Raymond grew up on Pilgrim St. in Stockton, CA—an area made famous by drugs and violence. By the time he was 8-years-old, he was moved into the home of his first foster family. He spent the next several years in and out of foster homes. As a teenager, he was reunited with his grandmother and moved into her house. When someone broke into his grandmother’s home, he jumped in to protect her and shot the intruder. Raymond was tried as an adult for murder and spent the next 30 years in prison.
In June 2016, Raymond was released from prison and a friend recommended that he seek Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ) for support. That week, Raymond jumped into the backseat of a car with other FFSJ staff headed to Sacramento. For the first time, he would share his life story with policymakers at a Boys and Men of Color hearing. That week, Raymond found strength in community. By the following week, he was volunteering and engaging in healing circles with teens and elders.
FFSJ is one of LCF’s core partners. Over the course of the past five years, LCF has worked with the leadership of FFSJ to strengthen their organizational capacity, raise funds to expand their services, and help them build their communication and outreach efforts. When LCF began work with FFSJ, it was a small, emerging grassroots organization with a budget of less than $400,000. Today, it is an anchor organization for Stockton—helping hundreds of formerly incarcerated men and women to live out their fullest potential. FFSJ helps them heal from trauma, reconnect with family and community, retain jobs that treat them with dignity and respect, complete their education goals, and pursue their aspirations. FFSJ is in the business of restoring HOPE.
LCF seeks out organizations like FFSJ to help them expand their reach and deepen their impact.
In September 2016, FFSJ was invited to pitch to the Latino Men’s Giving Circle for funding support and Sammy Nunez, the Executive Director brought Raymond to help tell the story of what they do. The meeting was hosted by one of the Giving Circle members in the boardroom of the Morgan Stanley building in downtown San Francisco—with its magnificent views of the Bay Bridge. When it was Raymond’s turn to pitch, he told the men in the room that he had never been on the 32nd floor of any building with this kind of view. He didn’t mean the city lights—he meant the 25 Latino men that were sitting around the Boardroom table, willing to give their personal money to an organization that gave him a chance once he got out of prison.
By the end of the night, the donors voted and awarded $11,000 to FFSJ. More importantly, they talked about the impact of meeting Raymond. The experience was transformative for so many in the room. That is what LCF is all about—inspiring people to get involved and connecting them to the people who are leading the work in the community. Today, Raymond is a full-time staff member at FFSJ, helping to organize in Stockton and to inform policymakers in Sacramento. He recently recruited his brother to volunteer at the front desk. Raymond was equally as inspired by our work as we are by his.