In late June, I was honored to lead the annual retreat for our St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund (SJCPF) board of directors. With support from my team, we welcomed our board, executives, grant partners, guest speakers, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange (Sisters) to our home base in Orange County, California. This was the first time many of us had been able to gather in person in years – and for a few of us, it was our first time meeting. To say it was a gift to see the connections in person is an understatement.
Building upon the Sisters’ mission and charism and their spirit of bold faith, foresight, and flexibility, SJCPF is focused on making an impact on equity and justice through community power-building, incorporating an Equity lens, centering BIPOC communities, and fostering systems and upstream impact.
As we toured the Sisters’ ministries in Santa Ana, highlighting their 100-year history in Orange County, the Board discussed how their legacy is part of the “how” of our work, and the impact areas are the "why". The participation and continued connectivity of the board and our executives enable us to continue the Sisters' work today.
I was grateful to introduce the participants to a few grantees. The grantees shared how our partnership impacted their communities by providing technical assistance, aiding in the development of strategies for affordable housing, and improving the health and welfare of their neighborhoods by creating substantial policy change. The resulting conversations were fruitful and engaging. Discussions like this capture precisely why I do this work, am proud to be the SJCPF leader, and enjoyed hosting the retreat.
After the community tour, lunch, and blessing of the Board by the Sisters, guest speaker America Bracho, MD, MPH, spoke about how building community power enables transformation and vibrant, flourishing communities. As CEO of Latino Health Access, Dr. Bracho’s work centers on health promotion and disease prevention through programs that train community health workers as leaders of wellness and change.
Manal Aboelata, MPH, deputy executive director of the Prevention Institute, spoke later in the afternoon. At the Prevention Institute, Ms. Aboelata focuses on health equity, illness and injury prevention, and ensuring safe and healthy communities. During her presentation, she touched on how to move beyond prevention to build a more equitable and just world.
Both presentations, as well as the group discussions that followed, reinforced one of our core beliefs: it's up to us, as the SJCPF, to step back and allow the communities and the grassroot leaders to tell us what they need and not the other way around.
The people living in marginalized neighborhoods, and our community partners that have their fingers on the pulse, already know what they need. Our role as the funder and partner is to listen and fill the gaps where they most need it.
Just like the Sisters before us, we are confident we can have meaningful impact on the community. As we rise to the challenge ahead of creating more equitable and just communities, we continue to focus our work on the four core impact areas.
I am delighted that we could gather in person and share our successes face to face. As I encouraged our retreat participants, I also invite you to join in our efforts to champion the work of our community partners – incredible work that must be protected and uplifted. By taking an active role in advocating for SJCPF and engaging and sharing our work, you ensure that the impact areas continue to grow as we cast a wider and more directed net to serve more people across more communities.
About the Author
Gabriela Robles is the chief executive of the St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund and AVP of Community Partnerships at Providence. In these roles, she defines the strategic direction of the Fund’s grant programs and initiatives. With more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, including extensive experience in community health programs, Gabriela holds the institutional knowledge and passion for equity needed to effectively address the greatest needs in our community.
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