L to R: Sam Altis of Association of Faith Communities, Linda and Ron Weaver, and CEO Susan True.

Generosity in Action

Building Relationships, Sustaining Community

“We work at the speed of relationships,” said Sam Altis, Executive Director of the Association of Faith Communities, which leverages resources of local faith communities to serve people experiencing homelessness. Through AFC’s shelter and safe parking programs about 45% of participants moved to permanent housing. But more importantly, said Sam, “Our staff and volunteers know the names and stories of each person and maintain community connections with them. The heart of our work is community…helping people be seen and helping relationships build.”

Sam was part of a recent panel of local nonprofit leaders at our “Spring Funding Opportunities” event at the Community Foundation who are dedicated to addressing critical needs within our community—specifically youth development, housing people experiencing homelessness, and conservation of climate resilient and culturally significant lands.

Approximately 80 generous community members attended to listen to what is needed by local nonprofits working in these areas and walk away with new connections, knowledge, awareness of opportunities to take action, and ideas for how to contribute to local solutions.

A big thank you to our panel of experts:

Three of the eight nonprofit leaders who spoke. L to R: Mark Silberstein, Sarah Newkirk, Chairman Valentin Lopez.

The Heart of the Work

Like Sam, every leader who spoke talked about how building and sustaining relationships was at the heart of their work. For some, those relationships were with other human beings and for many it was with our native species, wildlife, and the land itself. Mike Johnson at Pajaro Valley Shelter Services (PVSS) recently launched a new strategic plan that centers on sustaining relationships with staff by ensuring pay equity and access to professional development. Chairman Val Lopez, discussed how the land stewards at AMLT work to restore traditional knowledge while restoring habitats, is currently revising their strategic plan to center relationships with tribal members. “It’s a big process, but we are getting input from everyone. Our tribal members need to recognize this as their land trust,” he said. And Sarah Newkirk of Land Trust Santa Cruz County said that thanks to the new wildlife tunnel at Laurel Curve on Highway 17, we’re able to be in safe relationship to mountain lions, bobcats, burrowing owls, deer, and more.

From L to R: Louise McKenna with Hilary Bryant, Donor Services Director, and Mack McKenna.

Collaboration and Action

“The Foundation's amazing collaboration skills are still fresh on my mind,” said one attendee. “I especially like being able to hear from leaders I have respected from afar and to learn even more about their work.”

Theresa Cariño, Executive Director of Salud Cariño isn’t daunted by the work ahead. Her youth empowerment organization, which serves young women in middle and high school started with 17 girls in 2015 and has now supported over 600 students. She says after watching her program participants heal, learn, and grow through the pandemic, “From the hardships, we can rise. And from the hardships we build strength and resiliency.”

Together, we will continue working to support our youth, house people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, conserve local lands with cultural and ecological importance, and build a Santa Cruz County where everyone can thrive—now and in the future.

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