidemic in our time. So are many environmentally-mediated diseases – heart disease, learning disabilities, autism, infertility, birth defects, neurodegenerative diseases, and much more.
Commonweal’s mission is to heal ourselves and heal the earth. For twenty years, the Jenifer Altman Foundation has supported Commonweal’s work in healing, in learning, in caring for the earth, and in the pursuit of justice. But we have gone far beyond supporting Commonweal. We co-created the Health and Environmental Funders Network. We co-created the Gulf Coast Fund after Katrina. And we have worked with a select handful of funding partners to support the global movement for environmental health and justice.
Kindness and collaboration are core values for us. Kindness comes from the heart. Collaboration recognizes that we are all in this together. The Jenifer Altman Foundation is small. Yet Jenifer’s vision allowed us to collect seeds of the heart and to share them with others. Through collaboration, we have pursued Jenifer’s work of the heart for twenty years. We’re not done yet.