November 5, 2018

Helen Monroe, a retired endowment development specialist, spoke to community members about the intricacies and challenges involved with establishing a private wellness foundation on Thursday at the Imperial County Farm Bureau

By Julio Morales, Imperial Valley Press

El Centro, CA. November 2, 2018 A growing sense of confidence and collaboration was evident among those gathered Thursday to discuss the potential establishment of a private foundation that would fund local health and wellness initiatives.

In order for the proposed foundation and its $25 million endowment to become a reality, the San Diego-based Alliance Healthcare Foundation is asking local stakeholders to raise $17.5 million by June 30, 2020, an effort that many locals had admittedly found daunting.

Some of that initial apprehension appears to have decreased over time as a result of a series of workshops that AHF has hosted since it issued its challenge in July, said Bobby Brock, Imperial Valley Community Foundation president and chief executive officer.

“Within a few months, community agencies and partners have become less intimidated by that figure,” Brock said.

Thursday’s workshop attracted about a dozen representatives from a wide variety of local agencies, organizations and non-profits whose focus ranged from health and wellness, education and social justice to employment development, the elderly and LGBT issues.

Thursday’s event also made it clear that whatever disparate and competing interests those representatives may have, they will have to work collectively in order to eventually raise the $17.5 million seed money, Brock said.

AHF is also pledging $7.5 million of its assets, in the form of a matching grant, toward the proposed private foundation’s endowment.

“It’s too good to pass up, and we need the full support of everyone to rally behind it,” he said.

The proposed foundation would be a sister entity to AHF, but be governed by a local board of directors. Its $25 million endowment would allow the foundation to award up to a total of $1 million to local non-profits’ health and wellness initiatives on an annual basis.

The aim of Thursday’s workshop was to further clarify the expectations and requirements of a request for proposal that AHF had recently announced as a preliminary step of the foundation effort.

The RFP plans to award a $175,000 grant to establish a steering committee that would oversee initial planning, organizing and fund-development efforts. The $175,000 grant is likely to be awarded in December.

On Thursday, both the IV Community Foundation and San Diego State University-Imperial Valley emerged as crowd favorites to apply for the RFP.

Although SDSU-IV Dean Gregorio Ponce indicated the university did have an interest in applying for the RFP, he said he also attended Thursday’s workshop to gain further input from community members and AHF officials about their intentions and expectations.

For his part, Brock indicated he planned to continue to speak with AHF officials, potential donors and local stakeholders to determine the best path forward for all parties.

As many RFPs as possible are being welcomed by AHF officials, who will likely identify the individual proposal’s strengths and weaknesses and ask applicants to work collaboratively on a unified RFP, said Greg Hall, a consultant helping AHF with the endowment effort.

One of the RFP’s requirements is that it represent the interests of a diverse group of stakeholders who in turn represent a diverse group of constituents.
“If we’re expecting a multiparty solution, I would expect that is how it would be,” Hall said.

Attendees of Thursday’s workshop also had the opportunity to hear from Helen Monroe, a retired Riverside County-based consultant who worked for 25 years for the Lilly Endowment.

During her time with the Lilly Foundation, Monroe was successfully able to help expand the number of charitable foundations in the state of Indiana, which as of today have an estimated $2 billion in combined assets.

Being located in an economically disadvantaged rural area is by no means an insurmountable obstacle to being able to raise millions of dollars, Monroe said.
“If you believe you can or you believe you can’t — either way you’re right,” she said. “You want a group of people who believe they can do this and are willing to give it a try.”

Among those who are willing to try is Calexico Neighborhood House special project director Ricardo Ortega, who said the proposed foundation effort represents a rare opportunity for the Valley to address diverse health and wellness concerns as a collective body.

“This is the beginning,” he said. “Somehow or another we need to find a way to work together.”

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