So, let me deal with the obvious first . . . yes, I am still here. The top two candidates for my position turned down the job offer, perhaps due to the salary. The Board is continuing the search.
I want to let you, our supporters, know that our clients are continuing to be served by our 22 member staff who are working safely from their homes. This includes services to individuals by telephone, text, email, and via U.S. Mail and workshops via a platform such as WebEx or Zoom. I am in daily contact with our five managers who are in daily contact with the staff they supervise. We are having weekly team meetings to check-in with one another, share information about new resources, strategize how to best deliver services, ensure that we are meeting the requirements of our grantors, and generally to keep spirits up. And, I am in touch with grantors to ensure that we are providing services to their satisfaction while remaining in compliance with Governor Newsom’s order to stay at home.
Concerns include whether new grant opportunities will be made available down the road and how individual fundraising will hold-up, understanding that people for the most part are going to be focused on their own survival, including some who are losing their jobs. But, one of my biggest concerns is that as I listen to press conferences and news sources whichI believe to be legitimate, I have yet to hear mentioned the special needs of nonprofits when discussions take place about what Congress is considering in the bailout packages. I am, therefore, encouraging each of you to contact your representatives in Washington D.C. and remind them of the important work that is performed by our sector, providing services that will be needed now more than ever as human need escalates. Please ask them to “have our backs” when the bailout packages are put together. I also encourage you to go to this link and read the story from CNN which explains this need in greater detail: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/20/opinions/coronavirus-extinction-level-event-charities/index.html
Of course, your donations will be welcome, too, but I believe that advocating to Congress at this critical time is the most important act you can take on our behalf and on behalf of those in need.
Wishing you all good physical and mental health as we navigate uncertain waters from our individual lifeboats.
I am very sorry to share with our supporters the news that we lost one of our valued staff members, Eduardo “Eddie” Estrada, over the December Holidays. Eddie was the Peer Navigator for Project imPACT, our reentry employment program located at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The Peer Navigator is the “glue” between clients, potential clients, and the program. The Peer Navigator recruits new clients for the program and develops relationships with existing clients so they remain involved and meet their employment goals.
Eddie was so good at this. He cared about people very much and that is the one quality the position has to have when hired. It is difficult to train someone to care about others. I don’t know much about Eddie’s prior life other than he ended him up in prison at some point in time. What I wanted to know about him in the job interview was how he presented himself, how he spoke about the duties of the position, and whether I could sense from him a passion for the work. I quickly discovered that the answers were yes – yes – and yes.
Eddie had several tattoos, including one large one on the top of his head. I had never hired anyone with so many visible tattoos but it only took me about 30 seconds to get beyond that. The quality of him as a person, his obvious compassion, and his intellect won me over quite readily. I last saw him at our Holiday Staff Party on December 21. I asked what he wanted from his “Secret Santa” and he responded “a gift card from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” “For your girlfriend or partner?” I asked. “No,” he responded, “for me.” I like the Teakwood fragrance . . . the body wash, the spray, and the cologne.” I chuckled to myself, thinking “This is not the response I thought I would get from this former gang member, tatted-up, rather large individual.” But, then I remembered one of the first lessons I got at Friends Outside, which was not to judge a book by its cover. Some of the finest persons I have met in my life are ex-prisoners. And, Eddie is on my short list.
Rest in Peace, Eddie. We will miss you.
Happy New Year to FOLA’s donors and supporters!
We hope you had a fulfilling holiday season.
Thank you for your support over the past year. I am pleased to present our new Annual Report. I hope you will take time to review it, see the smiling faces of those who are involved in our Mission and read the success stories about a few of the many, many persons whose lives were touched by our programs. I also call your attention to our “goodbye” and “so long” to stalwart volunteers Kathy Snow and Grethen Chiari Goette. And, finally, I hope you will take note of our cost effective operations (page 5 of the report). According to our most recent 990 Federal tax filing, 84% of the funds we received went directly to provide services to the families we assist. We are very proud of this statistic as it speaks to our efforts to use the funds we receive in direct support of the clients we serve.
With gratitude for your on-going support of our Mission and best wishes for 2019,
As each year flies by more quickly than the one before it, we pause for a moment of gratitude in appreciation for a very fulfilling year. We are honored to have been selected (either as an organization or as individuals) to receive three awards just in the past six months. Click here to download the entire four page PDF of our Annual 2017 Year End Report.
Click here to read about our sponsorship levels. And click here to donate via Paypal. You may also send a check to:
Friends Outside Los Angeles County
261 E. Colorado Blvd., Ste. 216
Pasadena, CA 91101
Job Specialist Ernest Melendrez (Ernie) was a recent recipient of the the Harriet Tubman Distinguished Award at the inaugural Beyond the Bars LA Conference. The conference is “reserved for special individuals who have experienced incarceration and dedicated their life’s work to abolishing the current state of mass incarceration.”
Here is an excerpt from Ernie’s award letter…
“Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman, a noted abolitionist, subsequently escaped only to come back and free others trapped in slavery. It was during this time the Underground Railroad was born – a network of antislavery activists and safe houses. Tubman was a brave champion of freedom and equality, and it is in this respect that we intend to honor you and your work.”
Ernie participated in a Friends Outside in Los Angeles County (FOLA) program, Project New Start, in which FOLA was sub-contracted under the City of Los Angeles. He was offered a job with FOLA and is quickly approaching his eighth year anniversary with our organization. We are fortunate to have him on “Team FOLA” and congratulate him on this wonderful accomplishment and well-deserved recognition.
Mary Weaver, Executive Director