Music Is The Remedy received money from the Port of Long Beach for its efforts to bring veterans together through music during the pandemic. The group recently held its first in person event in over two years for Memorial Day. Courtesy Music Is The Remedy

The Port of Long Beach has broken record after record when it comes to cargo-handling over the past couple of years. But the port has received less attention for another record it seems to keep breaking: the amount of money it gives to nonprofits through its Community Sponsorship Program.

The program, which doles out grants every March and September, gave out $701,430 this spring. The amount of money, which was spread across 179 grants to 144 different organizations, surpassed the previous highest amount: $500,675 in September.

And the trend is set to continue next fiscal year, thanks to a move by the Board of Harbor Commissioners to increase the budget for community sponsorships by $250,000.

“The Port is proud to support so many community organizations through our sponsorship program,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement.

Since 2007, over $11 million has been distributed to nonprofit organizations through the program. The money gives nonprofits a much-needed financial boost, which is arguably needed now more than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As many nonprofit organizations reestablish themselves after the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are happy to offer support through our sponsorship program,” Harbor Commission President Steven Neal said in a statement.

The money goes directly to supporting events hosted by the nonprofits. Applications are judged based on how funds will be used to either support the Tidelands trust and other “maritime-related initiatives” or to promote, educate, and inform the public about the Port of Long Beach.

Here are four of the nonprofits that are receiving money from this spring’s allocation, which are each looking to improve their community in a different way.

Long Beach Community Table

Long Beach Community Table received $1,000 for a Homebound Food Distribution Program that helps bring food to those stuck in their homes. This program started during COVID-19 lockdowns, but seniors who are stuck at home due to mobility or other issues show how the service continues to be necessary, the organization’s founder Kristen Cox said.

This program is one of several that Long Beach Community Table has that’s focused on distributing food. Cox and her team are out almost every day, either picking up food from grocery stores and distributing it or giving food out of their pantry.

The team also gives out other necessities like hygiene products, clothing and rain gear. While food is the focus, the overall goal is to lift people out of poverty by giving them what they need to function.

“We’re kind of coming at it from every direction, with the main focus being on making people as sustainably food-secure as possible,” Cox said.

Even though Long Beach Community Table is run entirely off of donations and sponsorships like the one from the Port of Long Beach, Cox and her team have been able to expand the organization a great deal through community support.

One of the most significant changes is the donation of a warehouse that the nonprofit received and uses to store food. Cox had initially been using her own home and a minivan as the food storage hubs at first, which she said had been essential in housing the roughly 30,000 pounds of food that Long Beach Community Table delivers in a given week.

“We would be nothing without that warehouse, comparatively speaking,” Cox said. “Part of what makes a community is when everybody is pulling together to try to help each other.”

Action Sports Kids

Another organization that received money is Action Sports Kids, which promotes the well-being of at-risk youth through skateboarding.

The group received $5,000 toward its effort to reimagine the Silverado Skate Park.

In addition to being the only skate park in West Long Beach, it is also one of the only skate parks in the world made from recycled material.

Former Long Beach City Councilmember Mike Donelon, who runs the group, said the park is in dire need of a revamp after years of use.

The park is “really beat up, and the kids in the neighborhood had been complaining about it,” Donelon said. “So I thought it’d be a great project for the kids to get involved with, to actually design and develop and reimagine a skate park.”

Donelon helped gather over 150 comments from kids through social media and design meetings hosted at the park to come up with a final design that ASK is ready to present.

With the plans done, money is the next obstacle. Donelon noted it was particularly important for the port to support West Long Beach because of its impact.

“I thought it would be a really good idea for the port to step up and do something to benefit many, many, many kids in West Long Beach that the port pollution has a tremendous negative impact on,” he said.

The money falls far short of the $137,600 estimate that ASK received for its final design of the park, but Donelon said that this contribution is key because of the credibility the port brings.

“The port money gives us … a ‘bold black line’ on our resume when we go out to the community and lobby to raise money,” Donelon said. “To have support from the port is going to be big.”

Music Is The Remedy

The Port of Long Beach is also supporting work aimed at another demographic: military veterans. Music Is The Remedy, which helps veterans adjust to civilian life and escape stress by learning how to play music, received $5,000 from the port this spring for the group’s Quarantine Singing Circle.

Organization founder Frank McIlquham comes from a family of veterans, and while he didn’t serve himself, he felt a deep connection to the community and a strong desire to help. This led him to found Music is The Remedy in 2010.

As for the Quarantine Singing Circle project, it sends a series of videos of songs to military veterans in the group so they can sing along as a way to “provide them some level of normality during this crisis,” McIlquham said.

Prior to the pandemic, McIlquham’s nonprofit would host veterans twice a week for four-hour sessions, where veterans and coaches came together and simply played music for themselves and whoever was there to listen.

“We teach them how to play, and we bring them back into an environment [with camaraderie] and a safe location,” McIlquham said. “They just feel like they’re part of something again, that’s really what it is in a nutshell.”

COVID made hosting these meetings unfeasible, so Music Is The Remedy came up with Quarantine Singing Circle as a way to interact during the pandemic.

 

Port support was a key component to making the project—whose 218 videos are viewable on the Music Is The Remedy website—possible. McIlquham said that without that funding, the project was very much in jeopardy.

“We definitely would not have done the Quarantine Singing Circles without them,” he said.

Project Womangood

Project Womangood—a nonprofit founded in August 2020 that helps women escape abusive relationships and households—is receiving $1,000 from the port for an upcoming fundraising event called Re-Loved Market Sip and Shop.

Founder Julie Schwarz envisions the event, which is being hosted in August, as a cocktail meet-and-greet that will also serve as a fundraiser for her organization, whose origins stem from Schwarz’s own difficulties trying to escape her previous relationship in 2016.

“The idea is to kind of make it sort of a cocktail party, or Ladies Night Out kind of concept, just to share the story,” Schwarz said. “This event gets my face out into the public.”

One of her biggest issues was the lack of resources out there, so she created Project Womangood as a place for abused spouses to seek help.

“I just felt that there had to be more options than staying or going to a shelter, which is how I ended up creating this,” Schwarz said.

One of the main services she offers is to create escape plans and educate people on what is needed to get out of an abusive relationship. This manifests in a variety of services, from helping set up a forwarding address to simply getting advice from someone who lived a similar experience.

“Sometimes you have to hide all this from your partner,” Schwarz said. “[I teach] the sneaky things that we have to do in order to get out from under [these relationships].”

Like other smaller nonprofits, having the port’s name behind Project Womangood is a key piece to establishing itself.

“I would say that’s a huge step forward for us,” Schwarz said of the port’s sponsorship. “Having something like this, something super tangible with the logo has been a really great asset.”

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.