Mending Safety Nets Locally and Globally

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By Robin Pierson, Special to the Independent

Impact Giving, a collective giving group started by Laguna Beach women, awarded $130,000 to six nonprofits at their annual awards event on June 7.

Since it’s inception nine years ago, Impact Giving has awarded $1.1 million to 59 charities committed to creating positive, sustainable social change locally and globally.

With My Own Two Hands’ grant recipients, Darcy Purvis, far left, and Mary Beth Pugh, far right, celebrate with Impact Giving partners Jennifer Grzeskowiak and Annie Cronin, center left and right, respectively.
With My Own Two Hands’ grant recipients, Darcy Purvis, far left, and Mary Beth Pugh, far right, celebrate with Impact Giving partners Jennifer Grzeskowiak and Annie Cronin, center left and right, respectively.

Grant recipients are selected by the groups’ membership, which now totals 125 partners. Common to all the projects that received funding this year, was the promise of transforming dire needs into self-sufficiency.

International Orphan Care, which runs an academic and vocational school for over 200 orphaned and impoverished children in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, will use its $10,000 grant for solar panels to keep the school’s lights on and for tool kits. Upon graduation, each student receives a sewing machine or carpentry set so they can turn their newly acquired skills into income. Since 1993, IOC, based in Laguna Hills, has been providing education to Afghan children impacted by decades of war.

Villagers in Hermosillo, a remote Mayan community in Chiapas, Mexico, suffer from a myriad of health maladies, often leading to premature deaths, due to the absence of potable water. Concern America, based in Santa Ana, will use its $23,000 grant to bring clean spring water into the homes of 100 families, using locally sourced materials and villagers to build and maintain the system. Since 1972, Concern America has collaborated with economically impoverished communities around the world to encourage self-reliance and to develop long-term solutions to poverty.

Closer to home, WisePlace has been providing services to unaccompanied homeless women in Orange County for the past 30 years. The Santa Ana-based organization will put their $36,000 grant towards their planned Orange County Women’s Center, a reconfiguration of the organization’s current space that will add 30 permanent supportive housing units and 30 emergency shelter beds. The new facility will provide a safe place where over 300 women will be able to receive services, including counseling, job training and classes in financial empowerment.

Kathy Bowman, center, of WisePlace, the largest Impact Giving grant recipient, flanked by the organization’s members Ann Owen, left, and Jennifer Lipinski. Photos courtesy of Impact Giving
Kathy Bowman, center, of WisePlace, the largest Impact Giving grant recipient, flanked by the organization’s members Ann Owen, left, and Jennifer Lipinski. Photos courtesy of Impact Giving

Orange County ranks 10thnationally for childhood food insecurity. Low or no cost lunches help students’ hunger problems during the week, but weekends can be a time of scarcity. With its $25,000 grant,We’ve Got Your Backwillwork with 60 local schools to fill nearly 1,500 backpacks with nutritional food each week to feed children and their families on weekends. A backpack full of food is the beginning of a deeper relationship the organization develops with the youth and their parents with the goal of helping families acquire the hard and soft skills to leave poverty behind.

In parts of rural India, girls rarely attend school beyond the fifth grade because of the long walk to a secondary school and the high risk of sexual violence along the rural roads. Instead, most girls are married young and all are left uneducated. To help ensure that village girls can get safely to school, Ojai-based Lotus Outreach offers rides on the Blossom Bus, which has not stopped running since 2009. Stigmas and fears around girls attending school have started to dissolve, resulting in an increasing demand for bus rides. The $22,000 grant from Impact Giving will be used to ensure that 202 girls have a safe, reliable ride to school for their 11-month school year.

Linking agriculture and education, With My Own Two Hands, received $14,000 to build four greenhouses in Kenyan villages plagued by food insecurity. The greenhouses will provide fresh, nutritional, free food to children who typically survive on cornmeal mush. The surplus harvest will be sold to locals. Proceeds from those sales will provide school scholarships for up to ten children, orphans or girls, who have been rescued from forced marriages and female circumcision. The Laguna Beach-based organization has seven other greenhouses operated now by local villagers and currently generating food and money, proving that the model is sustainable and successful.

Impact Giving sustains itself by its members’ $1,250 annual donations. (Reduced membership fees are available for women under 40.) Partners nominate and vet nonprofits that are then voted on by the entire community. This year, $55,000 earned from an auction and end of year giving campaign, was split amongst the 12 finalists that did not receive grants.

Impact Giving’s motto is: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Any woman interested in joining is invited to attend a summer mixer July 29 at a Laguna Beach home. Newcomers and current partners will learn first-hand about WisePlace ant hear from a woman whose life was transformed by the organization that aids homeless women.To register visit impactgivingnow.org.

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