Speaker Rendon poses with Danny Gamboa and Brayan Martinez.

Speaker's Note

Before I became a California State Assemblymember, I spent nearly two decades working at a nonprofit in the field of childhood development.

I saw first-hand the impact education has on a child’s life. I loved that job, and had no intention of changing careers.

However, massive budget cuts at the state level gutted the program. I was frustrated enough to run for office to get that funding back.

I’m proud to say at the state level, funding for children is now on the rise.  This year, California is spending roughly $1 billion more on early childhood education than it did last year.

It’s those big-picture problems that occupy me nowadays. Issues such as building more housing, protecting the rights of immigrants, and making sure we all have clean drinking water.

While I’m working to create change at our state government, outstanding nonprofits continue to work on creating change right here in our communities.

Nonprofits employ nearly one million people across the state, and contribute billions of dollars to California’s economy.

Most importantly, they turn funding and donations into real, concrete change that benefits those who need it most.

This year, my office chose Healthy Active Streets as the Nonprofit of the Year. Its work fighting for environmental justice and bicycle safety has made our communities safer, stronger, and healthier. 

Meanwhile, other nonprofits continue to find innovative solutions to a multitude of problems, whether it’s finding safe housing for homeless college students, developing gardening programs for local shelters, or recruiting neighbors to beautify their own communities.

Read those stories, and more, in this edition of the R Guide.

Grow Good

Grow Good

Tucked away in an industrial district of Bell is a center of agriculture, community, and second chances. Grow Good is a nonprofit that raises fruits, vegetables and herbs, most of which is wheeled across the street to be donated to the Bell Shelter. With more than 500 occupants, the Bell Shelter is the largest homeless shelter west of the Mississippi.

Grow Good runs a transitional employment program, Food for Life, to help the homeless get on their feet. “It’s truly a farm-to-table culinary program,” says Mary MacVean, Executive Director of Grow Good. The program not only gives the homeless a chance to learn farming and culinary skills, but also teaches them skills, like resume writing, that can be useful in finding employment. 

While Grow Good provides the homeless in Bell with healthy food, the farm gives so much more to the Bell community. “The farm is meant to be a place of peace and rest for clients,” said MacVean. Staff at the farm encourage clients to use the farm as a community-gathering spot.

Grow Good brings together volunteers from local schools and the greater community to learn about where their food comes from. In the urban landscape of Southeast LA, many residents have lost touch with the source of their food.

Grow Good also supplies the homeless with another crucial service: kindness. “Often this is a rare thing for someone who’s homeless to come by,” said MacVean. Grow Good serves as a welcoming place for the homeless to connect with their community, a place where they are seen, valued, and treated with the dignity that we all deserve.

Pitch In Paramount

Pitch In Paramount

Spend a few minutes chatting with Mike McKown and it quickly becomes clear that his passion for his longtime home of Paramount runs deep.  

“I love being part of, if you will, a renaissance. A renaissance of civic life in the city,” said McKown.

McKown is director of the nonprofit Paramount Care Foundation, which provides services to low-income students and families. One of the Foundation’s major efforts is Pitch-In Paramount, which recruits volunteers for city beautification projects. 

Pitch-In started as an informal initiative organized by a local church, before being officially adopted by the Foundation five years ago.

“It originally began as a way to do some jobs, like painting houses and fences… that the city was unable to do at the time,” McKown explained.

Since then, Pitch-In has evolved. In addition to free fence and house painting for low-income community members, Pitch-In now hosts biannual junk pick-ups, tree planting events, neighborhood trash clean-ups, and more. The project now partners with the city of Paramount and Paramount High School. McKown says some of the project’s most dedicated volunteers are students.

“I see these young people in high school, they have a lot of Paramount pride,” said McKown. “It’s surprising how many of them are willing to come in the summertime, during their vacation, to come out and help their city.”

McKown says it’s that willingness to sacrifice personal time for the betterment of the community that makes him proud to call Paramount home.

“It just empowers you when you know you’re doing this for your city, and your city is progressing forward. It just builds up a lot of local pride in where you live,” said McKown.

Host Homes Program

Host Homes Program

A local nonprofit has launched a new program designed to get homeless college students off the streets.

Jovenes Inc, which provides services to homeless youth in Southeast LA, is one of just four nonprofits in LA County to be selected for the ‘Host Homes’ program, and is funded by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

“It’s one of our short-term housing programs,” explained Luana Coberg, Host Homes program coordinator. “It’s where community members who have a spare bedroom volunteer to host a homeless college student between the ages of 18 and 24 for up to six months.”

A recent survey by the California Community Colleges found that 18% of LA community college students have experienced homelessness.

“A lot of them are living in their cars or sleeping on school grounds or on the street, or couch surfing. It’s just hard to imagine going to school, studying for finals, but not having a stable place to go home to study,” said Coberg. 

In addition to receiving safe housing with a local family, students in the program will be provided a case manager and supportive services, to help them graduate and find permanent housing.

Host families will be offered a $500 monthly stipend for expenses, along with any necessary furniture.

The program began in March, and Jovenes is still in the recruitment phase. Coberg says Jovenes has approved two host families who are waiting for youth to move in.

“It’s more than just donating, and it’s more than just volunteering,” said Coberg. “It’s hands-on changing someone’s life.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the Host Homes Program, head to jovenesinc.org.



Resource Bank

Resource Program

When Ruth Schwartz and her team founded Shelter Partnership 34 years ago, its mission was to provide policy analysis on homelessness in LA County.

It was almost by accident that they also became one of the nation’s biggest donation centers for nonprofits.

“We were being approached by folks who wanted to make donations. I tried to find someone like a regional food bank that would take on the project… But I couldn’t find anyone to do it. So, we ended up doing it ourselves,” said Schwartz.

The Resource Bank collects brand-new, unwanted goods from hundreds of companies. These items are then distributed to local agencies that work to help children in foster care or to alleviate homelessness and poverty

They take… “anything from soap, to shampoo, to beds, to linens and pillows, to all kinds of clothing for all members of the family. Socks- millions of socks!” said Schwartz.

The goods are stored in a 108,000 square-foot warehouse in Bell. Nonprofits can order up to 50 items per quarter from the Shelter Partnership website, free of charge.

Schwartz says, these donations can help get new organizations off the ground, or expand the reach of already-established agencies.

“An outreach program will say ‘We can finally give people things that engender trust in the field.’ Like a new pair of shoes, or a personal care product item. They use it in their work to outreach, to develop relationships. If they’re a new shelter, they might need beds, because public funding doesn’t cover all the costs of setting up a new program,” continued Schwartz.

Not only does it help other nonprofits, but it also keeps goods out of the landfill.

“It’s doing good while doing well. It’s a win-win that way,” said Schwartz.







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