Four new community projects in Central Long Beach are slated to receive a total of $182,000—all in the name of supporting young children and their families.
The projects, led by Long Beach Community Table, the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, Long Beach Residents Empowered and M.O.R.E. Mothers, were selected to receive the money as part of an initiative known as Best Start Central Long Beach.
Best Start Central Long Beach was launched through First 5 LA, an organization that uses Proposition 10 tobacco tax funds to support children in their first five years of life. The group provided the funds for the four projects, with the support of The Nonprofit Partnership and Long Beach Forward.
But while the organization is providing the money, First 5 LA didn’t choose how to spend it. Instead, Long Beach parents, caregivers and community leaders with the Best Start Central Long Beach network got to vote on the winning projects, all of which support at least one of the group’s four priorities in Long Beach:
- Building community knowledge about child development and parenting skills;
- Preventing child abuse and neglect;
- Increasing access and quality to affordable child care; and
- Increasing access to affordable housing and economic security.
“These community change funds help support and grow work that is already being done by community organizations,” said Long Beach Forward associate director Nubia Flores.
With $42,000 in community change funding, Toi Nichols, founder of M.O.R.E. Mothers, hopes to expand services in Central Long Beach. While the organization serves families across the city by providing essential items such as diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products and even car seats depending on availability, and also by offering workshops and other resources, Nichols has found that many of M.O.R.E. Mothers’ participants have come out of the Central Long Beach area.
“This grant allows us to really continue to spread our arms around the families in Central Long Beach,” Nichols said. “When you get the news that the community said, ‘Hey, we want this,’ it’s great, you know, it just really lets us know we’re on the right track, and that impact is there, and they see the potential to grow this program that’s needed in the community.”
Eligible voters were Best Start Central Long Beach members, which included any community member who participated in a Best Start program in the previous six months. Voters were able to cast their votes online in the two weeks leading up to the organization’s May community partnership meeting, or during the meeting itself, which included presentations from 18 of the 19 applicants.
Each voter was able to rank the top five projects they hoped to see funded, Flores said, and in total, 65 votes were submitted.
“I think it’s really powerful that this continues to be a priority area, and it also reflects on the need for more affordable housing, the need for more housing stability, and also this energy there that tenant voices should be the ones leading the fight for housing justice policies,” said Sylvana Uribe, communications director of Long Beach Residents Empowered, or LiBRE. The organization will utilize its $50,000 in funds to expand its tenant organizing efforts through neighborhood-based tenant councils, with plans including developing additional educational materials as well as offering interpretation in Tagalog and Khmer.
“We’re hoping that together, we’re able to empower residents to challenge the status quo in Long Beach and reclaim the right to stay in their homes and communities, not only for their families, but also future generations of Long Beach renters and Long Beach residents,” Uribe added.
In addition, $40,000 will support the Long Beach Public Library Foundation program, “Dive into Learning,” which provides early childhood education and literacy through workshops, resources and activities, and prepares children for kindergarten.
Lastly, $50,000 will support Long Beach Community Table’s fresh produce distribution program, allowing the organization to shift more toward sustainability, with a focus on developing gardening projects to empower residents to grow their own food, said executive director Kristen Cox. Cox also hopes to expand the organization to be able to offer showering and laundry services to the city’s unhoused residents.
“We’d like to work ourselves out of a job, but first you have to make sure that everybody who needs it knows about it, and then make sure that no one else is hungry,” said Shannon Thomas, fundraiser and grant writer for Long Beach Community Table. “If you can remove the barrier to having good, healthy, nutritious food for families, you just give everybody a leg up.”
Particularly amid the food shortages that have been impacting mutual aid and food distribution organizations locally and across the state, the funds will be “such a blessing,” this year, Thomas said.
“At the end of the day, we want community to have a say on how these funds are spent because we believe that that’s ultimately like how we get the best outcome, it’s that a community that is the most impacted have a voice in the process, and then ultimately on how the funds are used,” Flores said.
Best Start Central Long Beach’s next community meeting is on July 27 at First Congregational Church, 241 E. Cedar Ave. The leadership team for the next two years will be voted on at this time. Follow Best Start Central Long Beach on Instagram for more information.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a quote from Nubia Flores.