2020 Giving Focuses on Programs that Pivoted in the Response to the Pandemic
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
The SAM Initiative—a giving circle founded by Kehillat Israel member Mindy Freedman and comprised mostly of Palisadians, has announced its 2020 grants, which total $285,000.
Members pool together their financial resources and experience to fund and support area nonprofits.
Grants have been awarded to A New Way of Life, Safe Parking L.A., San Fernando Valley Refugee Children Center, WISE Readers to Leaders, Social Venture Partners Los Angeles and Homeboy Industries’ most recent social enterprise, Feed HOPE.
Each year, the organization selects causes they believe address the most urgent needs in communities across Los Angeles.
“The unprecedented times demanded from us an immediate response,” Freedman reflected in a statement about giving in a time of COVID-19. “We reached out to our recipients and reassured them of our support. Based on those conversations and best practices set by other funders, we decided to expedite our funding and direct our giving to their greatest needs.”
Following Safer at Home orders across the state of California, SAM shifted all of its meetings and its award celebration to Zoom.
“When the COVID-19 reached Los Angeles and shut the city down,” the statement continued, “SAM saw that the crisis exposed devastating inequalities and worsened challenges for underprivileged populations throughout the country.”
Each of this year’s recipients pivoted their programming quickly to meet the needs of those they serve.
Feed HOPE, created by Homeboy Industries, was launched in response to COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has created significant food insecurity across LA, as more than one million people have lost their jobs and many places have shut down that provided a social safety net for those in need,” shared Interim Executive Director of Feed HOPE Elizabeth Stephenson.
SAM’s gift allowed the program to immediately address the crisis, which is now making more than 10,000 pre-packaged meals per week for homebound seniors, youth at risk and others negatively impacted by COVID-19.
A New Way of Life received $95,000 to help the program provide housing, case management, pro bono legal services, advocacy and leadership development for women rebuilding their lives after prison.
“By the time that we received the grant,” Founder Susan Burton said, “the whole world was in crisis and funding had become that much more crucial. Receiving this grant was critical to the lives of the women that we serve and allowed us to expand our services and staffing at the very moment that the need was greatest.”
“Being a member of The SAM Initiative has allowed me to not only learn about the tremendous need in the LA area but to also make a difference,” member Melanie Neumann shared in the statement. “Coming together as women and making change together brings me so much joy. A giving circle can open your eyes to organizations that you may have never found. Having the opportunity to collaborate and give as a group is a powerful way for social change to begin.”
SAM is approaching its eighth funding cycle, committing to educating themselves and addressing basic needs throughout the pandemic, with a focus on food insecurity, housing, health, mental health and financial security.
“We will use our platform to shine a light on inequality and to serve the community with even greater compassion and tolerance,” Freedman concluded.
For more information on The SAM Initiative, visit saminitiative.org.
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