The Skyline Chili Community Fund will improve access to quality preschool opportunities

Many Greater Cincinnatians have eaten enough Skyline chili that they felt they owned a piece of the Cincinnati-born company.

Now, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the region’s major philanthropic organization, actually does. That’s thanks to a gift of ownership shares of the company, valued at $8 million, from Kevin McDonnell, president and CEO.

McDonnell and his wife, Erica, announced they have established the Skyline Chili Community Fund with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation through a donation of ownership shares.

The fund will primarily focus on supporting initiatives that improve access to quality preschool opportunities for the children of lower-income families, McDonnell says.

“I have been lucky to work for this great company for 30 years,” he says. “Working with the founders from the Lambrinides family, our franchise owners, and our restaurant operators has taught me so much about the importance of giving back to our communities.”

McDonnell joined Skyline as chief financial officer in 1991. The Lambrinides family, and second-generation owners Nicholas, Lambert, and Bill Lambrinides, sold the company in 1998 to a Rhode Island-based private equity fund. That firm eventually enabled a management buyout of Skyline, with ownership shares sold to Skyline executives, with McDonnell buying a majority share.

“This region is so fortunate to have an organization like the Greater Cincinnati Foundation,” McDonnell says. “This gift of a piece of Skyline ownership is intended to further assist their mission and will give the community a further stake in this great brand.”

“We are excited to partner with the Skyline family to enable them to expand their focus on the systemic need for comprehensive access to quality preschool opportunities,” says Ellen M. Katz, president and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. “This is a vital element to ensuring a brighter, more equitable future for all our children.”

The Foundation manages 1,800 funds, all established to carry out a variety of charitable goals.

Expanding access to good-quality preschool education has been a priority of several of the region’s leaders and organizations. The effort culminated in a significant public investment in 2016, when Cincinnati voters approved a five-year Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) levy that included $15 million a year to expand access to quality preschool.

A new organization, Cincinnati Preschool Promise, was created to partner with CPS and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati to use the funds to expand the number of good preschools and for tuition assistance for families.
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David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading, or watching classic movies.