A year ago, as countries worldwide continued to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, our American streets were ablaze, protests filled the air with simple demands of racial equality and justice for the unheard - our political climate more severed than it had ever been before. Locally, countless Angelenos who did not fall into homelessness lived in uncertainty, many had lost their jobs, were too sick to work, or were left to care for a loved one with the virus.
During this time, our Critical Response team was processing hundreds of applications a day for our emergency Rental Assistance Program (RAP) serving West Hollywood and Los Angeles tenants. Since the activation of our emergency RAP, we have served 481 households and distributed $1,285,814.94 in rent. The program has slowed down a bit these last few months, a possible sign that people are stabilizing and returning to work.
Even with the pandemic, many students continued to pursue their educational dreams this past year. Our Scholarship Program remained dedicated to awarding scholarships based on financial need and academic merit - an amazing opportunity for women and mothers who were returning to school, looking to switch careers, and so much more. In 2020, we awarded 22 scholarships to students in the greater Los Angeles and surrounding counties. Earlier this year, we honored them with a special virtual celebration featuring the renowned Nathalie Molina Niño, investor, and global tech entrepreneur. Our Spring 2021 Scholarship recipients were just informed of their awards and will be honored next year in a ceremony.
With unemployment high, and income increases few and far in between, many families find purchases like clothes and shoes are never a priority, even for their children. We proudly work with many partner organizations throughout Los Angeles county that focus on helping those most in need. Last year, The Council Shop Retail Voucher Program began offering our clothing and furniture vouchers in the form of gift cards, allowing women and their families the ability to shop with dignity at our stores, and to shop multiple times until the funds on the card are extinguished. Since last June we have distributed 475 voucher gift cards to women and their families with nearly $15K in purchases having been made so far.
Our biggest achievement last year was the launch of our micro pilot project the Guaranteed Income Program. This program will distribute $1,000 a month to a cohort of 12 women who work as caregivers in healthcare and live in Los Angeles council district 13. Our Program Committee made up of volunteers and staff worked diligently to construct a thoughtful program that is on the cusp of launching this Summer. This program was made possible with the assistance of our research partners at the University of Penn State's Center for Guaranteed Income. We are extremely excited for the women selected to join the cohort.
After the George Floyd riots in June, NCJW|LA along with our national section, took a stand and aligned ourselves with the Black Lives Matter movement. At the time our advocacy priorities focused on defunding the police, challenging the unfair cash bail system, keeping people housed, and getting people to vote in the 2020 election. We achieved a lot of these goals and saw the election end in favor of unity and mending.
We have come far in our journey and are so grateful to have you as partners, please consider making a donation today to support the women of Los Angeles who need it most.
A special thank you to our 30 LA Advocates who joined forces with other NCJW California Sections for our second Virtual Lobby Day on Wednesday, May 26. Our advocates demonstrated their commitment to addressing critical issues of economic injustice for Californians. Drawing on their passion and dedication to these important challenges facing Californians, our advocates encouraged our legislators and their staff to work hard to advance economic justice and equity for women, children, and families.
If you would like to join us for our next lobbying opportunities, we will have our Summer In-District Visits for 2021; these will be virtual and will give us another opportunity to meet with our Legislators. Stay tuned for more information!
NCJW|LA Employee Spotlight
Spotlight on our soon-to-retire Director of Retail Robert "Bob" Klausner.
Bob has made many friends throughout his time here at NCJW|LA, an institution himself, it will surely take time to adjust to his absence. As he readies for his departure, we had a chance to sit down with Bob and discuss his career here at NCJW|LA, his retirement, and his next steps.
You have had a long career, spanning many decades, full of many accomplishments outside of the non-profit world. What inspired you to stay with NCJW|LA and The Council Shops?
My career has spanned over six decades, with 16 of those years dedicated to NCJW|LA. I wasn’t ready to fully retire when I decided to apply for this job. Coming from retail myself, having had my own chain of now shuttered retail stores, I knew my expertise would come in handy and really help turn around the store profits and status in the community.
When I started this position, I had no intention of staying on as long as I have -- what I did know then and believe even more now was that joining NCJW|LA would be doing something good for myself and the world. Upon taking the role, I was given a clear goal - to make the stores successful, and that was exactly what I did. People still come from counties over to donate and shop exclusively at our Council thrift shops.
I am grateful for the people I have met along this journey. Working in non-profit is not a bad way to end a career.
What are some characteristics of people you most enjoyed interacting with throughout your career. People who are just as smart if not smarter than I am. I love to learn, and I like a conversation that is robust and full of knowledge. I have learned from some of the smartest retailers in the game, but I have been most fortunate to learn from the women here that I have worked with over the last decade and a half. I have not only learned a tremendous amount about the non-profit world, but how to be a better communicator and administrator.
How do you plan on spending the first year of your retirement? My girlfriend Cheryl and I will be catching up on our travel plans by spending the next few months traveling with my two dogs Maggie and Gracie - who travel with me everywhere I go. This Summer we plan on going to the Caribbean and then traveling throughout Europe and Israel, AND somewhere in between, we will drop by Ohio to visit my sons and grandchildren.
Because of my thirst for knowledge, I plan on returning to school to take history courses, specifically focused on WW2 and American history. I am also learning to play golf again and am making real improvements to my game. All in all, I look forward to retirement and spending my time making Cheryl happy.
Bob, it has been a true privilege. We are so grateful for your leadership, your humor, and your humility. We wish you the absolute best in all of your future endeavors.