NEW YORK, Nov. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pinkerton Foundation, a leading independent charitable organization, today is celebrating its 50 th anniversary of working to improve the lives of New York City's disadvantaged youth to help them reach their full potential. With a focus on supporting direct-service programs for young people growing up in poverty or caught-up in the criminal justice system, The Pinkerton Foundation was established in 1966 by Robert Pinkerton, chairman and CEO of his family's successful and once notorious security firm. The Foundation currently has a $600 million endowment that provides an average of $35 million each year to over 300 New York City-based organizations. Approximately 160,000 young people were helped by organizations receiving Pinkerton grants in 2015 alone. "After a half century, we continue to be inspired by the work of so many organizations dedicated to 'leveling the playing field' for disadvantaged young people in New York City," said Richard M. Smith, president of The Pinkerton Foundation. "Every young person deserves the chance to reach his or her full potential, and the direct-service, community-based programs we support help make that possible. I think that Robert Pinkerton would be surprised and enormously pleased by the number of lives the Foundation has touched over the years." Smith added that to commemorate its 50 th anniversary, the Foundation has published The Pinkerton Story: Fifty Years of Serving the Young People of New York City. "When I asked Ellis Cose to write this volume, I encouraged him to set the Foundation's history in the context of a changing New York City and changing attitudes about youth development," Smith said. "In keeping with his experience as one of America's foremost commentators on race, class, poverty and privilege, he has done just that." Direct Service ApproachThe Pinkerton Foundation takes great pride in its service oriented, "where the rubber meets the road" approach to philanthropy. In a typical year, Pinkerton supports more than 200 afterschool and summer programs that combine engaging activities and academic support under the guidance of caring mentors and role models. It is one of the leading funders of career development and training for young people in the city. The Foundation supports internships for more than 4,000 teenagers each year at the city's workplaces, nonprofit organizations and cultural institutions as well as making grants to an array of community based organizations that provide high school equivalency programs and supportive social services to highly at-risk young people. In its Youth Justice portfolio, Pinkerton helps to underwrite a number of alternative-to-incarceration, prison reentry and restorative justice programs, and it has been a leader in encouraging the use of "credible messengers," young mentors who have overcome significant challenges in their own lives, to reach young people just encountering the criminal justice system. "There are communities in New York City that aren't able to provide what their young people need—safe schools to attend, after-school activities, community centers," said Sister Paulette LoMonaco, executive director of Good Shepherd Services. "Pinkerton has been a tremendous partner and friend. We have been able to call on them when we want to innovate and create new programs. They make it easy to do good." As the Foundation has grown, it has expanded its mission to support larger, more complex initiatives. "Our focus remains on young people who are facing urgent challenges today," said Smith. "We still like to bet on small programs with dynamic leaders, but we have an increased appetite to help develop and test programs that have the potential to become sustainable and replicable in other cities."