The Founder’s Fund

Through the Founder’s Fund, we honor David Carleton’s legacy and his vision for stronger programs and greater impact together.

David Carleton’s visionary leadership started with a small organization called Kitchens with Missions in 2009. He understood the transformational power of social enterprise and job training and change lives and communities across the world. David’s idea morphed and grew into Catalyst Kitchens in 2011 when it became the national initiative of Farestart, and eventually into it’s own independent organization in 2022. David believed that by sourcing the best and most innovative practices, curriculums, and business models from our members, we would all be better together. The Founder’s Fund honors that legacy and helps us to grow the capability of our national team, our events, and our infrastructure to better serve our members.

Many of our everyday practices in the network – to capture best practices, convene members to share ideas, build libraries of resources and curriculums, and pool our outcomes to leverage our collective impact to create change – first originated with David and his plans for what he knew Catalyst Kitchens could become.

The fund also helps to support a small grant given each year to a particularly impactful and innovative change-maker with one of our member organizations through the David Carleton Catalyst for Change Award.

Pictured to the left, clockwise: David speaks at the 2016 Catalyst Kitchens National Summit, David accepts an award for innovative business planning for the Catalyst Kitchens Network, and David presents the Catalyst for Change Award to the 2016 winner, Idalia Nunez.

David’s Impact

In 2022 we chose to rename this award to honor the impact and legacy of David Carleton, founder of Catalyst Kitchens and long time supporter and champion of programs in this field everywhere.

Here are some stories shared from our network of David’s work, dedication, and joyful approach to helping everyone around him:

Renee Martin, VP of National Initiatives, Farestart, former Director of Catalyst Kitchens

David was larger than life. He was a visionary, an award-winning leader in his field, and an amazing builder of community. He personified the African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” David had what seemed like an endless supply of stories to share about his adventures together with family, friends, and colleagues. He was an inspiration to me in work and in life. He will be sorely missed.

Jeff Bacon, Founder and Executive Director, Providence

Our relationship revolved around the business of helping others. We met via Catalyst Kitchens and knew each other a while before he paid Winston Salem a visit while helping us build a better program. That was the visit our friendship started in earnest. I can still hear him and Matt Gurney ribbing me about our “awesome” local coffee roaster. (They were not impressed). The lesson I learned from him transformed our program in ways that have lasted until present times. Our friendship lasted past his tenure with Catalyst Kitchens too. I wish I had thought to thank him more for his wisdom and encouragement. Miss you friend.

Jennifer Flanagan, Community Kitchen Pittsburgh

I met David at a Social Enterprise Alliance conference in the early 2000s. He and I were in the audience at a panel, and he was asking these really smart questions and talking about Kitchens with Mission and I thought, I have to meet this guy. Kitchens with Mission was in its early stages, and the more I learned the more I loved the whole concept. After just a few meetings with him, there was no question in my mind that I was going to start a program. He worked side by side with me as I launched a program in Pittsburgh underneath another nonprofit, and then years later, when I launched a new project as as independent c3, his team at Catalyst Kitchens (by then there was a whole team and they had become Catalyst Kitchens) helped me again. And in between and since, there were so many moments at various conferences and summits and events in cities all over the country, sitting across a table with David brainstorming (and planning and visioning and dreaming about what could be accomplished). He was, truly, the impetus and the inspiration behind the past eighteen years of my career.

Paul Fordham, Co-CEO, Homeward Bound of Marin

David was an incredibly caring and generous human. I worked with him from the early days of Kitchens with Mission, through the launch of Catalyst Kitchens and beyond.  He was a visionary, a teacher, and a friend.  He knew how to provide criticism and advice in ways that were always wedded in kindness and wisdom. He was one of my first mentors in this work and we recently reconnected, so the sudden news of his passing was extremely upsetting.  I will always remember him as an inclusive leader and a pioneer in this work.

Matt Gurney, Chief Innovation Officer, Farestart

Such a good and dear friend, I will miss David dearly. David was also a joy to work with and his vision and passion were contagious.

Megan Karch, Former ED of Farestart, worked with David on the founding of Catalyst Kitchens

I met David 20+ years ago right before he left with Erika and Elliot for a year long adventure around the world.  Before he left he said – “We will be back – and when we do – I’d love to get involved with FareStart”.   He did return – and not only did he get involved at FareStart – but he helped “catalyze all of our work” beyond what we could ever dream.   Starting out in Marketing he succeeded in getting Ira Glass (NPR) to record a radio ad for FareStart for free!  He created our tagline “Great Food… Better Lives”.  Later on, David came to me and said “I think I can get this national work going!”  He not only “got it going” – but founded and built one of the most successful networks in the country – Catalyst Kitchens – with over 80+ members from the US, Canada, and Scotland.  David had his hand in the start ups of too many new organizations to count!  This year – we were recently connecting, and he let me know he was bound and determined to get a program going in Mazatlan, Mexico.  He was the constant creator…. who wore his heart on his sleeve.  David – I absolutely adored you… and am gut wrenched to hear of your passing.  Elliot and Rys – I hope you know how much your Dad made a difference in this world.  He surely did in mine.  Much love to you all.