Philanthropic Ventures Foundation            Progress Newsletter  -  January 2014
Tackling the Bay Area's Inequality Gap

by: James Higa, Executive Director     


The inequality gap is widening in the Bay Area.  We are starting to see a tale of two cities unfolding before our eyes, as the gulf widens between the haves and the have-nots.  We see it in the anger that drove the Occupy Movement and the more recent protests against the Google buses as symbols of the Silicon Valley elite.  At PVF, we see it daily in the front lines of poverty that are bleak deserts of opportunity.  But, how do we go about tackling something as huge as closing this gap?


At PVF, we are guided by our core driving principals of immediate response, investing in grassroots leaders, and being an activist connector.    


Over a lunch meeting one day, I was told the story of someone in San Mateo county who had convinced a local Chipotle restaurant to donate food that he was then distributing to the homeless in Redwood City and Menlo Park.  This turned out to be David Shearin of Street Life Ministries.  As is our want to get out from behind our desks and pound the pavement to find outstanding leaders versus waiting for grant applications to land in our inbox, I was soon sitting with David to learn about his work.    

Street Life Ministries regularly distributes food at the Menlo Park train station. 

I learned that his work happens right on the street.  The work began 11 years ago when a local pastor met some homeless people. Food was purchased and shared and conversation ensued.  Soon, Street Life Ministries was born and bringing hot meals to the homeless at the Menlo Park train station and in Redwood City.  David has somehow doggedly convinced many local companies to donate food and even rallied sixth graders at Roosevelt Elementary School on Mondays after school to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for those in need.  Is this not the hallmark of entrepreneurism and leadership on par with any Silicon Valley start up?  Even more inspiring is that David was once one of these people that he serves; he rose up from his chair at an AA meeting to heal himself and become the Executive Director at Street Life Ministries.


Street Life Ministries Within our typical - but unheard of anywhere else - 48-hour turnaround, David received an $18K grant from PVF to support his work and to purchase a van for outreach purposes.  We believe the early risk-taking dollar is the most powerful in philanthropy.  We must take the paper out of giving and be responsive to these outstanding grassroots leaders. They are on the frontline.  They need to spend their time in action, not in filling out forms.     


We believe that connecting the dots to find these exceptional entrepreneurial leaders and acting in a streamlined, unrivaled, immediate response is the PVF way to make a dent in the inequality gap.    


If you would like to join us in our endeavor to close the inequality gap by supporting organizations like Street Life Ministries, click here to donate.     

Where's Bill? Witnessing a Community Strengthen through Dance
 by: Bill Somerville, President and CEO

I had occasion to recently visit Half Moon Bay and become familiar with A.L.A.S. (Ayudando Latinos a Sonar/Helping Latinos to Dream), a program which serves the Latino community. On my visit, small children were learning Mariachi dance, little girls with their dresses spread out and twirling around on the floor. Parents were sitting along the wall watching and chatting.


We found an outstanding person leading the effort. Belinda Arriaga, a clinical social worker, began the program in 2011 when realizing many of the Latino children she was working with struggled with the fear of losing a parent through deportation. She saw these children needed to build self-esteem through cultural resources. Her dedication to this idea runs so deep that, when necessary, she uses her own money to fill in funding gaps.


A.L.A.S.'s aim is to bridge the educational gap for Latino children on the Coastside and change the dominant narrative about them. To accomplish this, the program is a multi-dimensional effort. There is a focus on working with children through dance and mentorship, organizing parents around their children, educating people about immigration issues, and celebrating the concept of more on our blog!  

About PVF
PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.
About the Editors
James Higa
James Higa Executive Director
Bill Somerville President/CEO

James Higa brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley, working with Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many products and services at Apple over 3 decades. He has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts.
Bill Somerville has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991 founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation where he serves as President. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations, on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker.

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