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Fund created in memory of Flint educator will support racial equality


Nat Burtley was Flint Schools' first black superintendent, from 1987-1994, then briefly retired. (Date shot: 1/18/2008) (The Flint Journal / Jane Hale)The Flint Journal

By Winter Keefer |

FLINT, MI -- A fund to increase racial equity and support the education and development of diverse leaders has been set up in memory of Flint Community Schools’ first black superintendent.

Nathel Burtley died of COVID-19 the morning of Monday, April 6 at Hurley Medical Center in Flint.

The Dr. Nathel Burtley Leadership and Racial Equity Fund has been established through the Community Foundation of Greater Flint in memory of Burtley who not only served as a Flint educator, but also helped head desegregation efforts at Grand Rapids Community Schools.

First black superintendent of Flint schools dies from coronavirus

Due to concerns of coronavirus transmission, Burtley’s family plans to hold a private burial service Thursday, April 16, said Nathel Burtley’s son, Chris. A public celebration of life will be held at a later time following the pandemic.

Instead of flowers or gifts, individuals looking to contribute to the family are asked to donate to the fund, which can be found on the Community Foundation of Greater Flint’s website.

The longtime educator, father and Flint resident dedicated his life to bettering his community, Chris Burtley, said after his father’s death. He called him a man of integrity.

His father grew up before Brown v. Board of Education, Chris said, noting that desegregation issues continued into the 1970s and still persist today, well after the Supreme Court ruling. Nathel Burtley graduated high school in 1958. Even into college, his classes were segregated.

“That was a big part of his life," Chris Burtley said. "He didn’t have a white classmate until college. His mom couldn’t read or write and he grew up in a house with no electricity.”

Nathel Burtley’s first degree was in speech pathology, Chris said. His father overcame a stutter growing up.

His entire life was then dedicated to teaching kids that having less and facing obstacles does not translate to their ability to succeed, Chris said.

While many would shy away from urban districts that faced additional challenges and lacked resources, Chris said his father “relished” working for inner city schools because he saw himself in every kid.

“He knew the type of environments that those kids came from,” he said. “He understood what it was like growing up without a dad. He understood what it was like growing up with a parent who couldn’t help you with your homework. He understood what it was like to be hungry going to school. He knew those circumstances because he grew up in it.”

In First Round of Grants, $120,000 Awarded to Four Nonprofit Organizations from the Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund

FLINT, MI – Rapid-response grants were announced today by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF) to four nonprofit organizations providing services to vulnerable populations in Flint and Genesee County. Grants were awarded from the newly-established Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are working diligently in response to nonprofit organizations who we know have tremendous urgent needs right now,” said Isaiah M. Oliver, President and CEO of CFGF. “Our advisory committee understands the scope of need and is committed to awarding grants as quickly as possible for immediate impact.”

Funding is available to nonprofit organizations who work with vulnerable communities in Flint and Genesee County. Grant criteria and information about the submission process is available online at Decisions will be announced as soon as they are made and posted on the Community Foundation’s website along with a list of donors supporting the Fund, Oliver added.

Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund Grants to Genesee County Nonprofits

$50,000 to Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties for general operating support to help needy and struggling families secure their homes, lives, and bring about needed assistance, dignity, health, help, hope, resources and supportive services.
$50,000 to COVID-19 Community Help Distributions Centers* to provide operating support for nine Centers that will provide food for referrals from the Sheriff’s emergency line and 211.

$15,000 to Communication Access Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for COVID-19 relief and allow the Center to continue to provide interpreting services to bridge the communication barrier for the deaf and hard of hearing.

$5,000 to Clio Area Human Services Fund to support the Clio Disaster Fund with its priorities of food, evictions, and power shutoffs. Assistance will be provided to individuals and organizations in need of emergency assistance in the Clio area.

CFGF’s Advisory Committee helped to leverage an additional $275,000 in support to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (FBEM) through its Fund Partners. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation announced a $200,000 grant and the United Way of Genesee County, through a gift from Meijer, a grant of $72,000 to FBEM to support immediate food security issues.

The Greater Flint Urgent Relief Fund was established by CFGF in partnership with United Way of Genesee County on March 18, 2020, by a coalition of philanthropic, government, and business partners. Fund Partners encourage institutions, companies, and other donors to contribute and support local nonprofits now, when they need it most. To date $669,000 has been raised towards the $1 million goal, including a $500,000 grant awarded from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

If you are interested in becoming a Fund Partner, please contact Karima Amlani, Transitional Vice President of Development, at

*COVID-19 Community Help Distribution Centers
Nine Hubs will be located in Genesee County. The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan will deliver food on different days to each Hub, that will be packaged for “porch drops” conducted by volunteers. Any leftover food will be offered in a drive-through giveaway. Referrals are being made through the Sheriff’s Emergency Line at 810-257-3422 or 211.

Greater Holy Temple
Bethel United Methodist Church
Asbury United Methodist Church
Catholic Charities
Families Against Narcotics
Mayfair Bible Church
Fenton Center for Hope
River Church Goodrich