What is Giving in L.A.?

Giving in LA Giving in L.A. is a go-to source, an aggregator for strategies and points of view about trends and issues in giving, challenges for philanthropists and philanthropic organizations, tools and techniques for individuals or families, insights and opinions from experts, and more – all centered on Los Angeles County.

December 4, 2013 ~ 1 Comment

Pitch Perfect: Lessons Learned from Social Innovation Fast Pitch

New Earth founder, Harry Grammer at the conclusion of the Fast Pitch event.

By Yana Simone

At New Earth, we like to think we do good things. After all, our arts and education based mentorship programs that are designed to support teens transitioning from incarceration to life at home have yielded compelling results: Our recidivism rate is a mere 15% among 13-18 year olds while L.A. County has an 86% juvenile recidivism rate. We work with more than 700 youth per week in nine camps.

We also liked to think that we had a pretty good handle on how to communicate what we do here, until we began participating in the Social Innovation Fast Pitch competition and realized that many people were unclear about what we really do.

The Fast Pitch event is like speed dating in that each organization is given 3 minutes to demonstrate social impact, innovation and presentation efficacy in front of a panel of judges and an audience of our peers, donors and community members. The process leading up to the event is akin to marathon training: for two months we worked with our coaches to refine our message over and over again, until something clicked. We realized that what we needed to focus in on was our mission and that our best assets were the young people that we have worked with over the past ten years.

To give you an idea of how the Fast Pitch process helped to fine tune our messaging, here is our old mission statement: To offer artistic enrichment, educational programs and transition services that empower incarcerated and at-risk youth between the ages of 13-18 to begin a journey of self-discovery, releasing self-imposed and societal limits on their true potential.

Our new mission statement reads as follows: New Earth works with incarcerated youth to interrupt the patterns that lead them to becoming the next statistic. This is done through a series of innovative arts and educational based mentorship programs that nurture self-expression, stimulate positive growth and promote systemic change.

The new message has our organization’s name up front and center. It sets up the issue and provides our innovative solution. It ends on the note of systemic change, which is the ultimate goal of our organization.

At Fast Pitch, Alex, one of our students who was incarcerated for carrying a gun three years ago, gave a heartfelt account of how our program has led him from jail to college, and from guns to art. Our audiences want to hear from people whose lives we have changed. They want to connect a face with an issue; give them the opportunity by sharing those stories.

New Earth’s Harry Grammer and student Alex take in the moment at Fast Pitch.

After 30 minutes of intense, passionate and high-energy pitches in the shadow of the Shuttle Endeavour, the judges awarded our founder Harry Grammer the top prize, the $15,000 Judge’s Award. Additionally, Grammer received one of the Annenberg Audience Awards of $5,000, as selected via live text voting by the sold-out crowd of almost 600.

To find out more about New Earth, please click here or go to @newearthlife

To find out more about Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch, please click here

Yana Simone is the executive director of New Earth.

November 20, 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Delivering Care Where Care is Needed

More than 1,760 dental procedures were performed in 4 days

By Eva Brune, California Community Foundation

Earlier this month, CCF 2013 Unsung Hero Don Manelli and the Care Harbor team took over the Los Angeles Sports Arena and turned it into a clinic to deliver much-needed health services to close to 4,000 underserved and uninsured Angelenos. The preliminary data on the breakdown of services provided was impressive; the group delivered 2,730 medical procedures, 1,760 dental procedures and 1,293 vision procedures in just four days. Data is still being gathered on immunizations, women’s health screenings and preventive dentistry treatments provided at the event.

Perhaps more important than the number of procedures was the effort by the Care Harbor team to direct Angelenos to free or low-cost health care and coverage solutions as part of the overall health strategy at the clinic. Affordable Care Act education and enrollment specialists were on hand to help patients access the best coverage based on a series of 5- 6 key questions. More than 1,300 patients received consultations and 300 were enrolled in either Medi-Cal, CalFresh or Covered CA on the spot.

Also on hand were representatives from more than fifty community clinics. For patients who received diabetes, hypertension or other chronic or ongoing diagnoses, follow-up appointments were made with community clinics in their neighborhoods.

With a sophisticated wrist band system in place, patients did not experience the chaos and excruciating waits that are sometimes a part of emergency room care. For the patients who had short waits, the time was filled with educational opportunities. Patient education and consultations about dental hygiene, disaster preparedness, care-giver support and stress reduction were presented to the captive audiences.  Some 40 organizations provided prevention education resources.

According to Manelli, the idea of Care Harbor is to make a permanent change,  ”This is not a glorified emergency room. While we do have the best physicians, dentists and all around care thanks to our volunteers, we are looking to provide people with preventative care and connect them to the coverage that they need to make that care sustainable.”

A patient selects eyeglass frames following an eye exam. More than 1,293 vision procedures were performed at Care Harbor 2013.

For many underserved Angelenos, finding healthcare solutions is overwhelming but Manelli sees Care Harbor as an opportunity to empower people, “Here people can take control of their health. We have simplified the insurance process, provide top notch care, but more importantly, we created an atmosphere of trust so that our patients feel comfortable coming in, getting the immediate care they need and then moving on to take care of themselves through follow-ups and preventive care.”

Care Harbor volunteer and representative of the Tzu Chi Buddhist Medical Foundation, Dr. Eugene Taw, skipped his organization’s twentieth anniversary to staff his organization’s mobile vision clinic and shared his view of the event, “I have found there is a good heart in America. Care Harbor is an example of that.”

Planning for the 2014 Care Harbor event is already underway. While the group feels it may have outgrown the Sports Arena, the main effort is to shore up the organization to be able to sustainably deliver effective care while continuing to refine the model. Other cities have already expressed an interest in hosting similar events while local partners are offering pro-bono services from designing innovative patient-tracking aps to promoting the event. The need for health care and education is great in Los Angeles, but innovative models such as Care Harbor are helping to define high-impact solutions.

If you would like more information about Care Harbor, please click here.

To read more about Don Manelli, please click here.

November 13, 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Maria Suarez: Human Trafficking Survivor and Unsung Hero

Editors note:  Maria Suarez is an example of how one person’s story of tragedy can turn to triumph despite unthinkable and often unspeakable challenges. As a teenager, her life was forever changed when she was “bought” by her employer and held captive as his slave for more than five years and then sent to prison for a crime she didn’t commit. After spending 23 years in jail, she is now using her experiences to help the most vulnerable in need and works tirelessly against human trafficking in the city of Los Angeles. We appreciate Maria sharing her personal story with CCF to tell others how to help another person from becoming a victim.

Maria and two of her 13 siblings in Mexico

By: Maria Suarez

Many people might think that victims of sex trafficking come from bad families or terrible living conditions.  That’s not necessarily true, especially in my case.  I’m here to show you how anything can happen when you least expect it.

I grew up in the little town of Timbuscatio, Michoacán in Mexico with my parents and 13 brothers and sisters.  I was a very sheltered child, and my very sweet and kind father and wonderful mother gave me a very happy childhood.  We lived in tiny village where everyone knew each other, and we trusted all of our neighbors. I grew up thinking no one would ever hurt me.

Around the age of 15, l left my town with my father and travelled to the United States and visit my siblings living in Los Angeles.  I don’t remember why I decided to stay when my father went back to Mexico, but I did, and lived with my sister. She continued to take care of me and shelter me.  As a young girl, I had many dreams and goals that I wanted to accomplish, and wanted to make money to help the family, but didn’t know how.  I also only spoke Spanish at the time, and didn’t know my new surroundings.

Maria and her father

One day, I was walking down the street and met a woman who asked me if I wanted a job.  She told me about an elderly couple in need of some cleaning and care and immediately I said yes. She also told me not to tell anyone. I didn’t think it was strange because I trusted her, and thought she was being good to me.  I also liked the idea of getting a job because I wanted to surprise my father so he would be proud of me.

As she was taking me to the job, I said I wanted to let my brother-in-law know where I was going but she said “don’t worry, we’ll be back soon.”  I was taken to a house and met the man that was going to be my boss.  I remember he shook my hand, smiled,  and then went to the back of the house with the woman.  I noticed the house had a lot of locks and was very secure and at the time, I didn’t think that was strange.  I didn’t ask any questions, but after he agreed to “hire” me, I asked the woman to take me home. Instead, they both kept convincing me to stay. I said, “no, I need to go and tell my sister.”  I didn’t know this country, I didn’t know where I was, and I had no money.  All I knew was my sister’s phone number.  The man finally let me call her and my sister was very upset.  The man told me to tell her that he would take me home tomorrow. That day never came and my life was changed forever.

The first night in his home, he showed me around and took me to the room where I was going to be sleeping. I saw an altar with a picture of Jesus Christ, surrounded by a lot of little jars and bottles filled with dirt.  Also, there dolls with pins stuck on their bodies.  I thought it looked like witchcraft.  I was very scared, and didn’t know what to think or say, so I didn’t say anything.

After three days, I finished cleaning, and I asked him to take me home, but he refused.  Then he told me he “bought me” for $200 dollars and could do whatever he wanted to do with me. Instantly, I knew he wanted to touch me, so I tried to run away.  When I tried to get out of the house, he grabbed me, and tore off everything I was wearing. Then, he pushed me out of the house, without any clothes. I was screaming and crying and begging him to give me my clothes.  All he did was laugh at me as if it was funny.

He said, “do you want your clothes?”

As I bent over to pick them up, he punched me and I passed out.  When I woke up, he had already raped me. He told me that he would kill my family if I tried to leave, and the priest would not believe me, because he was a very important man. He also told me he was a witch, which I believed.  I was so scared and afraid to tell my family, or anyone, so I kept quiet.  I was in that horrible house for almost six years. He raped me, beat me, and psychologically tortured me. He even made me dig a hole in the backyard because he said I needed to dig my own grave since he was going to kill me.  I was paralyzed by fear. When I was young, I didn’t have the strength to know what to do to get out.

The old man then rented his garage to a young couple and soon, he started paying a lot of attention to the wife.  Her husband found out, and then he killed the old man.  I heard the old man scream my name so I went outside and saw him on the ground.  The young husband had killed the old man with a piece of wood and told me to hide it under the house, which I did.   I didn’t speak any English, I was in shock, and thought everything was my fault.  I was arrested for the old man’s murder and spent 23 years in prison.

Maria at the time of her arrest

During that time, I went to school, learned English, got my GED and my Associate of Arts degree.  I took all kinds of training and wanted to educate myself because I knew that God wanted me to do something in this world. That’s why I’m still here. I was so vulnerable for so long, that when I got out of prison, I was scared to even to cross the street. Now, I’m not going to let anyone stop me from helping others like me. Today I’m a strong woman with a lot of goals and desires to help others.

I have always been the kind of person who likes to give back, rather than to receive. Today I can help sex traffic victims and domestic violence victims because I have the knowledge. I encourage them to do what they need to do, and tell them they need to trust themselves and see how wonderful and smart they are.

I feel that as hard as it is, I need to share my story because if I shut up, people are going to think that these kinds of things don’t happen. That sex trafficking is a myth. But it’s very real.

At this point, I’m starting my own the Maria Suarez foundation to work on prevention, and rescue. I want people to work with me to educate others, so that they don’t fall into this kind of tragedy.  We need people to be aware of those around them, because it’s not easy to spot a trafficker.  It’s important for everyone to know that you never give your information to a stranger, and if you see a young person walking with an older person, or behind, like she’s afraid, something is wrong. I want people to take action. If you see something strange or odd, call the police.

I am so lucky that through it all, my beautiful family was there to support and help me. I’m here today because of what I went through.  I need to do what I need to do. I need to help the next girl.

According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. More than 70 percent are female and half are children.   To learn more about trafficking and how it affects your community, visit http://www.castla.org/ or http://www.dosomething.org/