Facebook Invests Locally with 4th Year of Grants

Facebook, headquartered in Menlo Park, has just launched the fourth round of grants from the Facebook Local Community Fund.

Through this PVF-administered initiative, Facebook has given out $400,000 to nonprofits serving Belle Haven and East Palo Alto, which are areas that particularly struggle in the midst of the Bay Area’s ever-widening inequality gap. The grants aim to support nonprofits that have a history of proven success in providing services to the Belle Haven community, as well as youth-serving nonprofits in East Palo Alto. Recipients have reported that these funds have helped them expand and sustain programs that benefit the underserved:

Robotics ClubFrom Bayshore Christian Ministries (BCM): “The grant was used to help to cover the cost of an instructor for the robotics course offered in our summer camp in East Palo Alto. Grant funds were instrumental in helping BCM purchase two additional robot kits with software, as well as art supplies for the summer program. These additional resources allowed smaller groups of children to enjoy working with the robots and increase the individual time they spent building and programming. All students who attended were from minority groups and two thirds of the participants were girls.”

pvf-148From Citizen Schools: “Your contribution has provided students at Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto more access to hands-on, project-based apprenticeships that engage them in the use of computer technology and social media. These apprenticeships connect our students with real-world STEM professionals who lead them in exploring a diverse array of fields, from environmental science to software engineering. Creating that interest in the middle grades is a crucial step in building future talent pipelines to fill the growing number of STEM-related jobs, as hands-on learning has proven to influence students’ likelihood of pursuing careers in STEM fields. Our extensive evaluations have indicated that after participating in a Citizen Schools STEM apprenticeship, approximately 80% of students express interest in STEM careers – more than double the rate among 8th grade students nationally.”

This year, Facebook hopes to make even more of an impact by increasing the grant size to $5,000-$10,000. Interested in applying for the latest round of funding? Check out our website for more details. We are accepting applications now!

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De-Stigmatizing Mental Health Services: An Interview with a Bay Area Inspire Award Grantee

In 2014, PVF awarded grants to six young Bay Area residents for coming up with fresh ideas for building better communities. These awards were made possible through the Bay Area Inspire Awards, which provides $10,000 grants to 18-30 year olds living in San Francisco or Alameda Counties with an innovative, community-oriented idea. Megan_Winkelman_Photo (2)PVF interviewed each grantee to give you a sense of what these amazing individuals are doing to change their communities for the better. Below is our third interview with Megan Winkelman, who is using her award to focus on mental health awareness.

In the past seven months my project evolved from creating an online map resource for patients seeking mental health care, to developing an awareness campaign that supports community-wide mental health de-stigmatization and provides spaces for facilitated dialogues about mental health, including tech employees and other community members. I partnered with the community mental health clinic and training center, Access Institute for Psychological Services (Access Institute) for the first two events. We developed a screening and discussion night around the film “Mary and Max.” The film explores a variety of mental health issues and we followed the screening by a presentation and community discussion.

As we plan our next set of community events, we are also investigating ways to share mental health patient education and local resources with high school and university seniors from the Bay Area, many of whom stay in the region for their first job (a stressful transition), and may delay seeking help until they reach a crisis point.

Megan Winkelman Event 2

As part of her project, Megan coordinated a screening and discussion of the film, “Mary and Max” to jumpstart a conversation about mental health.

We have found that stigma impedes mental health treatment for Bay Area residents in both high and low-income brackets. We hope that by increasing awareness (throughout the community) of how mental health care works and who the community’s mental health providers are, organizations such as the Access Institute will see more patients at all income levels, allowing them to expand their services and start treatment earlier when symptoms begin, when recovery is much more likely.

In a sense, my project has gone from using tech tools in the service of Bay Area community mental health to uniting the tech community with the wider Bay Area community in a discussion about improving the mental health of all. My community partner Access Institute and I hope that the high unmet need for mental health services in both these populations will unite them across their socio-economic differences, and that this union may even inspire cross-community collaborations that may include technical solutions to local problems, as envisioned in my original project.

Megan Winkelman Event

Megan has been coordinating multiple events centered around mental health in the Bay Area.

Something that became clear at both events was that the vast majority of Bay Area residents don’t know what mental health services are available to them, and it’s only when their (or their loved one’s) mental health approaches a crisis that they start looking for support. We also received feedback that it was eye-opening for attendees to realize that they don’t need to have a mental illness to benefit from mental health care. For example, having a family member struggling with a disease can affect the rest of the family, and they may benefit from the therapy that Access Institute offers.

My mental health advocacy journey began while staffing the Bridge Peer Counseling Center in the winter of my freshman year at Stanford University. I met a deeply depressed teen mother from East Palo Alto who was struggling to finish high school, raise her baby, recover from childbirth, and file a restraining order against her abusive ex. She was too exhausted to cry; the weight of her pain thickened the air between us, and her story stayed with me long after we had left that faded green couch.

When I received the Inspire Award in June 2014, I intended to create a map of mental health providers designed for Bay Area community members seeking out mental health care for the first time. After our Inspire Awards board and recipient meeting, my productive conversations with the group directed me to consider creating resource materials for a different audience: providers of social services and health services who refer patients to mental health providers or liaise with such providers.

In this way, my project goal departed the creation of an online resource map in favor of hosting events with Access Institute for both tech employees and community members as part of an effort to raise awareness of affordable resources for mental health care and an anti-stigma campaign.

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Where’s Bill? Helping to Address the Issue of Affordable Housing in San Mateo County

Affordable housing is the top issue of concern in San Mateo County. In response to this concern, the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County called a meeting of 35 program directors chaired by Congresswoman Jackie Speier in March 2015. The meeting came about after a discussion between myself and Mark Moulton, Executive Director of the Housing Leadership Council, and was underwritten by Philanthropic Ventures Foundation.

The action agenda now is to find and access surplus land because there is a 100,000 unit housing deficit in San Mateo County. An example of new housing is the use of underutilized parking lots at community college campuses to build housing for teachers, which has been tried and has worked out well.

Jackie Speier EPA

Congresswoman Jackie Speier in San Mateo County


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Partners in Philanthropy

The following blog post is by guest writers Marc and Ragni Pasturel, who are PVF donors and partners.

Our partnering with Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (PVF) goes back more than 20 years. We admire Bill Somerville’s pragmatic, empathetic and contagious approach to grantmaking. So when we decided to create a Donor Advised Fund, PVF naturally came to mind. We are still sold on its commitment to quality education and to fighting poverty in our midst, all with minimal overhead and without lengthy grant applications.


Marc Pasturel teaching computers to eager 10th grade students at Lamdon Model High School in Zanzkar Valley in Northern India.

We trust PVF’s suggestions because Bill has first-hand knowledge of organizations, schools, and people in need in our area. Our giving became personal as we got to meet the grant recipients, staying in touch with them to follow their progress. Being involved with organizations where we can make a difference, both with our time, such as tutoring, as well as with our grants, is a winning combination. Philanthropy is a two-way street: giving morphs into gifts, and “givers” morph into humble recipients of thankfulness: it helps us sort out our own priorities and values in life. This is the gift that money cannot buy.

It was ex-priest Larry Purcell of the  Catholic Worker House in Redwood City who introduced us to Bill Somerville. Larry’s tireless dedication to feeding and sheltering the less fortunate has been a shining model for us, a source of motivation to participate in his mission. In addition to our ongoing financial support, Ragni has enjoyed the opportunity, complete with challenges and rewards, to tutor children in Sister Mary Jane’s after-school program.

Ragni Pasturel tutoring 1st grader Diego at the Saint Francis Center in Redwood City.

Ragni Pasturel tutoring 1st grader Diego at the Saint Francis Center in Redwood City.

The Saint Francis Center in the unincorporated area of Redwood City is another example of PVF’s ability to recognize exceptional leaders in the community and to fund their projects. For several years we have admired Sister Christina Heltsley’s work as its Executive Director. In order to serve the poorest of the poor, the Center has managed to buy and refurbish over forty apartments, offering families a decent place to live until they reach financial stability. They provide a stellar education to 12 children selected among the 100 poorest local families, from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Their parents must spend at least one day a week at the Center to further their own education, primarily to learn English but also basic skills such as computers and interview skills. Their facilities include a classroom, a free clothes bank and a food bank, as well as a first-class Siena Youth Center for afterschool programs for youths ages 10-17.


Students at Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto.

Amika Guillaume, the principal at  Cesar Chavez & Green Oaks Academy in East Palo Alto, is an innovative and supercharged leader in the field of education for at-risk children. She motivates her ethnically diverse student body to excel; the school motto: “DREAM BIG – WORK HARD – GIVE BACK” says it all. Amika manages to involve parents in their children’s education. It is rewarding to contribute by funding special programs at the school, such as field trips, college tours and special art projects.

Another exceptional person we’ve met thanks to Bill: Sister Trinitas Hernandez who founded the  Rosalie Rendu Center in East Palo Alto in 1996. The center offers four English classes each day, Monday through Thursday. A child care center, made possible by the Junior League of East Palo Alto, is available for those attending the classes. In 2001 her order, the Daughters of Charity, purchased the 48-unit apartment complex where the classes are given, thus enabling many families to have a decent place to live.


Sister Trinitas of the Rosalie Rendu Center in East Palo Alto.

Last but not least, we value PVF as the umbrella 501(c)(3) organization for our 15-year involvement as US delegates (always eager to recruit!) for a Franco-Italian-Swiss-American NGO which supports a school, Kindergarten through 10th grade, in the isolated Zanskar Valley of Northern India. At 12,500 feet in the Himalayan foothills, and cut off by snow from the outside world eight months of the year, “Aide au Zanskar” founded a private school in 1988. It has grown to 12 grades of 30 students per class, 49% girls. It offers the mainly Buddhists of Tibetan ethnicity a quality education while keeping their language, customs and traditions. Its curriculum spans four languages and four alphabets. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has visited the school three times, pointing to our school as an example of modern education while preserving the Tibetan heritage.


His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, visiting Lamdon Model High School in Northern India in 2014.

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Encouraging a Brighter Future: Parent Involvement in East Palo Alto Schools

The following guest blog post is by Nancy Alvarez, a PVF Parent Involvement Worker at Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto.

Education is the means to break the cycle of poverty. East Palo Alto is a community with many newcomers looking for a better future and seeking refuge. Consequently, new families come to the school system who do not speak English. Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (PVF) sponsors a program at Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto that ensures communication between families and the teachers. In addition to setting up parent and teacher conferences for the families, the program’s purpose is to get parents involved in their child’s education.

I have been working with the program, and I have learned the needs of the families. For example, many families do not know how to support the children in school, and perhaps they are not aware of the resources the school and the community offer to help children get to college. I am really inspired by seeing moms sending their kids to college. The program not only focuses on filling the gap in communication, but also on aiding the parents in feeling welcomed in the school and making them feel like a part of their children’s education.


PVF’s Bill Somerville (center) and parents at Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto. These parents are encouraged by Parent Involvement Workers to be active at their children’s school.

Bill Somerville, PVF President and founder of the program, designed it to encourage parents to be part of the kids’ education. The mission was to strategically target the problem of miscommunication between families and educators. As of now, the program is a success and has been changing lives. A strong group of moms support the school in all aspects. They are very active in school activities such as raising funds and contributing to school-wide decisions. They are definitely a strong voice for the middle school, for they purposely advocate not only for their children, but for each student.

Thanks to PVF, which believes in the power of education, each student has an advocate that makes it possible to fill the gap of communication between educators and parents who are willing to contribute and support the school.


PVF’s Bill Somerville (center) at Cesar Chavez Academy with Parent Involvement Workers Nancy Alvarez (left) and Imelda Jovel (right).

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Where’s Bill? Touring UC Berkeley with a PVF Parent Involvement Worker

Bill at UC Berkeley

I offered one of the mothers who is a Parent Involvement Worker a one-day visit for her and her two daughters to UC Berkeley. Walking on campus, dipping in on a large lecture room and observing a lecture, walking the halls of older buildings and looking at the historical pictures, and finally lunch at the faculty club with UC faculty.

It’s the kind of visit any parent would want for their son or daughter to learn what higher education is about.

Learn about some of our work with UC Berkeley.

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Where’s James? Sharing PVF’s Best Practices with Parliament

It was a singular honor to be invited by Lord Wei of Shoreditch to address a joint All Party Parliamentary Group of the House of Lords and House of Commons in London.

They wanted to hear from someone at the forefront of social innovation in today’s world.  I spoke about the growing Inequality Gap in Silicon Valley and PVF’s philosophy of radical collaboration and risk taking in philanthropy.

James Parliament

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