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Saturday, Feb 24, 2024

Non-Profit Organizations

This is a regular feature on philanthropic activities by Valley-area businesspeople and companies. It’s a tough time for nonprofit organizations that depend on grants and private donations for survival. The slowing economy has forced previous contributing businesses and individuals to tighten their belts, and reduce or eliminate their philanthropic budgets. In the current economic climate, state and federal funds are also increasingly scarce. Organizations such as the Valley Family Center in San Fernando where 60-65 percent of the operating budget is comprised of funds from grants and private donations, the financial impact has been significant. “Our overall funding is down 65 percent from what it should be at this time of the year,” said Gary Bessler, Administrator for Valley Family Center. “We’ve seen a large reduction in funding, and we’ve been receiving word from funders notifying us that it is just not possible for them to continue their support.” Founded in 1987, the Center offers a wide array of social services for about 2,000 families throughout the San Fernando Valley, and offers children an afterschool tutorial program. The Center also helps a large number of victims of domestic violence and has one of the largest programs in the San Fernando Valley for perpetrators of domestic violence with 14 anger management groups that meet weekly. “Valley Family Center is a major contributor to the entire Valley,” said its founder Sister Una Connolly. “We want the larger community to be aware, to see the value of what we do here, and to understand that their help is so important for these services.” Marianne Haver Hill, President and CEO of Meet Each Need With Dignity (MEND), the largest anti-poverty agency in the San Fernando Valley, said they’re also feeling the budget crunch. “One foundation that had consistently supported us over the past years recently went out of business. We’ve been getting letters from foundations telling us we won’t be getting their support this year, and we recently found out that we’re not getting funds we were already counting on” she said. Due to the financial uncertainty, MEND is moving forward with caution. Their facilities have shut down operations on Mondays in a cost-saving and energy saving effort. “Our budget is very lean, we only have six percent of overhead, but we’re still trying to cut as much as we can,” said Haver Hill. The biggest concern for organizations such as MEND, she said, is that demand for programs and services during the economic downturn is significantly greater, but funds don’t keep up with that demand. MEND has already experienced a 60 percent growth in their Emergency Foodbank program, and is anticipating that their facilities will be inundated this summer with low income families seeking emergency food, as a direct result of Los Angeles Unified School District shutting down summer school programs this year, where students would receive subsidized meals. MEND’s Emergency Foodbank is the largest of its kind in Los Angeles, and one of the largest in California. Non profit organizations are having to think creatively and seek donations elsewhere, but many face the strong possibility of having to dramatically cut services if they can’t get sufficient funds. Others will eventually have to shut their doors all together. The slowing economy has had a direct impact on contributing businesses in the Valley and elsewhere, said Steve Pellegren, Vice President of Bernards Bros. Inc. and Chair of the Valley Family Center Board. The construction company Bernards Bros. is one of them. “It’s tough, businesses are having to cut back,” he said. “It’s no secret the construction business has been hit hard, and we’ve also had no choice but to substantially decrease our budget for philanthropic giving for 2009 and 2010,” During Valley Family Center’s first annual fundraiser this past April, held at Universal City Hilton, the funds raised were only half of what was anticipated, and what was raised the year before. Making a Difference The new Cusumano Family Foundation, formed by members of the Cusumano Real Estate Group, awarded its first grant to the Burbank Boys & Girls Club. The Foundation, which was set up in an effort to promote community involvement and assist local youth programs, donated $25,000 earmarked for after-school enrichment, summer day camp and the deaf/hard of hearing program. The check was presented during the Club’s annual gala to Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Shanna Warren, and Chief Volunteer Officer Kimberly Washington. The Burbank Boys & Girls Club serves more than 850 youth a day. “Our desire is to help build our community by supporting meaningful charities that generally focus on enhancing the well-being of people, especially our youth,” said Roger Cusumano, chairman of the foundation’s advisory board. “We want to help build a better future in our area.” The Cusumano Family Foundation will award grants of $1,000 to $10,000 biannually to local 501(c)(3) organizations, with applications due February 1 and August 1. Fundraiser The Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley raised $94,000 through its 5th Annual Club de Cuba event on May 8, at the Warner Center Marriott Hotel. Through the Caribbean-themed event, which included casino gaming, music, dancing, auctions and dinner, the Club raised funds to benefit the more than 550 youngsters that participate in its programs each day. The event also honored Board Chairman Gary Thomas with the National Service to Youth Award. “It is such an honor to receive this award and to be able to help raise money for these children,” Thomas said. “We are fortunate to live in a generous community where the Club, which plays such an important role in these children’s lives, is supported and appreciated.” In Canoga Park A recent “Round-Up” program at the JCPenney at Northridge Mall, also helped raise $4,100 for the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley, which will be used for afterschool programs for underprivileged youth. The program asks customers to “round-up” their JCPenney purchases to the nearest whole dollar and donate the difference to the JCPenney Afterschool Fund. Since it was created in 2001, the Fund has contributed more than $70 million to support the afterschool cause nationwide, giving tens of thousands of children the opportunity to participate in essential afterschool programs, through partnerships with the YMCA of the USA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National 4-H and United Way of America. A Life Changing Gift Bruce Nation, the owner of Westlake Independent Honda & Acura Service in Westlake Village, donated a 1999 Honda Odyssey to a victim of domestic violence the mother of a member of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley. Nation’s firm also gave the woman $500 for future service and paid for six months of car insurance premiums. “Even in difficult times, it’s important to reach out and provide help to those who need it most,” Nation said. “I’m so grateful to be able to make a difference for this family. I wish them all the best as they rise above such a difficult situation.” In Encino California United Bank recently stuffed a school bus with more than 200 backpacks filled with supplies to benefit students at Canoga Park High School, and surrounding middle schools and elementary schools. At least $3,000 worth of supplies were donated, including calculators, notebooks, paper, computers and other needed items. In the Name of Art Redwood Partners, Inc., owner of the The Lofts at NoHo Commons, transformed one of its 14 large work/live spaces into a temporary home for artists visiting the Los Angeles area. It also committed to sponsoring several Cella Gallery events, such as the gallery’s annual group show “Art in Review” on June 13, as part of a greater effort to keep the arts alive in the NoHo Arts District. “We are happy to help this vital aspect of the neighborhood grow and look forward to partnering with other art galleries in the NoHo Arts District,” said Scott McCarter of Redwood Partners. The donation of the loft will allow Cella Gallery to start booking international artists and potentially lead to the exchange of talent with galleries around the world, according to Shannon Currie Holmes of Cella Gallery. In Glendale Students in the Leadership Glendale program presented non-perishable items and a check for $6,000 to the Salvation Army, Glendale Corps. May 13. The eight-month program that explores Glendale city government and business, and features interaction and workshops with governmental, business and educational leaders is sponsored by the Glendale Chamber of Commerce. The Leadership Glendale Class of 2009 also helped fund an afterschool program that offers low-income, at risk middle school children a place to do their homework, receive tutoring and participate in recreational activities. Events The Simi Valley Community Foundation, a charitable organization that offers multiple social services for women and children, veterans, seniors, individuals, families and the needy, will be accepting donations for its new venture, the Treasure Hunters Boutique. The Foundation will be receiving gently used clothing, shoes, accessories, small furnishings and house wares at 67 W. Easy Street, Unit #131 on Saturday, June 20 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; and every third Saturday of each month. The items collected will be resold at the boutique and funds raised will be used for the Foundation’s Alliance for Human Services program. Treasure Hunters Boutique is slated to open sometime later this Fall in Simi Valley. MEND, the San Fernando Valley’s largest anti-poverty agency, hosted its second annual MENDing Poverty Conference on June 4 with the theme “Finding Solutions”.

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