Academy for Grassroots Organizations - Vici Nagel
Academy for Grassroots Organizations (AcademyGO) is a nonprofit with a mission to convene, equip, and guide community leaders. AcademyGO works to strengthen nonprofit and community-benefit organizations through a variety of capacity-building programs and services. AcademyGO host monthly convenings of nonprofits that serve the Inland Empire and they also have academies that provide best practices for organizations. Their two major academies are The Fundraising Academy for Grassroots Organizations™ and The Grantwriting Academy for Grassroots Organizations™. In addition to these academies, AcademyGO hosts a free, funding information search program where the public and organizations can find grants. They also host the region’s one-stop nonprofit resources website IENonprofits.com. AcademyGO serves as a hub where organizations coordinate and communicate in order to strengthen a continuum of services throughout the Inland Empire.
The major sources of funding for AcademyGO are foundations and corporations that prioritize the strengthening of nonprofits. They also receive support though donations from individuals and fees for services. While nonprofit capacity building is a high priority in the region, the funding model for nonprofit support centers in general is challenging. “It’s not a cause that lends itself to community support campaigns, like say, feeding the homeless or health care,” stated CEO, Vici Nagel.
Nagel highlights funding as the major challenge that she foresees not only for AcademyGO, but for the rest of the organizations in the region. “Again, building nonprofit infrastructure is not as urgent sounding as feeding people in need,” continued Nagel. “However, without strong nonprofits that are able to meet people’s needs, those people and their families, and entire communities, falter and fail.”
Vici highlights that the work of AcademyGO emphasizes collaboration and sharing information amongst capacity-building organizations. She believes in working together to find ways to develop a continuum of services to strengthen the nonprofit sector in the Inland Empire. Vici mentions that, “having capacity builders continue to work together and collaborate more and more,” could improve the overall efforts in the region. Vici mentions that campaigns such as the Census Complete Count are great opportunities to develop a regional collaboration platform and she hopes that that collaboration can continue after Census 2020 work is done. She hopes that organizations in the Inland Empire will continue to use the structures created for the Census 2020 Complete Count Campaign to tackle the next big initiative in the region.
ALIANZA - Barret Newkirk
Alianza aims to transform the socio-economic conditions of the Coachella Valley so that people in all communities have opportunities to prosper. They do this through grassroots community-led efforts, focusing on environmental justice, improving infrastructure, increasing access to health care, and support for youth.
Barrett notes that Alianza engages in deep partnership with local agencies and other community organizations to achieve these goals. For example, the organization is mobilizing to ensure that any long-term plans for the Salton Sea include the participation and priorities of residents most deeply affected. Alianza works to see that resident’s voices are heard and that they are an essential part of any solution.
In addition, Barrett notes that Alianza has worked hard to build advocacy coalitions and government collaborations to bring in more parks and paved roads to region, which are critical for community health (parks provide venues for recreation and exercise, while paved roads improve transportation access and reduce dust pollution). Alianza and its community partners also mobilized a successful campaign to expand public transportation to low-income and immigrant-heavy communities in the Eastern Coachella Valley that previously lacked them. Alianza’s work has also prioritized getting clean water to those communities, including legislation that set new water billing and filtration standards in mobile home parks, which are prevalent in the Eastern Coachella Valley.
Born out of the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities Initiative, Alianza has been transitioning to becoming a fully self-sustainable independent nonprofit. Barret notes that Alianza has been diversifying its grant sources and making headway with individual donors. He notes that they “want to make sure that individuals are part of that, and we want it to be individuals [living] in the community we serve.”
Barret hopes that the work of Alianza will change attitudes about the Eastern Coachella Valley. Rather than seeing the ECV as the poor side of the valley, Barret hopes that people will see that the ECV “has strong values and strong culture and is worth visiting and paying attention to.” With increased attention from the state, Barret notes that there is an “opportunity for Alianza to open up more conversations with State officials about (the Salton Sea)” and other pressing priorities. Lastly, Barret recognizes the importance of Census 2020 work, providing important opportunities to collaborate with government agencies and other nonprofits that will strengthen the region even after this work has concluded.
Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement - Pastor Casey
COPE is a Black-led, faith-rooted organization founded in 2000 with a mission to build the capacity of faith and community members to protect and revitalize the communities in which they live, work, and worship. Pastor Casey, COPE’s founding director, began organizing clergy leaders to take a proactive approach, rather than a reactive approach, to systemic change through grassroots community organizing. “We know that ending mass incarceration means disrupting the systemic structures, policies, and practices that fuel mass incarceration and continue to marginalize low income and system-impacted persons, particularly African American and Latinx persons, long after they have paid their debt to society,” says Pastor Casey.
COPE’s work is primarily supported through foundation grants. A lesser portion of the organization’s resources are supported through public funding made possible through a direct contract with San Bernardino County Public Health Department and a sub-contract through Loma Linda University for the provision of services to vulnerable populations including formerly incarcerated persons.
Though grateful for the various funding opportunities that they have, Pastor Casey mentions the lack of general funding as a challenge for many organizations. “Our growth and sustainability means attracting and retaining committed and skilled workers. We want to build the next generation of leaders and bring them into the work but we have to compete with the private sector who offers much more competitive salary and benefits packages.” Pastor Casey asks, “How can we be a social justice organization and not pay benefits?” He notes that they are trying their best to bring salaries to market rate, and that general operating support funds are critical to doing so. He also notes the need to develop adequate community infrastructure, with the 2020 Census population count as an important opportunity for the region to make a strategic case for investment.
Pastor Casey believes that if the funding coming into the Inland Empire matched that of the coastal cities then social movement activity would scale up in a way that achieves remarkable impact. He hopes that with increased investment for organizations in the region the work around criminal justice, health care and housing reform will increase. Pastor Casey mentions that COPE’s collaboration with UCR and the rest of the region’s universities has helped them make their narrative and stories better known. He hopes that with this type of collaboration systemic change will be possible not only at the local level, but also at the state and federal levels.
Family Service Association - Shannon
Family Service Association is a multi-service organization that aims to build community through the variety of their programs. FSA provides mental health services, child development services, and operates a large senior nutrition program. FSA also operates the Child Abuse Prevention Council for the entire County of Riverside. In addition to these programs, FSA operates senior and community centers where they engage community residents through social recreational programming as well offering senior housing for individuals ages 60 and up. As Shannon puts it, “we do a little of everything, we try to really wrap ourselves around our families that we serve to meet their entire needs.”
FSA serves residents in both San Bernardino and Riverside counties with 85% of their funding coming through government contracts and grants. The rest of the funds come from private foundations, small fees for services provided, and donations. FSA partners with different organizations—such as the County of Riverside, Department of Adult and Aging Services, California State Department of Education and First 5—to provide services throughout the region.
The biggest challenge that Shannon sees is how funding is allocated in the region. She believes that the sector needs more discretionary dollars for organizations. This unrestricted funding allows non-profits to make decisions of how to best provide services to the community, improving the organizations’ work.
In addition to funding, Shannon believes that competing with the for-profit sector to secure talented and dedicated professionals is a challenge. (At the time of our interview, the unemployment rate in the Inland Empire was at historic lows, and competition for high-skilled labor was an extreme challenge.) Shannon notes that, more generally, having multi-year operational funding could help organizations that provide direct services secure long-term dedicated professionals.
Shannon hopes that with FSA’s advocacy work, more dollars will be funneled into the Inland Empire, in ways that ameliorate the large disparities with other parts of Southern California. She believes that, with the creation of stronger nonprofit networks, the region could become even stronger. FSA was a regional coordinator for Census outreach efforts in the region, in partnership with the Inland Empire Community Foundation, Inland Empowerment, and many other nonprofits that range from service providers to grassroots organizations. She cites the Census outreach effort as a concrete example of building stronger nonprofit infrastructure and stronger nonprofit networks.
Goodwill of Southern California
Goodwill is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform lives through the power of work. Goodwill provides job training and placement opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment, which includes individuals with disabilities, veterans, and at-risk youth.
The Inland Empire Goodwill is the largest, geographically, in North America. Lowell believes that one of the reasons that the programs at Goodwill are not well known to the public is because, at times, the retail side of Goodwill overshadows the programs that they operate. For example, Goodwill operates a youth program funded by San Bernardino County for out of school youth between ages 16 and 23. Goodwill also assists with resume building and job searches.
When it comes to funding, Goodwill’s stores generate 87% of their funding. In addition to their retail revenues, Goodwill receives funding from individual donors, private foundations, and banks. Goodwill also receives funding from San Bernardino County to operate their youth programs. Moreover, as part of the California Workforce Association and the National Workforce Board, Goodwill provides conferences and training opportunities, and has established strong relationships with nearly 150 organizations in the region working on a range of issues. Lowell mentions that “whether that’s mental health, whether that’s childcare, whether that’s substance abuse, whatever it is we partner with other organizations to provide those services to that individual. So, we can help them be successful.”
Lowell sees the size of the Inland Empire as a big challenge for nonprofits. Finding the fiscally responsible way to provide services to individuals spread out through the region poses a great challenge. In addition to the geographical challenges, building Goodwill’s partners capacity is a challenge Lowell also foresees. Lowell notes that “we provided training for different organizations to help them build their capacity... If they’re able to serve more, then we can serve more.”
Lowell believes that the One California Initiative from the Governor can help the nonprofits sectors. He mentions that the growth of the Inland Empire is attracting more donors into the region and is shifting attention inward.
Lowell also believes that the Inland Empire could benefit from having more prominent leaders that can be the voice for smaller organizations. For Lowell, having a nonprofit resource center where nonprofits can come together to collaborate would help the efforts being carried out by individual nonprofits in the region.
Growing Inland Achievement - Dr. Ayala
Dr. Carlos Ayala, a longtime educator and former dean in the California State University system, was appointed CEO of Growing Inland Achievement (GIA) in 2019. GIA is a cross-sector collaborative organization focused on raising the region’s educational attainment rates. Currently, only 151 of 1,000 current Inland Empire 9th graders are projected to earn a bachelor’s degree, and only 18% of Inland Empire adults aged 18-34 currently have a bachelor’s degree.
The initiative got started in 2015 as the “Governor’s Innovation Award in Higher Education,” with a $5 million grant from the state of California that engaged various stakeholders in K-12 education, post-secondary education, and civic and business leaders. Even as it has become a standalone organization with a CEO, GIA has retained its collaborative model of problem-solving.
GIA takes a collective impact approach, which means convening regional leaders across sectors to create shared goals and data accountability structures. An example of this model can be seen in their Action Network Teams (ANTs), which are focused on addressing specific issues such as equity, College and Career Preparedness, and Adult & Professional Education, among other.
GIA’s regional goals include aligning educational policy and initiatives through a regional cradle-to-career collective impact model; increasing college preparedness, and achieving a 20% reduction in the number of students requiring remediation, particularly in math; increasing baccalaureate, associate, certificate, and credential attainment by 15% across the two counties within 5 years; and improving career preparedness through a strengthened partnership with industry to better align education with workforce development needs.
Several grants have helped GIA to carry out their work, including the Governors Innovation Award, and grants from the College Futures Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. GIA’s vision is that by 2035, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties will be widely recognized for their educated workforce, thriving communities, and a vibrant economy creating prosperity for all.
As Ayala puts it, “There are many organizations in the Inland Empire that are doing great work... [GIA aims] to bring those folks together around a cradle-to-career collective impact model, which has proven to be successful in other metropolitan areas across the United States. We are making great progress, but there is still much work to be done.”
Habitat for Humanity Riverside - Kathy
Habitat for Humanity Riverside is an organization dedicated to ensuring that everybody has a safe, decent, affordable place to live. The organization has two primary programs: building and repairing homes. Habitat places an emphasis on preserving affordable housing, especially for low-income seniors. Habitat for Humanity originates their own mortgages and also operates a retail operation called “The Restore”. As the CEO, Kathy wears many hats that range from helping residents to field work and even the retail side of operations. Habitat for Humanity main areas of operation include Riverside and Moreno Valley.
Habitat’s revenues are diverse, including funding from events, grants for repairs, individual contributions, retail receipts, and HUD grants. Habitat for Humanity also receives project grants through HUD for building homes, something that ten years ago was not being leveraged. Kathy mentions that they are currently working on a $4-$5 million construction project with Cal-Vet that helps the state’s veterans. Kathy knows the importance of partnerships and she mentions that “…I’ve kind of figured out over the years is that I don’t need to be the expert in everything. I don’t need to go get my solar panel license if Grid Alternatives can partner with us and do the solar.”
Habitat for Humanity receives help from the state Habitat California which assists with the mortgages for those affiliates who are not able to handle them. Kathy mentions that funding has improved in the past few years, with diversification of revenues as a key enabling factor.
One of the biggest struggles that organizations like Habitat for Humanity face is the impact fees due to the state regulations. In addition to the fees, the complexity of being able to build homes in California also poses a challenge for the organization. A big issue for Habitat for Humanity is land use; under current regulations, they will have to raise more money to be able to afford the purchasing of land to continue building affordable housing. Kathy hopes that impact fees regulations could be changed to lower the price of Habitat’s construction work.
Kathy also strongly believes in the importance of partnership. She mentions that by partnering, organizations are able to leverage each other’s strengths’ and can translate to bigger funding opportunities once foundations see that there is increased collaboration. Lastly, she believes that the Census efforts in the region will have a meaningful impact on the region, and that all organizations should push to have a more accurate count because it will impact the work of all organizations serving the Inland Empire.
Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice - Javier Hernandez
Inland Coalition of Immigrant Justice (ICIJ), is a coalition of over 35 organizations, including advocates and service providers, that works to collectively improve the lives of immigrants in the Inland Empire and create more just immigration policy systems. They work in four main areas: (1) providing legal rapid-response and assistance for residents who have been detained or face other immigration-related barriers or issues, (2) preventing abuses in regional detention facilities including in Adelanto, (3) advocating for policy change at local, state, and national levels, including on health care expansion, economic security, and legalization, and (4) building capacity for their partners in the region.
ICIJ emerged after a years-long collaborative effort incubated by religious leaders, and is primarily funded through private philanthropy. In addition, the organization is a key regional partner to the California Immigrant Policy Center, which connects regional coalitions with statewide advocacy efforts. Executive Director Javier Hernandez notes that the organization has strong partner relationships both within and outside the region, which is important for its statewide and national advocacy work.
When asked about challenges the organization faces, Javier notes that it is largely one of keeping up with a rapid increase in demand for advocacy, rapid response, and coordination of work across partners. While it is good that ICIJ can be flexible in this capacity, the region’s growing demand sometimes outpaces their ability to take on new projects.
Javier also notes some challenges related to maintaining the attention and commitment of state and national funders. He notes that “if funders could better understand the great assets here, they would be more likely to invest in the region.” In addition, foundations often shift priorities depending on what is happening at the state and national levels. He is concerned that, if the focus shifts away from immigrant rights, organizations serving those populations would suffer.
Javier sees significant opportunities for community organizations, with the region gaining more attention from major foundations as well as the Governor’s office. With more eyes on the region, Javier sees this as an opportunity to showcase the impressive work that has been done and is continuing to happen. “With very little resources, we are a region where nonprofits have been really innovative,” Javier says.“The leaders here are innovative because they’ve had to face and meet multiple challenges, mainly meeting those goals through sheer community power.”
Inland Empire Capacity Building Network - Debbie Cannon
The Inland Empire Capacity Network is a coalition of capacity builders in the Inland Empire. The IECN provides an array of services to nonprofit and community benefit organizations serving the Inland Empire. Members of the Capacity Building Network work together to increase local resources and to serve the region's population of more than 4.5 million residents. The conversations that arise in the coalition relate to the needs of the region and what the next steps should be to address such needs. The CPN serves as a convening space to share the work of other nonprofit organizations that is crucial for the region as well as sharing the individual needs of the organizations providing services throughout the Inland Empire. The CPN also provides and shares resources for other organizations for funding opportunities.
The Inland Empire Capacity Network does not currently receive any funding. The CPN previously received funding from the Funders Alliance to create a curriculum called “Changing the Narrative”. As Debbie notes “we try not to compete with each other…we try to just be more informational and networking. If there is a particular project that one of us is working on and we think another one of our partners could be a good partner on that, then we do that.” Because the CPN is an informal coalition, there are no shared funds. However, Debbie mentions that if organizations are interested in a project, they can seek their own funds and collaborate with one another.
Debbie sees the fast-growing region, in terms of initiatives and programs as a big challenge. Debbie also notes the capacity struggles are directly a result of the lack of funds coming into the region, something that she sees as a common struggle found among nonprofit in the Inland Empire. Debbie also believes that through collaborations and partnerships, organizations can improve their funding opportunities and become familiar with the other initiatives throughout the region.
In addition to the collaboration, Debbie sees the CalNonprofits report Causes Count as a means to strengthen the work in the region. The report highlights the work and economic impact of nonprofits in the region. Debbie believes that smaller organizations could benefit from the report as it would help them formulate a better narrative around their work and could lead to better funding opportunities. Aside from the report, the increased attention from the state towards this region could be beneficial as long as there is more representation from the Inland Empire in some of the conversations that are happening.
Inland Empire Community Collaborative - Susan Gomez
The Inland Empire Community Collaborative is a group of nonprofit organizations that have a hands-on understanding of the struggles of nonprofit organizations, the people they serve, and the systems within which they operate. IECC aims to use this knowledge to strengthen each organization as well as the sector as a whole.
IECC aims to prepare nonprofits to be sustainable, viable, and to thrive in the region. For example, using a train-the-trainer model the IECC has developed a program called Capacity Building Academy where they provide sustainability planning for nonprofits in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Their relationships with funders helps drive engagement in capacity building workshops, grant writing boot-camps, and their annual Thrive Nonprofit Conference.
IECC got its start with a capacity-building investment from First 5 San Bernardino. It now receives support through county contracts and giving from private foundations and individual donors, going from an annual budget of $50,000 to $1.2 million within three years. Just as IECC has diversified its funding stream, they encourage their members to also do so. “Sustainable means you have to be diversified in your funding streams,” Susan says, adding “they just can’t rely on single source funding anymore; that model is not sustainable.”
Susan notes that a big challenge for the IECC is keeping up the quality of work given their early success and growing demand. Susan mentions that being mindful of organizational capacity is critical to ensuring fidelity to mission and ensuring nonprofit success, and this applies equally to IECC as to their nonprofit members.
Insufficient investments are also a challenge, Susan notes, adding that “the landscape for [nonprofits] has changed because the services are exponentially growing, and there are more families in need... Nonprofits are being asked to do more for less.”
Susan hopes that the work that IECC is doing will lead to more awareness of the true cost that it takes for nonprofit organizations to provide services. This includes fair wages, and fair compensation for the services being provided. With a unified voice as nonprofits, Susan hopes that this kind of advocacy will increase. Susan mentions that opportunities that involve collaboration are critical for the region’s success.
Inland Empire Community Foundation - Celia Cudiamat
The Inland Empire Community Foundation’s mission is to strengthen philanthropy in the Inland Empire. As a public benefit corporation and Grantmaker, the IECF works with donors to provide financial support to nonprofits in the region in order to address community needs and to improve quality of life. The IECF also convenes on community issues that impact different sectors in the community by having communication on how the two-county region can work together to enhance the living conditions of their residents. Celia notes that as the majority of funders are outside of the Inland Empire, the IECF serves as the “conduit to enable those dollars to go into our region's particular communities.” The IECF also works with donors to ensure that their experience is the best so the relationships between donors, the IECF, and the region continue.
The IECF receives their funds through a variety of sources that include but are not limited to individuals, families, corporations, nonprofits, and other entities. In addition to these donors, the IECF also works closely with other private philanthropy through partnerships on projects that relate to economic mobility and support grants. Celia mentions that in the past two years the IECF has received grants for two major state initiatives: the 2020 Census and the partnerships with the California Office of Emergency Service for natural disaster preparedness. The IECF also works with private foundations such as the Weingart Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the California Endowment to enhance their own work and capacity, so that IECF can enable the rest of the organizations in the Inland Empire.
Celia believes growth opportunities are a challenge given the geographic size of the Inland Empire. As the only community foundation in the region, Celia mentions that the IECF must be mindful of the expectations of their work. Celia notes that until “we get to a point when we could be large enough to be able to deploy resources equitably in the two-county region, that's always going to be our ongoing challenge.” With an ever-increased need for nonprofit organizations, the IECF also believes that delivering the necessary sustainable skills and resources to the organizations will be a challenge as well. Regardless of these challenges, Celia believes that there is resiliency among the organizations in the region and if they are able to work closely together, then funding opportunities and the impact of the work will be greater.
The IECF hopes that by growing philanthropy in the region they will be able to build permanent assets so that these assets can translate directly into communities and help to continue lifting up communities and improving the quality of life in the region. Celia sees the work around Census as groundbreaking. Celia notes that the collaborative effort between the different sectors has become a force and a network that could take on the next big initiative for the region.
Inland Empowerment - Sky Allen
Inland Empowerment is a coalition of organizations that do civic engagement work in the Inland Empire. Comprising eight partner organization members, Inland Empowerment aims to empower the voices of communities of color and low-propensity voters to be more active and to civically engage.
Inland Empowerment is heavily involved in “Get Out the Vote” campaigns. In addition, the organization works as a mediator between local nonprofits to find issues where they intersect and can collaborate. Inland Empowerment also works to inform and encourage the local community to get involved in campaigns and leadership in the region.
Inland Empowerment has been heavily involved with 2020 Census outreach work in the region. Sky notes that they have developed an application to help with outreach efforts that they hope will be useful for future innovations in community engagement. Indeed, when faced with disruptions due to COVID-19 in early March, Census outreach partners pivoted from face-to-face canvassing to phone banking and digital engagement. Inland Empowerment aims to continue innovating in the area of coordinated grassroots engagement, with important lessons learned from the COVID crisis.
Census work has also helped Inland Empowerment develop valuable relationships, both within the region and outside, which Sky hopes will continue after 2020. These relationships and partnerships include government agencies, philanthropy, service providers, grassroots organizations, and researchers. Sky believes that the coalitions and partnerships that have sprung up from this work will have to be thoughtfully maintained and nurtured. She notes that Census work will set the stage for the future of nonprofits in the Inland Empire.
In terms of challenges for local nonprofit sector, Sky believes that funding will always be an issue. While funding growth for the Inland Empire has not kept pace with other regions, she notes that relationships with donors and foundations like the Inland Empire Community Foundation have become much stronger because of this Census work.
Sky believes that economic development, environmental justice, and immigrant rights are three main areas of opportunities for the region to collaborate deeply. Inland Empowerment also seeks to collaborate and engage with a large variety of organizations in the region, focusing on common goals. Sky notes that having increased engagement among different parts of the region could improve the collaboration between agencies and help to address local community needs on a larger scale.
- Janice Rooths - Social Impact Consultant
One Future Coachella Valley- Sheila Thornton
One Future Coachella Valley is a nonprofit designed to help all students in the Coachella Valley graduate prepared for college, career, and their future. The organization focuses on expanding and enhancing the local workforce with a focus on youth and economic development. OFCV does this work by advancing the Regional Plan to provide students with a way to explore careers, gain work experience, and scholarships, as well as other supports for college success. Key to this approach is involvement from regional employers, which helps to ensure that student preparation is aligned with local workforce needs. OFCV partners with other nonprofits, colleges, civic organizations, and workforce development agencies to achieve these goals. Sheila notes that having these types of cross-sector collaborative teams are essential for success in the region. She states, “It’s important for nonprofits, businesses, education, and government to work together towards the same goal.”
The major sources of funding for OFCV in the past two years have been mainly foundations, including the James Irvine Foundation, College Futures Foundation, and the California Endowment. Recently, OFCV has been shifting from foundation grants into a revenue model that is mixed. Sheila notes that part of the challenges surrounding funding is, “being able to attract operating funds that give you the flexibility to be innovative.”
In addition, Shelia mentions that being able to communicate the impact of OFCV as a backbone or intermediary organization can be challenging as well. OFCV is the necessary glue between many entities working in the field. Sheila also notes that a lack of technical assistance is a challenge for not only OFCV, but many other nonprofits in the region. She states, “We are rich in data, but could use assistance in making meaning of that data.”
In terms of opportunities for the nonprofit sector in the IE, Sheila states that the region is just starting to grow and implement, “true cross-sector collaborative work and sustaining it.” She notes that the region has experienced the negative effects of not thinking about intersectionality. She hopes that future collaborative work will help not only improve the lives of those living in the Coachella Valley, but that this region can also work with other parts of Inland California facing similar challenges, such as the Central Valley.
Sigma Beta Xi - Corey, Berenice, and Darrell
Sigma Beta Xi is a nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to address the cycle of poverty and violence through education and community organizing. SBX provides research-based mentoring and development services for at-risk youth. For example, as part of one of their programs, Darrell mentions that they have created programming “to reach out to our community and family members throughout the broader region to be able to get affordable Internet.” In addition to this initiative Sigma Beta Xi offers drug and alcohol counseling, and rites of passage programs.
Corey mentions that for the first five years of Sigma beta Xi, all their funding came through social enterprise, including earning fees for services related to youth mentoring and development. In addition, SBX partners with other organizations such as the Alliance for Men of Color in Riverside, ACLU, National Center for Youth Law, and NAACP among others to advance the reach of their programs and provide wraparound services for youth. In addition to these partnerships, SBX partners with local organizations that are trying to follow the social enterprise model to help them build capacity and secure grants for their projects. The social enterprise model allows SBX to have greater financial stability and the flexibility to pursue a variety of initiatives and projects that relate to their mission.
Sigma Beta Xi sees the next economic downturn as the biggest challenges they will face. They acknowledge that the recovery from the economic crisis in 2008 has been slow and that they have seen diminished philanthropy and grants coming into the region. In addition to this, Corey mentions that finding ways to diversify their funding without veering away from their mission will also pose a challenge. Corey mentions that he would like to see foundations give a fair percentage of dollars to the Inland Empire as they do to other regions in the state. Lastly, Corey notes that more organizations are carrying bigger loads of work with the same amount of pay and that foundations should provide more general operating support.
In terms of a future outlook, Berenice mentions the importance of having more opportunities for youth in the region. She notes that “all of these programs and different resources and the drastic changes we’ve made over the last five years, have really come from our young people and really being able to give our youth the voice that they need to make their community better.”
TruEvolution - Gabriel Maldonado
TruEvolution is an organization that fights for health equity and racial justice to advance the quality of life and human dignity for LGBTQ+ communities of color. In their early days, TruEvolution partnered with school districts to provide leadership development, career development, and teach organizing for future young leaders. TruEvolution then shifted to become a direct service provider where they began providing services for HIV individuals. TruEvolution aims to understand the social determinants of health affecting the people they serve. Currently, TruEvolution operates an HIV program, a mental health clinic, and a housing program.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, Gabriel mentions that TruEvolution’s work has been greatly diminished. As an organization with largely case management, outreach, and community-based HIV testing, TruEvolution is severely impaired from conducting its services in the community setting. In person activities, such as support groups disable their ability to have a peer-to-peer approach in retention efforts through the social network created by an in-person support group setting. Many of their clients also do not have consistent access to technology or data that would allow them to adequately participate in a virtual group. Clients who reside in rural areas may have to be provided door-to-door rideshare transportation to complete in-person eligibility screening and paperwork depending on funding requirements. In addition, the organization has had to redesign its protocols and procedures rapidly to telehealth and telework models while also keeping pace with the swiftly changing federal, state, and local state-at-home orders which is also stagnating productivity. As an essential health organization, TruEvolution has been identified to aide in the COVID-19 response and utilize its emergency housing program for people living with HIV to accept those with that health status (immunocompromised population) for their hotel/motel vouchers. The organization was asked to house 13 in the same day and estimates they only have enough vouchers to last 30-45 days. Lastly, the organization’s annual fundraiser was scheduled May 30-31st and had a projected revenue of $100,000. In addition, two of the organization’s unrestricted funders has said that they will be receiving a 50% reductions and 75% reduction in pledged awards due to the company’s available budget.
Gabriel notes that even with all the unexpected challenges, COVID-19 has made it possible for them to operate in ways they could not do so before this health crisis began. Some restrictions for operations and programs have been suspended which allows them to work more efficiently. With the permission to now utilize their funds for both hotel vouchers and rental assistance, TruEvolution could house 20-30 individuals for a month given the stay at home order from the Governor. Gabriel also states that on average it takes six weeks for cash reimbursements to be approved, but with the current crisis he was able to leverage a one to two-week reimbursement period from the county. In addition to this, Gabriel mentions that a lot of the red tape has been removed for preauthorization and approvals are being waived as well for certain necessary services, telehealth services, etc. at medical facilities they link their patients to.
Gabriel mentions that they are prepared to work at full capacity for the next three months, but will need to quickly supplement their reserves and bridge cash flow concerns on delayed in reimbursements or delayed contract agreements. In addition, Gabriel mentions that his organization is in need of additional administrators to handle the growth and capacity that is required to keep-up with existing efforts, take on additional dollars, and re-strategize existing programs and services. He needs capacity-building and general operating support (GOS) dollars to sustain a long-term COVID-19 response efforts.
Youth Mentoring Action Network - Dr. Torie Weiston-Serdan
Youth Mentoring Action Network is a nonprofit organization that leverages the power of mentoring relationships in the fight for equity and justice. Weiston-Serdan mentions that YMAN, through a culturally responsive model, builds mentor relationships with people to support and provide resources that they need “to go out and change the world.” YMAN partners with various schools in San Bernardino and Rialto as well as other organizations that work around serving youth. Through their programs, YMAN provides information about college applications and scholarships, teaches youth how to organize to serve the needs of the community, and provides STEM-focused mentoring to young musicians and artists in the Inland Empire.
YMAN relies on a variety of funding sources to succeed. It receives grants from the Inland Empire Community Foundation, Southern California Edison, and other private foundations. In addition, YMAN has contracts with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters which they use to provide culturally responsive training. YMAN also receives part of their funds from their fee for service operations. Dr. Weiston-Serdan mentions that they consider themselves a social enterprise but notes that in the beginning their work was seen as “a bit radical for those who were funding mentoring and youth development.”. However, YMAN realized that this fee-for-service model allowed them to think and plan in innovative and sustainable ways.
Weiston-Serdan mentions that income inequality and gentrification as significant issues. She notes that a large number of people are being displaced to the Eastern side of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, putting more strain on organizations who need to travel even further to reach their communities. She also highlights the challenge of retaining the region’s talent, with insufficient funding and low wages discouraging youth from staying in the region. Finally, lack of affordable transportation limits the ability of youth to thrive, and YMAN to reach more people.
Torie sees a great opportunity in finding effective ways to partner with colleges and government in the region as a way to strengthen the nonprofit work, but she notes that “it just doesn’t feel like there’s a good sort of smooth way of working with each other.” In addition to this collaboration, She hopes that the growth in the I.E. could spark the investment coming into the region.
Women in Tandem-Ana
Ana Lee is the owner and CEO of Women in Tandem (WIT), an organization providing a workspace for women to connect and work in downtown Riverside. Ana notes that market research indicates a primary issue for women entrepreneurs is lack of community. WIT attempts to address these issues by providing a tailored space for women to interact and connect.
Anais Franco currently has a fellowship with IGNITE National, an organization that encourages young womxn to become the next generation of political leaders. As a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, IGNITE National focuses on building political ambition in high school and young college womxn. Anais believes one of the prominent issues facing womxn in the Inland Empire is lack of political representation.
Mi Familia Vota-Janet
Janet Bernabe is the Riverside Regional Coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, an organization focused on the civic engagement of the local Latinx community. Janet has been working with Mi Familia Vota for a year and half and primarily is involved in voter registration, worker rights, environmental issues, immigration, education, and healthcare. Janet believes that these issues especially affect women of color in the region.
Inland Empire Women in Manufacturing-Acquanetta
Acquanetta Warren is the Mayor of Fontana, California, and champion of the Inland Empire Women in Manufacturing movement. Born in Los Angeles, Mayor Warren was one of the first African Americans to be integrated into the LA Unified School District. She began her career in banking, but has always been involved in politics. Mayor Warrens’ past service includes various council subcommittees, boards, and commissions.
Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest-Jacque
Jacque Casillas is the Donor Relations Manager for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. The mission of Planned Parenthood is to ensure broad public access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, through education, advocacy, and direct service. The organization looks at what issues impact women locally. For this region that includes: transportation in the Coachella Valley, mobile service for women near the border, and translation services across western Riverside County. All of these issues are directly related to health outcomes.
City of Redlands-Carole
Carole Beswick was the first woman mayor of Redlands, has served on various commissions and boards, is currently a Trustee for the University of Redlands and is the CEO of Inland Action. Inland Action is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that encourages and promotes the economic well-being of the Inland Empire.
While Inland Action does not specifically focus on gender, the organization looks to expand education access and opportunities for all groups. In addition, they have made efforts to bring women into their leadership.
Country of Origin: Mexico Status: Citizen Occupation: Self-employed
Juanita’s family history in the United States dates well before her own migration from Mexico, and shows the complexity of family ties across both countries. Juanita and her parents first migrated in 1987 when she was a teenager, but her grandfather had already arrived a
few decades prior, and her older siblings had been in the United States for over 15 years. Juanita’s family intended to visit temporarily, but ended up staying longer to save some money and eventually ended up living in the region permanently.
Most of Juanita’s relatives are naturalized citizens, but some remain undocumented.
Given her own immigration journey, Juanita is actively involved in organizations and groups that advocate for indigenous rights and immigrant rights. Four years ago, she created a grassroots media platform to support and inform immigrant communities about policies affecting them.
Education and immigration are among the most pressing issues Juanita cites in the region.
She feels that there is a lack of mentoring and guidance for first-generation college students. As a parent, Juanita feels unfamiliar with the process of getting her daughter prepared for college. On immigration, she feels that the community has been subjected to constant harassment by immigration agencies, often separating family members. She notes that racial profiling, mistreatment, and cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE have created and perpetuated a lack of trust between the immigrant community and local law enforcement.
Juanita is hopeful that the current immigration system can be replaced with comprehensive immigration reform that takes into account many factors that are often overlooked or neglected in current immigration policy.
Location: Moreno Valley
Age: Late 20s
Country of Origin: Mexico
Status: DACA Recipient
Occupation: Student, Assistant Professor
Consuelo lives in the city of Moreno Valley with her parents and two younger siblings, in a mixed immigration status family. Consuelo and her parents immigrated in the U.S. in 2001. In Mexico, Consuelo’s parents’ owned a small business, but lost it after experiencing some financial hardship. Her father immigrated to the United States in order to earn money and send remittances home to ease the family’s financial burden. After Consuelo and her mother experienced threats to their safety, they decided to join Consuelo’s father in the United States. Relatives in the U.S. helped ease the family’s transition to their new home.
Currently, Consuelo works as an assistant professor and is part of a labor union. She is also is completing a fellowship where she works with college-age female students in promoting public service. Consuelo is actively involved in organizations that focused on poverty, empowerment of young women, and environmental justice.
Some of the most pressing issues for Consuelo in her community include limited funding in nonprofits and staff wages. She feels there is not enough investment in non-profit organizations that aim to provide services for community members. According to Consuelo, ”You should be able to live on your own while you’re doing work that’s helpful for the community.” Human rights are a critical concern for Consuelo as she feels that education, healthcare, and fair and safe working conditions should be accessible for everyone, regardless of immigration status.
Consuelo believes that California has different policies that are immigrant friendly, but there are still issues that arise with some of these policies, including rebuilding trust with local law enforcement. Consuelo is most hopeful for future generations to enact meaningful change. She hopes that more people of color and groups that have been marginalized in the past will take more leadership positions in their local communities.
Location: San Bernardino
Country of Origin: Mexico
Tomasa came to the United States when she was 24 years old. She was only supposed to come for a short period of time, but ended up establishing a life and family here. Tomasa used to live in Los Angeles, she moved to the Inland Empire leaving the frenzy of city life and hoping to spend more time with her family. She currently lives with her husband and their two children in San Bernardino.
Tomasa worked for a fast food company for a long time, but eventually she stopped working due to chronic health problems. After not working for some time, she started a small business of catering and party-rental supplies.
Tomasa feels that it is extremely important to be “good citizens” especially due to her immigration status. She cares about her community and tries to maintain herself informed and active to help the immigrant community. Tomasa wishes that she did not have to use government aid, but she is thankful to be able have access to it to help her cover the cost of the medicine she needs. She felt that she had no choice but to tap into government aid given the high cost of medicine and medical treatment.
Some of the most pressing issues for Tomasa are related to immigrants. She feels that the current administration is not immigrant friendly and it continues to narrow down options for current and future immigrants. Tomasa fears deportation, and how it would affect her US citizen children if the family is forced to move to Mexico. She is also concerned about neighborhood safety, as her family has suffered from robberies and violence.
Tomasa aspires to attain legal status someday. She is also hopeful for the future of her children. She knows that they will have a voice and vote, and she hopes that they can become civic leaders and give back to their community.
Location: Chino Hills
Age: Mid 20s
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Status: U.S. Citizen
Occupation: Program Coordinator
Mary was born in the United States, and her parents were able to migrate through a family sponsorship program from Taiwan. Her parents first migrated to the San Diego area, but eventually were able to purchase a home in the city of Chino Hills. Mary’s parents wanted to provide a better future for their family in a place where they could access more resources.
For the last two years, Mary has been working as a program coordinator for a nonprofit organization. In her profession she designs curricula and conducts training programs. Mary feels that the nonprofit work in the region is severely underfunded, putting downward pressure on both wages and benefits.
In addition to seeing the need for a more inclusive immigration system at the national level and robust implementation of the state’s “sanctuary law” (SB 54), Mary is also concerned about other issues that affect immigrants and their children, including the lack of better jobs in the region, the lack of affordable and accessible health care, and the prevalence of environmental hazards. For her, better jobs means paying fair wages and having predictable hours, meaningful benefits, and safe working conditions. She also feels that there is a lack of representation by elected officials when it comes to environmental issues and policy.
Mary feels lucky that she has not seen increased immigration enforcement in her neighborhood. She believes that one of the reasons is because her family is part of the Asian community, and immigration agencies tend not to not disturb Asian and Pacific Islander communities as much as others.
Mary is most hopeful for people in the region to be engaged in elections and to really know about the issues that affect the Inland Empire. She hopes that one day healthcare can be affordable, accessible and be provided in a culturally competent manner for everyone.
Location: Palm Desert
Country of Origin: Mexico
Status: Permanent Resident
Carlos immigrated with his parents from Mexicali when he was just eight years old. He moved to the Coachella Valley in 1952 to work in the fruit packing industry. He joined the U.S. Army in 1959 and was stationed in Alaska for 18 months.
Upon completing his tour in the Army, Carlos was able to get additional education and training in communications through the GI Bill. He enjoyed working in the telecommunication industry, where he was part of a union, with union benefits. As a member of the union, he regularly attended meetings. He conveyed that the unions he was part of were true allies to their members, regardless of race. And yet, they did not make any extra efforts to assist other community members outside of the labor union.
Some of the most pressing issues for Carlos pertain to health, including lack of government support for the elderly and a lack of outreach on other resources that can be helpful to people like him.
As a child immigrant, Carlos was able to receive permanent residency after living in the Coachella Valley for three years. He feels that it is more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status now, and he wishes that there were more support for immigrant services today as in the past.
Luz Maria & Antonio
Ages: mid 70s
Country of Origin: Mexico
Status: U.S. Citizen
Luz Maria and Antonio Ayala migrated to the U.S. from Michoacan in 1971. Ever since, the couple has consistently organized for improved working conditions for farm workers and for immigrant legalization.
The Ayalas had been members of Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers since 1972, engaging in various advocacy efforts, visiting representatives in their Sacramento and D.C. offices, and educating their representatives about the harsh conditions farm workers were subjected to, such as pesticide exposure that caused chronic, and sometimes fatal, health problems.
They dedicated countless hours to helping farmworkers apply for immigration relief during the early 1980’s. Years later, they reached out to Cesar Chavez to fight against other injustices in their community, including local law enforcement asking for proof of immigration status in the course of routine traffic stops.
Bert Corona, a former faculty member at UC Riverside had a great influence on them, helping them develop skills to successfully organize workers and community members. Their organizing efforts aimed to improve conditions of farmworkers and community members in Indio, Coachella, Blythe and La Cuna de Aztlan.
The couple founded Training Occupational Development Educating Communities (TODEC) in the mid 1980’s in Perris. TODEC’s mission is to ensure equitable access to information, services, community education advocacy, and civic engagement for limited and non-English speaking people including immigrants and migrant workers throughout the Inland Empire.
Some of their early work included career re- training for farmworkers, and has now expanded to provide critical legal services, including assistance with applications for naturalization, DACA, and state driver’s licenses. Today, TODEC is part of a robust network of immigrant-serving organizations in the region.
Country of Origin: Mexico
Occupation: Currently in disability
In 1995, Lilia immigrated to the US as a single mother. For the first three years, she worked and saved up to have her young daughter come to the US. She currently lives with her husband and her two children that were born in the US. They owned a home but were forced to sell and relocate due to the recession. She is currently on disability after years of repetitive work in the fast food industry. While working, she was prone to harassment, wage theft, discrimination, and other unfair labor practices. She learned about her worker rights through her network with her local church.
She can relate to other undocumented immigrants that live in fear and uncertainty while dealing with family separation. She feels that undocumented immigrants live in the US are forced to remain quiet when they are subjected to discrimination.
According to Lilia, issues related to local law enforcement, immigration policy, and access to affordable housing are the most pressing. She believes that there needs to be immigration reform as well as education on immigration policies for those in need. While many immigrants like her face issues of fear of deportation, Lilia educates herself on immigration policies and is involved with a deportation defense network.
Lilia is hopeful for future generations of immigrants as she prays for more comprehensive immigration reform.
Age: Early 90s
Country of origin: Mexico
Status: Permanent Resident
Betina immigrated to the US in 1943 through a workers visa and moved to the Coachella Valley in 1945. She has worked most of her life in the agriculture industry as a produce packer. She has relied on familial networks to find employment. Through her work as a produce packer, she was able to secure health insurance and seek social services.
Networks play an important role in Betina’s life — provides information on health care and social services, social support, and employment. Her local church provided support in cover funeral costs for one of her family members.
Location: Riverside, CA
Country of Origin: Philippines
Status: (immigration): Dual Citizen: Canadian & American
Occupation: Currently Retired, Day Trader, Property Owner & Manager
Amante first immigrated from the Philippines to Canada in 1974 but moved to California in the 1980s. With his wife certified as a registered nurse, they were able to apply for a visa within three months. They moved to Long Beach as they had extended family already living there.
Amante first worked as a machine operator and welder, saving up money to later open two dry cleaning businesses. While operating these small businesses located in Fountain Valley and Laguna Beach, he commuted daily from Riverside to Orange County, often leaving for work at 2 or 3 in the morning and returning home at 6 in th evening. After six years, Amante closed his two businesses due to long hours and a hard commute. Later, due to health reasons, he reduced his time working side jobs including as a driving instructor. Upon his retirement, he spends his time traveling and visiting family and friends. He also owns rental properties in Las Vegas, which he manages.
One pressing concern for Amante when it comes to immigrants today is that work and educational opportunities have become more difficult to find. Immigrants today have a harder time owning their own homes and rent is expensive. With this, it becomes difficult to save money to eventually own a home. Yet, he admits that life in the US is still better than in the Philippines.
With Amante’s two sons and his grandchildren, he hopes that the future generations (as descendants of immigrants) do not forget where they came from and the hardships that were faced by their elders that first immigrated to the US. He hopes that future generations still work hard at achieving the American dream. He believes they can achieve anything they want as long as they have a good education. He and his late wife worked hard so that his kids can provide the best opportunities to their own families.
San Bernardino Community Service Center
Location: San Bernardino
Year Established: 1998
Regions Served: Riverside & San Bernardino Counties
Services: Immigration Services
San Bernardino Community Service Center (SBCSC) provides immigration legal services for people according to eligibility or need including deportation defense, DACA, TPS, asylum, permanent residency or citizenship. SBCSC welcomes everyone to obtain immigration services regardless of immigration status. Services are offered at no cost or based on a sliding fee scale.
SBCSC serves over 3,000 community members in Riverside and San Bernardino counties annually offering immigration legal services that consist of ceasing deportation proceedings and assisting eligible beneficiaries to obtain permanent residency or citizenship status.
The vision for SBSCS is to increase the organization’s capacity to offer legal services to the community by expanding these services to civic or criminal cases.
According to Emilio Amaya, Director of SBSCS, the need for increased funding to support nonprofit organizations serving immigrants in the Inland Empire region is crucial. Emilio believes that his organization is equipped to take the lead in community legal services and deportation defense in the region. However, funding support from philanthropic partners and public agencies is needed, otherwise it is extremely difficult for SBSCS to increase their organizational capacity and provision of legal services. Furthermore, Emilio identified an urgency to educate philanthropic partners and public officials about the unique assets and needs in the Inland Empire.
Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective (IEIYC)
Year Established: 2010
Regions Served: Riverside & San Bernardino Counties
Services: DACA, CA Dream Act, Policy & Advocacy, UndocuHealth Conference, Community outreach and engagement.
The Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective (IEIYC) is a grassroots organization in the Inland Empire led by undocumented youth. They strive to create a safe space for immigrant youth regardless of immigration status, sexuality or other intersections that are crucial to their undocumented identity. They aim to achieve equal access to higher education and justice for the immigrant community by empowering those who are most affected.
Some of the IEIYC’s biggest accomplishments include being involved in statewide policy and creating change, helping immigrant youth apply for DACA, and financial aid for higher education at no cost. Another remarkable accomplishment is their annual UndocuHealth Conference, which is one of a kind, brining a holistic approach to what health care means. The conference is for and by undocumented immigrants to create conversations about immigrant’s health while attempting to heal generational traumas. The IEIYC’S UMA program connects younger generations and aims to create the next community leaders.
Dianey Murillo, Community Engagement Coordinator at IEIYC, identifies a lack of funding to support their work. For instance, one program currently offers a limited number of scholarships with interest from potential youth participants drastically exceeding it. Supporting an increase in staff capacity would support their efforts in extending outreach efforts in other communities in the IE. In addition, Diany believes that state and local representatives have limited knowledge or understanding of the region and its needs. She believed that by including immigrant youth in the conversation on issues that affect the Inland Empire could help inform policymakers and philanthropy partners alike.
CHIRLA – IE
Location: San Bernardino/LA
Year Established: 1986
Regions Served: San Bernardino, Redlands, Fontana
Services: Civic Engagement, Community Education, Legal Immigration Services, Organizing, Policy and Advocacy
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) was founded in 1986. CHIRLA organizes and serves individuals, institutions and coalitions to build power, transform public opinion, and change policies to achieve full human, civil and labor rights. CHIRLA provides services in: Engagement, Community Education, Legal Immigration Services, Organizing, Policy and Advocacy
CHIRLA’s presence in the Inland Empire has grown in recent years. They have worked to strengthen their relationships with local schools, which allowed them to do educational outreach during local elections.
The vision for the organization is for it to grow by increasing staff capacity in the region to strengthen their work and increase outreach efforts within the Inland Empire. CHIRLA Organizer, Mireya Gonzalez, would like to increase their staff capacity in the region and develop programs and services for immigrants and domestic workers.
Gonzalez is currently the only CHIRLA staff member in the region and identified the needs for funding to hire more staff to support the organization’s work and potential.She is concerned about the lack of funding for community organizing, and the need for leadership development and capacity building in the Inland Empire.
Warehouse Workers Resource Center (WWRC)
Year Established: 2011
Regions Served: West IE /LA
Services: Educational programs
Warehouse Workers Resource Center (WWRC) is dedicated to improving working conditions in the warehouse industry in southern California. WWRC provides educational programs to workers and to community members about workers’ safety, rights, wages, workers’ violations. They engage in advocacy for workers and organize and empower workers to demand their rights at the workplace.
Sheheryar Kaoosji, WWRC’s Executive Director, describes some of their biggest accomplishments incorporate assisting workers dealing with issues of health and safety, wage theft and workers’ compensation. One success by WWRC has been able make numerous warehouses take responsibility for workplace discriminatory practices. WWRC won a lawsuit fighting for $30 million dollars in owed back wages for workers. WWRC advocates for policies that encourage improved working conditions, including California Senate Bill 1167 (“Worker Heat Safety Act”) created workplace protections for indoor workers (such as warehouse and factory workers), which was the first policy of its kind in the nation. This state bill protects workers from dangerously high temperatures within warehouses and other work locations. SB 1167 was authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino).
Major retailers like Walmart use the Inland Empire to move their goods to market on the West Coast. The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles combined are our nation’s busiest and the majority of goods that enter the U.S. from Asia come through these two ports. The Inland Empire is home to the largest concentration of warehouse space in the world.
WWRC’s vision is to bring together workers and community members that are affected by the warehouse industry. According to Kaoosji, local communities need to come together to demand better workplace policies and practices in the warehouse industry. There is a shortage of labor unions and community organizations to advocate for this not only in the workplace but also in local and state policies to protect workers in the warehouse industry.
Italia first got involved with CCAEJ, The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, three years ago when she was hired to develop a campaign focused on civic engagement. Today, in her role as Political Director, Italia focuses on sustaining a robust and year-round civic engagement program that includes forming strategic partnerships with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and key stakeholders. Through the Civic Engagement program, Italia and CCAEJ empower people so they can have a stronger voice in different levels of government and help their communities lead a better life.
Inland Empowerment is a collective table which seeks to increase voter engagement in the region, and particularly among communities of color, through coordinated outreach. Inland Empowerment coordinates joint outreach of the table, develops technological solutions, provides training and engages partners through capacity building projects to increase the efficacy of voter outreach. Michael has been involved with Inland Empowerment since its creation in 2012, when he was in charge of data management. In his current capacity as Executive Director, Michael is in charge of facilitating and implementing engagement strategy for partner organizations.
The Inland Empire Labor Council- Celene
The Inland Empire Labor Council (IELC) aims to improve the lives of working families in Riverside and San Bernardino county through organizing, policy, and advocacy. Celene first got involved with unions as a UC Riverside student, when she was introduced to the region’s labor movement. In her role as political director, Celene seeks to build relationships with other local advocacy groups across a range of issues. She mentions that they try to understand the areas where they can agree and work together in order to better serve the community, Celene notes that “if we are talking about transforming our region for what’s better and best for our communities environmental wise, job wise, and their quality of life, then we really have to work together.”
Training Occupational Development Educating Communities-Luz
Training Occupational Development Educating Communities (TODEC) is a grassroots, immigrant-centered, immigrant-powered, base-building organization working to build power in the immigrant community to become socially, economically, educationally, and civically self sufficient. Luz has been involved in TODEC since its founding in 1984 and formal incorporation in 1996. Her parents founded TODEC, and the organization continues the tradition of inter-generational empowerment through its youth civic engagement program, Monarcas Luchadoras-Jovenes Comprometidos.
Starting Over Inc-Vonya
Vonya Quarles is Co-Founder and Executive Director for Starting Over Inc, an organization that aims to provide transitional housing and reentry services for individuals, while also addressing disparities and inequity in the region. In terms of civic engagement, the organization implements the “All of Us or None” program, which helps people impacted by the criminal justice system develop their communities and get involved in civic life. Vonya first got involved with the organization in 2002 with the idea of providing sober housing to people. She had gone through the criminal justice system and experienced homelessness, and “wanted to see if we could help other people like ourselves.”
Warehouse Workers Resource Center -Sheheryar
Warehouse Workers Resource Center (WWRC) is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the lives of warehouse workers and their families in Southern California through education, advocacy and action. Sheheryar notes that through the civic engagement side of WWRC, the organization trains canvassers to not only be knowledgeable about voter engagement but also about the mission and work of the organization. He says that “civic engagement is a core part of our work, we do direct policy advocacy in Sacramento and we’ve been able to push four or five bills in the last eight years”.
Inland Congregations United for Change- Tom
Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) is an organization that develops grassroots leadership in congregations across the Inland Empire. Tom notes that one of the organization’s goals is to teach community organizing to new organizations and congregations. ICUC provides about 25 different trainings that revolve around the issues organizations face in their respective communities. The goal of ICUC is to train organizations to better understand the issues and assets available to themselves and their communities. At ICUC, individuals are not referred to as volunteers but as “leaders.”
Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective-Najayra
Najayra is the Youth Engagement Coordinator at the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective (IEIYC), a nonprofit organization that aims to achieve equal access to higher education and justice for the immigrant community in the Inland Empire. As the Youth Engagement Coordinator, Najayra’s responsibilities include engaging the youth, coordinating with partners to bring in youth and educate them on issues they face, and host numerous workshops. Najayra is very proud of their Undocumented Mentorship Academy (UMA). UMA aims to give undocumented youth the opportunity to learn about civic activism and legislative issues.
Alianza Coachella Valley
Alianza Coachella Valley is a grassroots alliance bringing together community members, nonprofits, and government to promote sustainable and thriving conditions for the region since 2010. Their mission is to transform the socio-economic conditions of the Coachella Valley so that people in all communities have opportunities to excel. Currently, Alianza champions Census 2020 efforts by serving as the regional coordinator with the Riverside Community Foundation, the designated Administrative Community Based Organization for the Inland Empire. With well over 100,000 people living in the Coachella Valley’s hard-to-count communities, Alianza plays a critical role to ensure a complete and accurate count of the region. As a trusted messenger, Alianza and local non-profit partners will be canvassing and communicating the importance of a complete count in neighborhoods across the Eastern Riverside sub-region.
Location: San Bernardino
Occupation: Homecare Provider
Sandra is a homecare provider through California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program and a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015.
Prior to becoming a homecare provider, Sandra was a single parent and a manager at a company and volunteered at a homeless shelter, where her mother worked as a cook for 18 years. When her mother fell sick, Sandra had to stop working as a manager to take care of her mother. The drop in income left Sandra and her without a house and dependent on the charity of others.
For a year, Sandra stayed with various family members, never telling them that she was homeless, and noting instead that she was visiting them because she needed a place to shower, eat, and connect her mother’s machine. After that year, Sandra learned about the IHSS Program.
The IHSS Program was a life saver for Sandra. With the little money she could save, Sandra rented a garage, which the landlord eventually converted into a small apartment, for which she paid $822 a month.
Sandra is an active member of the union SEIU Local 2015. SEIU Local 2015 is currently seeking to provide IHSS workers with a wage increase, healthcare benefits, and training. For Sandra,
it is extremely important to receive a wage increase, because she does not want to worry about whether she will have enough money for food or to pay electricity bills, with her mother dependent on life-support machines. She notes that, on average, a care provider in the region earns about $14,000 a year, which is not nearly enough to meet basic needs. This approximate annual income has remained fixed for the last 10 years.
In addition to wage increases, Sandra and other SEIU 2015 members also seek to obtain job training for homecare providers, who carry out many of the same tasks as Certified Nurse Assistants for the elderly and disabled.
Location: Riverside Metro
Age: late 20s
Occupation: Retail Sales Worker; Fast Food Restaurant Worker
Anna has worked as a customer service associate for a restaurant and a retail clothing store. In both occupations, Anna recalls her jobs as low-wage and extremely challenging. As she explains, “The management was terrible. The way situations were handled and overlooked… Management just didn’t care.” While she worked at the restaurant, she never received overtime pay, even though, at times, she had to work overtime hours.
Retail sales work was not at all better. For Anna, working at the clothing store was excessively stressful because, at the time she was juggling work, school, and personal obligations. Work schedules were unpredictable. Anna knew when she had to clock-in, but she never knew when she would be able leave work because all employees had to stay until the store was neat and spotless.
This became a big problem for Anna. Her grades began to suffer, and she was always running on little to no sleep. Anna typically entered work at 10pm and ended at 5am, and often had to be at school by 8am. As Anna describes the management style in retail, “they work with our school schedule but when it came to our deadlines, management was inconsiderate; they didn’t understand our individual situation as employees.”
Through this interview, Anna hopes to create awareness and shed light on the working and employment conditions many retail workers have to endure because
of necessity. She hopes that, along with greater awareness of the problem, there will be greater enforcement of workplace standards and protections, and improved conditions in retail and restaurant jobs.
Location: Coachella Valley
Gender: Mid-to-late 20s
Occupation: Peer educator
Marissa has worked for more than 5 years as a Peer Educator and even longer in the Coachella Valley Unified School District. Marissa’s current job entails working with elementary school students with moderate to severe disabilities. This work can be very challenging and emotionally exhausting. As Marissa describes, “Due to working with special need students, every day is a different experience. There are days where we might have a smooth day, but there are days where we have behavior problems such as, students hitting us, fighting us, spitting on us, scratching us, or trying to hurt themselves or other students.” The work also entails supporting students with severe medical conditions, “so pretty much our day is based on how our students are feeling.”
On the other hand, Marissa appreciates how her job has enabled her to profoundly impact and make a difference in her students’ lives. She tells me, “it is gratifying to see my students undergo multiple levels of academic progress and to ultimately see them pursue their academic goals.” In addition, Marissa also enjoys the family-friendly nature of her job schedule, and her employment benefits.
Marissa is primarily concerned about the massive deficit and budget cuts in the school district, which has resulted in massive layoffs and the relocation of teachers, behavioral specialists, peer educators, attendance data clerks, kitchen workers, and other district workers in various departments. Deficits have also increased student-teacher ratios, creating new risks and challenges for students and employees alike.
Depending on the school district, public K-12 employees will have different employment benefits, such as health care insurance. While Marissa is fortunate to have full health care coverage, in neighboring school districts, such as Palm Springs Unified School District and Desert Sands Unified School District, she has heard that employees have to pay out of pocket for their health insurance. As a result, many school employees instead rely on public health insurance programs, such as MediCal.
Location: San Bernardino metro
Occupation: Warehouse worker
Linda is a full-time warehouse worker for Stater Brothers, a regional grocery chain, where she has worked for 15 years. Linda works during the night shift, and usually helps select items to fill orders for Stater Brothers stores. Sometimes she also works to keep the warehouse clean of spills or debris, which helps prevent workplace accidents.
Linda is a proud member of Teamsters Local 63 and comes from a union family. Her father was a truck driver who was also represented by the Teamsters as is her husband, who is also employed as a ware- house worker for Stater Brothers. Her union contract provides her with good pay ($26/hour of standard
pay and $13/hr of bonus pay during periods in which she exceeds the standard level of productivity), good benefits, and employee protection, which is why
she has stayed employed as a warehouse worker at Stater Brothers for so long. Linda and her husband are sometimes expected to work overtime, especially during holiday seasons or other busy periods.
Linda and her husband greatly value their union contract which provides them with employer-provided benefits, including health insurance for her family,
a generous retirement pension, sick days, and paid vacation time (which varies by employees’ length of service). Because she has worked at Stater Brothers for 15 years, Linda will have 4 weeks of paid vacation time beginning this year. Employees who have worked for the company for 5-14 years are given 3 weeks of paid vacation time, while employees that have worked for less than 5 years are given one week of paid vacation time.
Linda enjoys having the protection of the union, which advocates for their members if needed and ensures that the company complies with labor laws and treats their employees fairly. During her work shift, she is always given the required work and meal breaks.
Linda’s daughter is currently employed as a ware- house worker for Amazon and lacks union representation. Her daughter earns less than her parents and has fewer benefits. Although Amazon offers health insurance for their employees, her daughter could not afford to use it for her family. The monthly cost of this insurance would be about half her monthly income. For this reason, her daughter, who is not yet 26, is covered through her parents’ health insurance plan.
Location: Riverside County
Industry: Public Administration
Occupation: Food Services Supervisor
Michael is a member of SEIU Local 721 and a Riverside County employee over many years. Although Michael enjoys being a county employee represented by a union, he and his family have been adversely affected by the county’s budget deficit and related woes, such as staff layoffs and downsizing of departments, and uncertainty over the timing and terms of a new contract agreement between the County of Riverside and union mem- bers.
Michael explains that, in July 2017, Riverside County sent a notice to all unions notifying them of their current budget crisis, and ultimately, inform- ing them that they did not have enough money to support any form of raises and any increases in medical health insurance costs. Yet, Michael and other county employees question the wisdom of the county spending upwards of 40 million dollars on a private consulting firm, even as it struggles with its budget woes.19 As Michael puts it, “the county is currently not giving us a fair contract, because they claim they have no money, but they are spending it in things they shouldn’t have.”
Currently, Michael is still worried about impacts that county budget cuts will have on his job stability and economic security. As a result of the budget uncertainty and union contract stalemate, Michael has had to sell one of his cars, so he could have some income saved in case there is a radical change in his employment status and/or benefits. Michael has also started working a second job,
in the event that contract negotiations with the county go sour.
If Riverside County workers lose a decent and fair contract Michael notes, “people will lose hope, faith in their union, and a lot of people will lose personal assets.” He is especially worried about families who have more than one family member working for the county. Nevertheless, Michael continues to work with his union in pushing for a fair agreement regarding health care and retirement benefits and cost of living pay raises.