Grant money will lay roots for tree planting in South L.A.



The goal of the grant KYCC received is to ensure half of the possible tree sites in South Los Angeles and Pico-Union are planted, creating consistent shade coverage. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

The goal of the grant KYCC received is to ensure half of the possible tree sites in South Los Angeles and Pico-Union are planted, creating consistent shade coverage. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

One community organization has a grant to plant trees in South Los Angeles, but first it has to convince local residents that picturesque, tree-lined streets aren’t just for neighborhoods in Beverly Hills.

“If you’re struggling on a daily basis, trees might not be the first things you’re thinking about. These communities deal with crime, a large homeless population, illegally dumped trash, graffiti, and gang violence … Most people are just trying to get by,” said Ryan Allen, Environmental Services Manager of Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC).

However, Allen and the staff at KYCC know that planting trees can have positive effects in low-income communities. The benefits of having densely planted trees include reduction of energy costs, creation of shade, and the beautification of neighborhoods.

In neighborhoods like South Los Angeles and Pico-Union, which both scored poorly in air quality evaluations, planting trees can help reduce the effects of pollution by removing toxins from the air.

“One tree on its own will do those things, but there is the idea of strength in numbers,” Allen said.

KYCC received nearly $330,000 in grant money from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to make the vision of dense tree cover a reality in the South Los Angeles and Pico-Union areas.

The funds stem from a cap-and-trade program passed in California in 2006 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under cap-and-trade, companies have to pay for emissions over a certain limit, increasing the incentive to reduce air pollution. At least 25 percent of the revenue from the program is distributed to greenhouse gas emissions-reducing projects in low-income neighborhoods.

South Los Angeles struggles with high levels of pollution that are compounded by other problems. A case study of the area shows that the South Los Angeles area is “disproportionately burdened” by poverty, unemployment and linguistic isolation.

KYCC helped plant small trees between other trees to create shade cover on this street in South Los Angeles. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

KYCC helped plant small trees between other trees to create shade cover on this street in South Los Angeles. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

KYCC got the grant to plant 1,120 trees over a four-year period starting in 2016. Its goal in the project is to use the grant to see that at least half of the potential tree sites on neighborhood streets planted.

After the initial planting, KYCC will provide funding to maintain the trees for the first three years. After that, the trees will have grown substantially and will need less maintenance work. Despite the benefits of having trees planted, not everyone is on board with the plan.

Community members have voiced concerns about tree roots breaking up sidewalks, having to water, prune and maintain the trees, and the trees dropping leaves. Allen also cited a mental barrier that trees might not fit the culture of South Los Angeles neighborhoods. In the past, trees planted incorrectly caused sidewalks to crack and fall into disrepair.

That’s what the KYCC grant is for. Beyond buying trees to plant, the organization plans  to reduce barriers and address community concerns. If community members voice worries, then KYCC can use some of the grant money to remove stumps or invasive trees, repair sidewalks, check sewer lines, and other incentives.

“We are going to try to address different concerns people could have so they don’t have reason to say no,” Allen said.

KYCC is qualified to mitigate these potential issues because the organization has been involved in tree planting efforts since 1999, and has expertise in selecting the right tree species and planting them in the right places to ensure they won’t damage sidewalks.

The task of physically getting the trees planted is expected to be an undertaking that will require community engagement. Previously, KYCC has gone door to door knocking and asking if residents would like a tree. The new grant is based on individuals taking responsibilities for their own streets and talking with their neighbors to get trees planted.

KYCC also plans to help organize community planting events to help get residents’ hands dirty and encourage involvement with the cause.

“It takes somebody dedicated, and a certain amount of legwork to work with neighborhood and to get people interested,” Allen said.

KYCC will be working through community organizations to streamline the process. Allen said the team is just now beginning to work with other organizations from existing partnerships and make new connections.

One new organization KYCC could be partnering with for a tree planting project on a different grant is the Redeemer Community Partnership.

Redeemer has an independent initiative focused on Jefferson Boulevard to “Make Jefferson Beautiful” by beginning a tree canopy, repairing sidewalks, and integrating bike lanes for safer transportation. Niki Wong, the lead community organizer at Redeemer Community Partnership, said she wants all the area surrounding USC to benefit from the university investment.

Tree cover on Jefferson on the USC side versus the community side

“USC is right next door. Vermont Avenue kind of serves as this invisible line between two cities….Part of what we are hoping to do is kind of dissolve that line and make the closeness beneficial for folks in the neighborhood,” Wong said.

Wong said one of the most important benefits of partnering with KYCC on a tree planting project is the commitment to long-term maintenance and community engagement. The grant Wong applied for through the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative would maintain 15 trees, plant 14 new trees, and replace two dead trees. Although the shade will not be provided immediately, within a few years well-tended trees will provide the full benefits.

Besides the environmental advantages of having trees planted, Wong also said attractive tree cover could encourage residents to go outside more and help draw businesses to the area.

Niki Wong works with Redeemer Community Partnership to get grants to make Jefferson Boulevard safer and more beautiful.

Niki Wong works with Redeemer Community Partnership to get grants to make Jefferson Boulevard safer and more beautiful. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

Further, Wong pointed out that even though grant money is being set aside to help remedy these problems, under-resourced communities may not have the time or expertise to complete complicated grant application processes.

“This is for a community that has been overlooked, and at the bottom of the priority list for all sorts of improvements. Our crosswalks are faded, our sidewalks are broken, and a lot of tree wells are empty or have dead trees in them. It’s just very clear that there has been neglect,” Wong said.

Applications for annual grants will be available for the KYCC grant funds in the spring. Community organizations can apply and individuals can also get support to build up a tree canopy in South Los Angeles. Both Wong and Allen emphasized that in order to move forward with the projects, community support and engagement is essential.

“We want to be helping communities and residents to make their vision for a better neighborhood happen,” Allen said.

NBC4 and Telemundo 52 Award $200,000 to Three Local South L.A. Nonprofits



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Networks NBC4 Southern California and Telemundo 52 Los Angeles, in partnership with the NBCUniversal Foundation awarded three local nonprofits $200,000 as part of the 21st Century Solutions grant challenge.

The following organizations are this year’s recipients:

  • A Place Called Home was awarded $100,000 for its “Nutrition and Urban Agriculture Program” addressing the lack of affordable and healthy fresh food options in South Los Angeles by engaging the whole family in gardening, meal preparation, nutrition and vocational training.
  • Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley was awarded $50,000 for its “Los Angeles STEM Initiative” created in partnership with East Los Angeles College provides comprehensive training in STEM to Boys & Girls Club staff, which is then taught to thousands of youth members.
  • Clothes The Deal was awarded $50,000 for its “The Disabled Clothing Alterations Program” providing disabled veterans with business attire specifically altered for their physical disability.

Nonprofit Spotlight: TRUST South LA



Trust South LA has a presence at Renters Day at City Hall.

TRUST South LA has a presence at Renters Day at City Hall.

Intersection’s Nonprofit Spotlight series profiles South L.A. organizations that are propelling positive change in South L.A. Click here to view more

What is your organization’s purpose? 

T.R.U.S.T. South LA works with low-income community residents to transform the built environment and social conditions in South Los Angeles by:  serving as a steward for community-controlled land; being a catalyst for values-driven, community-serving development; building awareness and community leadership in issues of housing, transportation and recreation; and creating programs and initiatives that encourage community building and economic opportunity. [Read more…]

Nonprofit Spotlight: Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic



Photo Courtesy of LA Child Guidance

Photo Courtesy of LA Child Guidance

Intersections’ Nonprofit Spotlight series profiles organizations that are propelling positive change in South L.A. _________________________________________________________________________ 

What is the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic’s purpose? To provide quality mental health services to a community in great need by ensuring easy access and promoting early intervention.

When was the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic founded? Since its inception in 1924 as the first child guidance clinic west of the Rockies, the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic has built a rich history of leadership and innovation in the field of pediatric mental health.

Photo Courtesy of LA Child Guidance

Photo Courtesy of LA Child Guidance

Which areas does the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic serve? Central and South Los Angeles.

What services does the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic provide? Comprehensive array of mental health programs include the following:

Early Intervention and Community Wellness Division – Since the 1980s has pioneered programs including home visitation by early childhood experts, clinic-based services for children whose explosive behavioral problems often result in expulsion from preschools, assessments of young children in foster care to assure safety and emotional well-being in future placement, and a family resource center meeting basic needs in economically stressful times.

Outpatient Services Division – Includes specialty services for children experiencing school failure and/or involvement in probation and child welfare systems, as well as a one-of-a-kind no-fee, no-appointment Access Center where annually an average of 1,700 highest-need children are immediately seen, enrolled into Clinic services, or referred to regional center, domestic violence and other appropriate placements.

City Hall declares Children Mental Health Awareness Day in Los Angeles | Photo Courtesy of LA Child Guidance

City Hall declares Children Mental Health Awareness Day in Los Angeles | Photo Courtesy of LA Child Guidance

Intensive Services Division – Employs a nationally recognized model designed to keep together families struggling to overcome mental illness, domestic violence, substance abuse and extreme poverty, while also providing comprehensive, coordinated services 24/7 for highest-needs children – especially those in foster care – who exhibit severe behavioral and emotional problems.

Life Learning Division – Serves youth ages 15 to 25 who are homeless, at risk for homelessness, aging out of foster care, or struggling with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, by blending job placement services, treatment, case management and medication services to support essential skills for independent living.

The Early Intervention Training Institute trains approximately 650 mental health and allied professionals annually in identifying, intervening and referring very young children at risk for emotional, behavioral or social delays. A unique Child Psychiatry Residents Training affiliation with USC Keck School of Medicine Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry trains all child psychiatry residents to diagnose and treat children ages 0 – 5.

What are the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic’s recent accomplishments?

  •  3,403 children and family members benefited from Clinic services.
  • 51,707 mental health outpatient visits were provided at three community-based Clinic offices, s well as on-site at 20 local schools, in clients’ homes, and at other community sites.
  • 1,174 children, family members, and caregivers received immediate assistance at the no-appointment, no-fee bilingual Access Center.
  • 5,085 days of service were provided through our intensive day treatment program.
  • 6 residents from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine served rotations at the Clinic through the Child Psychiatry Residents Training Program, receiving specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of young children.
  • 4 doctoral students participated in our Psychology Internship Program, providing clinical treatment services and receiving specialized training.

Video Courtesy of LA Child Guidance Youtube Channel

What does the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic consider as…

…top safety issues in South L.A.? As resources become available through the Affordable Care Act and California’s Mental Health Services Act, it is imperative that silos be broken between our health, mental health and public education system to ensure children and youth of all ages benefit.

…top education issues in South L.A.?  School based health centers offer great promise, but easy referrals between service providers at the school site is a goal that must be realized – otherwise students don’t get access to the care they need to succeed in life.

…top housing issues in South L.A.? Supportive housing for individuals with mental health needs and disabilities continue to top the list.

…top recreational issues in South L.A.? The continued focus on access to healthy, affordable food is important, as is the completion of the Expo line and new enthusiasm around biking.

Social Media: Facebook, Twitter

Hours: Weekdays 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Contact info: Cesar Portillo, Vice President of Clinic Advancement,[email protected]

Nonprofit Spotlight: Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL)



Hands Across Crenshaw High | Los Angeles Urban League

Hands Across Crenshaw High | Los Angeles Urban League

Intersections’ Nonprofit Spotlight series profiles organizations that are propelling positive change in South L.A. _________________________________________________________________________

Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Urban League Facebook Page

Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Urban League Facebook Page

What is the the Los Angeles Urban League’s purpose? To enable African-Americans and other minorities to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights through advocacy activities and the provision of programs and services in our uniquely diversified city and region.

When was the Los Angeles Urban League’s founded? 1921.

Which areas does the Los Angeles Urban League’s serve? A 70-block-area within Park Mesa Heights and its outskirts.

What services does the Los Angeles Urban League’s provide?  

Video Courtesy of the laurbanleague youtube channel

What does the LA Urban League consider as…

…top safety issues in South L.A.? Community residents are coming together to build a safe haven for kids to reach school. There have been safety improvements to structures around schools in the Crenshaw District.

…top education issues in South L.A.?  Suspension and expulsion rates need improvement. Also, student skills need to reach the appropriate academic levels for reading and math.

…top housing issues in South L.A.? Lack of education in home ownership needs to be improved. Some educational services have been provided, such as LAUL’s designated go-to person for Housing Solutions.  

What are the Los Angeles Urban League’s affiliated programs? iMatter2 Campaign and the Domestic Violence Prevention Collaborative.

Website: http://www.laul.org

Social Media: Facebook, Twitter

Contact info: Jeffery Wallace, [email protected]

Leimert Park arts center auditions princesses and frogs for South LA production



Director Brandon Rainey sat behind a piano in a practice room at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center — a nonprofit in Leimert Park that provides free music and arts classes — and asked the 11-year-old girl standing in front of him to yell. Aiyana Lopez-Spaari responded with a shriek. Aiyana is one of many girls who are auditioning for the part of Princess Tiana in Rainey’s live-musical adaptation of the Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog.”

The idea of putting the first Disney film to have a Black princess on a stage in an area known as an enclave of Black culture in Los Angeles originated with a conversation between Rainey and Fernando Pullum, the nonprofit’s founder, late last year.

After working with high school students on productions such as “The Lion King” and “Dreamgirls,” they both wanted to work with elementary and middle-school-age children.

“We wanted to give back to the younger generation with the production,” said Rainey. “It’s a reminder to little girls across the community that they’re princesses and they can have dreams and standards too.”

See also on Intersections: Leimert Park’s World Stage fights eviction

[Read more…]

Nonprofit Spotlight: Cop Watch Los Angeles (CWLA)



Photo Courtesy of Copwatch Los Angeles Facebook

Photo Courtesy of Copwatch Los Angeles Facebook

Intersections’ Nonprofit Spotlight series profiles South L.A. organizations that are propelling positive change in South L.A.

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Flyer from a fundraiser to free Joaquin Ceinfuegos, the founder of Copwatch LA, from jail | Photo Courtesy of Copwatch LA

Flyer from a fundraiser to free Joaquin Ceinfuegos, the founder of Copwatch LA, from jail | Photo Courtesy of Copwatch LA

What is Cop Watch LA’s purpose?  According to our mission statement,”CWLA is a program, coalition, and network dedicated to the struggle that will end police terrorism through collecting information on and observing police activity, by offering support to those caught in the criminal injustice system, fighting for change without a reformist consciousness, and working side-by-side with oppressed communities*, and grassroots organizations to create revolutionary alternatives to policing, prisons, and all systems of domination, oppression and exploitation by building healthy, safe, and liberated communities.” [Read more…]

Nonprofit Spotlight: A Place Called Home (APCH)



APCH members run in the 2014 Jive Live New Year's Race. | APCH Facebook

APCH members run in the 2014 Jive Live New Year’s Race. | APCH Facebook

Intersection’s Nonprofit Spotlight series profiles South L.A. organizations that are propelling positive change in South L.A.

______________________________________________________________

A Place Called Home provides children in South L.A. educational programs, counseling and mentorship.  By promoting creative expression and providing specialized tutoring programs, APCH helps builds a bridge towards success for many South L.A. youth. Charyn Harris, who leads APCH’s music programs, answered a survey for us telling us more about the organization’s work.  

What is APCH’s purpose? APCH is a community partner that offers a safe haven to youth daily as well as resources to families.

When was APCH founded? The organization was founded in 1993 by Debrah Constance. It started with 12 youth members in a local church. Many of the youth were trying to escape involvement in the rampant gang activity that existed during that time. Debrah was extremely successful in working with them and many of the original members are now thriving.

Snapshot from APCH Garden Program sponsored by Chipotle | Photo Courtesy of APCH

Snapshot from APCH Garden Program sponsored by Chipotle | Photo Courtesy of APCH

Which areas does APCH serve? The community of South Los Angeles. It is located in Council District 9. [Read more…]

South LA recreation programs receive $12 million donation



South LA nonprofit youth organizations focusing on art, music, and sports have been chosen to receive grants totaling $12 million over the next five years.

The grants, courtesy of an anonymous donor and led by the California Community Foundation’s (CCF) “Preparing Achievers for Tomorrow” (PAT) Initiative, invited only a select group of nonprofits to apply for the funds.

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HeArt Project students stay in rhythm with the beat.

The seven nonprofit organizations that will benefit from this donation are A Place called Home, A World Fit for Kids, Heart of Los Angeles, Kids in Sports, Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade, The HeArt Project, and Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club.

Nike Irvin, Vice-President of Programs at California Community Foundation, said that “PAT nonprofit partners are selected based on four criteria: a proven track record of providing music, sports and/or recreational programs for undeserved youth in South L.A., existing partnerships with high schools in South L.A., sustainability, and leadership.”

One South LA group in particular that will benefit from this donation is The HeArt Project – a nonprofit that provides long term, sequential arts programs in order to inspire young students to stay in school.

imageHeArt Project students learn how to screen print art.

Liliane Ribeiro, Development and Communications Director of The HeArt Project, explained that this group will be “receiving a two-year grant of $100,000, totaling $50,000 every year.” Ribeiro thought that being one of the elite nonprofits to benefit from this donation was very fitting, since this year The HeArt Project is celebrating its 20th anniversary. “It’s a great time for us to go through this process,” Ribeiro said.

Research has shown that students who are involved with some kind of artistic or athletic extracurricular activity are more than likely to stay in school. As a result, Ribeiro said that it’s “critical” that these kinds of programs are funded for South LA schools.

“In L.A. alone, the high school dropout estimate is at about 35 percent. Almost one out three students is dropping out school.” Ribeiro said that the “number one reason for these dropouts is boredom. Through our 20 years of experience, we’ve come to find that arts is a key engager.”

imageA HeArt Project student proudly poses with her work of art.

Irvin further explains California Community Foundation’s decision to continue serving the South LA community, “We know from research that creative, social and recreational activities improve motivation, engagement and development of social competencies in youth,” she said. “We also know that youth in South L.A. lack basic access to quality after-school programs.”

With the help of these substantial grants, these nonprofits can be sure that their futures are bright and welcoming for future artists, musicians, and athletes.

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A HeArt Project student sees his dream of attending UCLA’s art school becoming a reality.

Pennacle Foundation expands after school community program



The Pennacle Foundation has offered residential services and treatments for youth with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities since 1998. But now, with the founding of a new after-school program at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in off Vermont Avenue, the program’s leaders hope to expand their offerings to more students in the surrounding community.

Carolyn Ruffin is one of the program’s directors and administrators. She said she’s always seen a need for a special kind of youth center for the kids that Pennacle works with.
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“One of the problems I was finding with the school and with other organizations that provide supportive services to the youth is that our kids are very special when it comes to behaviors and they don’t always fit into that square peg. They’re round,” Ruffin said.

So when St. Mark’s had some space available in the back of its building last summer, Ruffin jumped at the chance to take over the space and launch the youth center.

Three nights a week, around 11 middle and high school students come to St. Mark’s for food, free time, and some kind of special project. This month, they’re breaking into groups and researching different historical figures who have spent time in jail and learning what their lives were like post incarceration.

“They wrote about people from what they’re used to, like Tupac, and also Martin Luther King or someone from history, like Mandela,” said Ruffin.

Once a quarter, academic awards are given out for strong performances at school. Almost everyone gets something, Ruffin said, and those with 3.0 GPAs and above get special certificates printed and displayed on the wall.

In the coming months, the center will add a senior citizens program and set up a community service day on Saturdays. Over the winter holidays, the center was able to hold a holiday party. The students assembled bags of food and were able to offer one to every parent and child that walked through the door.

“Because one of the things I truly believe is that the kids need to learn about empowering their communities and giving back,” Ruffin said. “We want the kids to understand where they’re at, where they came from, and where they’re going.”

Listen to Adrian Nelson, one of the students involved with the Pennacle Foundation, talk about why he loves the after school program at St. Mark’s.

Listen!