When you think of the North Bay, it is easy to imagine beautiful rolling hills, exquisite wine, and gourmet food. But how often do we stop and think of the hands, bodies, and people that make it all possible? The men and women who harvest and pick the grapes, cook the food, and clean the hotel rooms.
Like many of the other bountiful pockets of California, the North Bay is a region with growing inequality and a mounting housing crisis. The very people whose labor creates the wealth of the region are being left furthest behind. The average bottle of wine in Sonoma is $53 yet farmworkers in the vineyards earn around $11 dollars an hour. Two-bedroom apartments in Sonoma cost more than $2,000 a month. Something isn’t adding up.
Adding to the growing inequality of the region, one of the largest and most devastating wildfires in California’s history struck the North Bay year ago on October 8, 2017. This tragedy was felt most by the people who had the least – hard-working immigrant families living paycheck to paycheck. The fire merely exacerbated this crisis.
As the fires raged, the Latino Community Foundation (LCF) quickly took action & launched a campaign to raise funds for Latino families and nonprofits. The philanthropic response was unprecedented. At LCF, we knew we had an opportunity to do something different, to organize our leaders and invest in change, not charity. As always, LCF began by listening to local leaders first. What did the most affected communities need and how could they lead with our support? Together we build an action plan.
Our 3 phase approach for a Just Recovery–
Phase I provided rapid relief and direct support to Latino families. In Phase II, we invested in Latino-led nonprofit infrastructure, and in Phase III, we co-designed a strategy to address the root causes of the systemic barriers and build long-lasting power.
Now in phase III, we are working in unity with 10 Latino North Bay partners to strengthen leadership, expand community organizing and build Latino power in the region. Our partners are building community power by ensuring we mobilize the Latino vote, promote participation in the 2020 census, and address the housing crisis. To maximize this exciting work, we are recruiting a Civic Engagement & Just Recovery Fellow for the North Bay.
Our people-powered model of philanthropy is a new approach to disaster relief. In the words of Juan Hernandez, CEO of La Luz Center in Sonoma: “LCF is a true advocate, not just funder, who has pushed us to dream big, use our voice, and build the future we desire.” At LCF, it’s not just the funding that matters, it’s how we share power, love, and unite our communities towards a collective agenda.
A year after the fire, the work of rebuilding continues. The organizations and communities of Napa and Sonoma have a long journey ahead, but they are not alone. Thank you for standing with LCF and for investing in the power of people to lead their own solutions for change. Together, we will light new fires-ones that can fuel our unity, our strength and our power as a community for generations to come.