Latino Community Foundation invests $1.3 million in Sonoma’s immigrant community to support a Just Recovery
Latino leaders turn disaster giving on its head
to forge a new future for immigrant families in the North Bay
Sonoma (October 8, 2018)– The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) today announced that its focused efforts on helping Sonoma and Napa Latinos devastated by last October’s wildfires raised an unprecedented $1.5 million for wildfire recovery, long-term resilience and civic engagement to be shepherded by La Luz Center, UpValley Family Centers and North Bay Organizing Project.
Turning the traditional disaster relief giving approach upside down, LCF combined immediate recovery support with long-term program investment for the future of a Latino community that is essential but largely invisible in the wealthy North Valley region. Latinos who make up nearly a third of Sonoma Valley’s population were especially vulnerable to the catastrophic wildfire, particularly since many are immigrants and ineligible for federal relief dollars.
LCF’s NorCal Just Recovery Wildfire Fund is an innovative project developed with a people-powered model of philanthropy, one LCF hopes will be modeled in other devastated regions of the world where charity only goes so far. It was designed to ensure that the future of the North Bay meets the needs of Latinos who are an integral part of the economic and cultural makeup of the region, from fair housing to job opportunities with livable wages to increased civic engagement.
“We collaborated with our Latino grassroots leaders to co-design a long-term strategy to do much more than apply a bandage after the wildfire, as we were interested in transformational change lead by and for the people most impacted,” said Masha Chernyak, vice president of programs and policy for LCF. “Our investment approach is unique because it taps into cultural assets, existing grassroots leadership and into our collective imagination for what’s truly possible.”
According to the Sonoma Valley Fund’s 2017 Demographics Report, Latinos comprise 28 percent of the Sonoma Valley population, a 13% growth rate since 2010. As a percentage of Sonoma County’s total workforce, Latinos made up 50 percent of natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, 37 percent of all service workers, and 36 percent of all workers as of 2015.
Recognizing the need to keep this critical segment of the population viable, LCF implemented a three-phase investment program to meet its objectives: Disaster relief to meet the immediate needs of families; Recovery to strengthen Latino-led organizations for their long-term sustainability within the communities; and Resilience to build lasting power that boosts civic engagement and gives voice to Latinos in the region.
Three Latino-led nonprofit organizations selected for the three-phased fund distribution based on the critical role each plays serving the needs of Latinos who rely on them for essential support. Based in the heart of the affected regions, these groups have proven histories of serving immigrant communities and have the capacity to respond to the immediate needs of Latino immigrant families while advocating for long-term policy change. These powerful regional organizations provide direct services and financial assistance to low-income, farmworker andundocumented communities, as well as help with the coordination of regional resources for immediate and long-term needs. The recipients are:
• La Luz Center, a family resource center that serves Sonoma Valley’s most vulnerable Latino immigrant families. La Luz serves as a beacon of hope and as a catalyst for change in health, education, and financial empowerment.
• UpValley Family Centers, which provide the community with necessary resources that promote health, education, economic empowerment and immigrant integration for families in Calistoga and St. Helena.
• North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP), which works to increase civic engagement and build political power for working class communities in Santa Rosa and across the North Bay.
Juan Hernandez, director of La Luz Center in Sonoma, said he had never had a funder actually collaborate on solutions to get beyond relief and focus on sustainability before LCF. He said the investment approach has “turned this crisis into an opportunity to organize our communities and build people power within the Latino community here.”
The sentiment was echoed by Jenny Ocon with the service- and civic-focused UpValley Family Centers. “The funds are truly an investment in a Just Recovery, one that addresses the systemic problems that cripple our immigrant communities,” Ocon said. “LCF continues to stand with us and challenge us to invest in the future with priorities in census outreach, voter education and renter rights.”
Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, chief executive office of LCF, said the foundation’s focus on long-term solutions is in the entire community’s interest. “Natural disasters do not discriminate but the societies they impact do. We cannot simply restore what has been lost in the North Bay-we must reimagine and rebuild a more equitable and just society for the families that have been the backbone of the economy but who have yet to fully benefit from the fruit of their labor.
“We are committed to staying the course and build power that yields change, invest in community leaders, and create opportunities for families and youth to thrive,” Garcel said.
LCF’s Chernyak said the work will continue beyond the three initial phases and hopes to the success of its future-investment model continues. “We were inspired by the outpouring of philanthropic support and are determined to turn this crisis into an organizing opportunity. Chernyak added. “There is more to do and we won’t be stopping now.”
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About Latino Community Foundation:
The Latino Community Foundation has the largest network of Latino philanthropists in the country and has invested millions of dollars to improve the livelihood of Latino families. Its mission is to unleash the power of Latinos in California by investing in Latino-led organizations dedicated to the transformation of their communities. It is the only statewide foundation solely focused on investing in Latino youth and families in California.
Contact: Amber Gonzales-Vargas
Top Photo (from left):
Juan Hernandez, Executive Director, La Luz Center
Veronica Vences, Associate Executive Director, La Luz Center
Angie Sanchez, Community Engagement Manager, La Luz Center