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Heaven Hill to invest $800K in California nonprofits and infrastructure

Heaven Hill's Bernheim distillery in Louisville's California neighborhood
Heaven Hill Brands
/
LPM
Heaven Hill's Bernheim distillery in Louisville's California neighborhood

The $800K investment from Heaven Hill, a locally owned bourbon brand, will be split between local nonprofits, sewer infrastructure improvements and more trees and shrubs.

Heaven Hill announced an $800,000 investment Friday in Louisville’s California neighborhood. The funds will be split between long-term nonprofit partners, a new grant program, the Metropolitan Sewer District and a beautification plan.

The company has operated a distillery in California since 1999. The new investment is focused on organizations that support the community’s mental health, economic development and education.

Heaven Hill co-president Allan Latts announced the company would work with five partners: food justice nonprofit Change Today Change Tomorrow, the community center Neighborhood House, workforce training program AMPED, education and job training programs at the Louisville Central Community Center and the West End School. Each will receive $50,000 over the next five years.

Kevin Fields, CEO and president of the Louisville Central Community Centers, said he hopes other corporations in Louisville will follow Heaven Hill’s example by focusing on long-term commitments instead of one-off investments.

“Now’s the time. One would say it’s a long time coming but now is the time,” Fields said. “Five years is a great demonstration period. As we demonstrate what impact can be made with this support over five years, then we know more [funding] is to come.”

AMPED Founder and Executive Director Dave Christopher Sr. said he has been frustrated in the past with short-term commitments with too little money to make lasting change in the community — amounts he said were “just enough to fail.”

“[These problems] didn't happen just yesterday, it is not going to be fixed tomorrow. It's going to take a lot of partnerships like this,” Christopher said. “You don't want us to continuously have our hands out asking you for help. What you want to do is pick organizations to give them enough to for them to become self-sustaining, so they can continue to do the work.”

Dave Christopher Sr., the founder and executive director of AMPED, accepts a $50,000 investment from Heaven Hill.
Zach Sinclair
/
LPM
Dave Christopher Sr., the founder and executive director of AMPED, accepts a $50,000 investment from Heaven Hill.

Heaven Hill is also establishing a formalized grant program, which will distribute $250,000 to programs and organizations working towards improving the California neighborhood. Descendants of the California Neighborhood was the first recipient of the smaller grant program. While the grant amount isn’t finalized, a spokesperson for Heaven Hill said the amount will likely be around $10,000 for the first year.

“They are really wanting to bring the neighborhood back, wanting to help us bring the neighborhood back up until its built back to better than it used to be,” said Mary Hall, the founder of the Descendants of the California Neighborhood.

Another $300,000 will go to much-needed repairs of California’s sewer systems and “beautification efforts.” Metropolitan Sewer District Executive Director James Parrott said they are investing $16.5 million to rehabilitate a 150-year-old sewer pipe under Maple Street and replace 76 catch basins in west Louisville. Parrott said the repairs will improve odor pollution in the area, especially during hot, dry weather.

The bourbon brand also plans to plant new trees and shrubs along roadsides and at Perry Elementary, just a couple blocks from the Heaven Hill Bernheim distillery.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said he hoped other brands would be inspired to make similar commitments to the neighborhoods they operate in.

“We need more public-private partnerships like this, to help support our local nonprofit organizations and help support the neighborhoods that have been overlooked for far too long,” Greenberg said. “We don't have any time to waste.”

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.

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