3 Reasons to Invest in These 3 Orgs on LB Gives Day
As a community leader, teacher, and non-profit coordinator I often find myself at odds with successes that city government continuously boasts; that Long Beach is building more housing, attracting residents with higher incomes, and that our educational institutions continue to mark improvements in equity and performance. Many community advocates argue that these statistics are boosted by the fact that students are being pushed out of schools, low income families are being forced out due to rising rents, and that many being attracted to our city don’t know how to participate in what gives Long Beach its culture and appeal - caring and connection.
During Long Beach Gives week, running through September 19th, folks from Long Beach and abroad have the opportunity to choose which non-profit organizations they want to help.
I believe that food and the environment are the best ways to the heart of Long Beach, and one of the best ways to weave cultures and communities together to create great leaders.
Thus I'm recommending three organizations who have incredibly high impact with very low funding - The Long Beach Time Exchange, Long Beach Organic, and Long Beach Fresh. I'm on the board of the first two, and I co-direct the third as a staff-member. The links above take you to their fundraising pages where you can read more on their goals. These organizations rely on community support, only one or two staff, and at most one foundation grant at any given time. Still, they fill crucial gaps that city programs and large non-profits often miss, due to bureaucratic bottlenecks - particularly that of building social cohesion among diverse communities, while boosting personal and environmental health.
Here are three reasons why these three organizations deserve your support not just as a donor, but as someone who will also recruit others - family, friends, colleagues - to give big to protect the future of this city we love on September 19th, 2019 at LongBeachGives.org
1. Peer-driven learning creates personal and environmental health
Because all three organizations are so small, they rely on a unique model of achieving the goals of food equity, education, and environmental change - peer-driven networks. This means that, when someone joins the Time Exchange, they are encouraged to share the skills they’ve developed whether it be cooking cultural cuisine, practicing yoga, or fixing household items from blenders to bicycles.
Micaela is their single part-time staff member, and she coaches members to lead practical workshops that are offered free of charge. Instead of money, members use time credits instead - these encourage reciprocity and truly flip the idea of volunteering on its head by recognizing that everyone has something to give, even if they might have less "free time" to participate.
When Long Beach Fresh works to empower local sustainable and culturally diverse food start-ups, Ryan Smolar and I rely on a culture of mutual support to get over the hurdles, rather than businesses racing each other in a purely competitive market. When we host crop swaps, it's about sharing as well as learning cooking and growing tips from your neighbors so you can have more to share - and as a nice bi-product, several participants recently became UC Master Gardeners with a commitment to educating more and more communities.
Further, when Long Beach Organic offers free soil health workshops to the broader community, gardening education for at-risk youth, or even classes on how to best grow tomatoes - they rely on their members’ knowledge and build their capacity to be leaders in regenerative ecology.
2. Restoring the environment requires all hands on deck
This peer driven approach also feeds into restoring the environment, for reasons hinted at above. The Time Exchange has rescued hundreds of cherished items at their Repair Cafe events, and virtually all volunteers and participants report feeling inspired and connected because they share the ideal of reducing waste. Moreover, I believe that our mutual care for planetary health can override social, economic, and generational divides that are too common these days.
Long Beach Organic was founded around the notion that is now scientifically validated, that sequestering carbon in the soil is one of the best ways to improve ocean health - but this requires an army of gardeners working hard not just on their own plots, but on the garden’s common spaces, charity plots, and composting maintenance. This year, LBO even launched a residential compost program in collaboration with Harbor Area Farmers Markets.
All this happens across 7 gardens with one part-time garden manager, the incredible Joe Corso. He's pictured above instructing volunteers at South 40 - a regenerative lot that's in a starkly industrial zone. Long Beach Fresh also seeks to encourage more environmentally responsible food procurement by providing consulting to entrepreneurs, large-scale institutions - we did a detailed procurement report for LBUSD with the Center for Good Food Purchasing, for example - alongside engaging community learning.
Long Beach Fresh also organized locals to advocate for statewide policies as well as local ones like the styrofoam ban, urban agriculture ordinances, and home kitchens. We've even piloted best practices for school education and nutrition that links food and the environment, and plan to continue the work with more community support.
3. We create social cohesion
When you garden with someone from a different culture, you learn about their cuisine as a side-effect. When you join a time bank and meet folks who come from different generations and cultures with different stories, you realize that there ought to be no throw away people. And when you join an advisory committee like Long Beach Fresh’s, which now has 30 members from across the city, you realize that we all care that good food should be a human right, not a privilege. All of these levels of social cohesion liberate us from the lies of late capitalism - that we’re only worth what we can make monetarily, that our only value is in what can be stocked up individually. We learn that we’re stronger together, because these organizations are really just a facade. They make it easier to comprehend the complexity of what lies beneath - a network of passionate, intelligent people who want to keep Long Beach diverse, and be inclusive to everyone who comes our way.
So what will it create?
For the Time Exchange, these funds are critical to actually keeping doors open. Our grant program with California Endowment ends on October 1st and there are no funds to continue with. While the organization continues to apply for grants, the budget has been too small to gain operational funds without a donor base.
For Long Beach Organic, we just signed the lease on a new garden plot, and hope to convert an eyesore of a vacant lot into a garden focused on educational opportunities for at-risk youth, and families who lack access to healthy food.
For Long Beach Fresh, we seek to renew our efforts to change school food procurement policy and organize home cooks who want to see the new state law permitting home meal sales implemented.
So please, plan give to one or all three organizations on September 19th at LongBeachGives.org. If you plan to give, contact me at email@example.com so I can be sure to follow up with you the day-of. We will also have multiple locations announced where you can donate in person. Funds raised on this day will be matched by Gumbiner Foundation and California Endowment. Even if you can’t give, contact me to join one of their sharing teams so you can recruit donors. All three of these organizations haven’t really asked for much financial support from locals, until now, and I surely hope that you will show up for them, Long Beach.
EDIT / NOTE - after publishing this post, I realized The MAYE Center is also fundraising during Long Beach Gives. Not only have they long partnered with all three organizations I’m promoting, but their mission is also critical to Long Beach’s future. Please also consider supporting their mission as well, and enjoy this video LB Fresh helped produce with Voicewaves youth reporters to help tell their story.