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City of giving: how Claremont is more than just trees

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

One hundred and four. One might suspect that to be the number of restaurants and hair and nail salons that span the City of Trees. But that triple-digit figure represents the number of nonprofits registered in Claremont.

The sum seems quite high, but when one takes a minute to recount the quantity of nonprofits that reside here, one quickly needs more digits.

There’s AgingNext, Ability First, the California Botanic Garden, the COURIER, Claremont Forum, Claremont Sunrise Rotary, Kiwanis Club of Claremont, Crossroads Inc. … and the list goes on for 96 more entries.

With so many nonprofit organizations in our little town, the COURIER got to talking with CEOs, executive directors, and various leaders to understand how important they are to the identity of Claremont.

Each leader was asked four questions: How important are nonprofit organizations to a community? What does your organization do to benefit the community? How does the community give back to you when you give so much to them? And, how important is your organization to the fabric of Claremont?

When answering the first question, all four of the leaders we spoke to agreed: nonprofits are essential for any community.

David Shearer, executive director of Claremont Heritage — the organization charged with preserving the city’s history and heritage — shared that nonprofits cover many of the expenses and necessities often left underfunded by government, institutional, or school district aid.

“Nonprofits kind of pick up the slack,” Shearer said. “They see a need and address it.”

“Nonprofits have deeply engaged and active community members who give their time and their philanthropic support,” according to Christine Leible, president of Claremont Educational Foundation, John Heitkemper, CEF’s immediate past president, and Emily Cavalcanti, CEF’s 2022-23 president elect, who collaborated on an email response. “Nonprofits are critical to building strong communities that serve a vital purpose. In many instances, nonprofits fill gaps that are valued by the community, but are underfunded.”

 

David Shearer, executive director of Claremont Heritage, outside of the Garner House on Friday, July 30. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

 

When answering the second question, the various responses hammered home the idea that with so many nonprofits in the area, a variety of needs are met.

Some organizations provide educational support for Claremont’s youth, such as CLASP, CEF, and the Claremont School of Music. Shoes that Fit, quite succinctly makes sure needy children have shoes. The Newcomers Access Center helps refugees transition into Claremont.

Still others provide resources for women, such as Crossroads, Inc. and the Woman’s Club of Claremont. The Children’s Foundation of America and Trinity Youth Services ensure children in foster care receive resources typical government aid doesn’t cover, such as contacts or braces.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are more that work to address local climate issues like Sustainable Claremont, or food insecurity around the foothills corridor such as Inland Valley Hope Partners.

Larry Grable, executive director of the Service Center for Independent Life, said that for 42 years the organization has helped seniors and adults with disabilities around Claremont “remain safe and stable in their own home.” The nonprofit offers career building workshops, math and cooking courses, a weekly food pantry, grocery delivery and home care services.

Just before speaking with Grable in late July, he was on the phone with a client who needed “grab bars” installed in her home to allow her safe, stable access to her shower.

 

Larry Grable, executive director of the Service Center for Independent Life, inside of his Spring Street Center office on Monday, July 25. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

 

“A lot of these people can’t afford, like you just heard, grab bars in their home when they’re coming out of a nursing home,” Grable said. “People don’t have money and are not budgeted for that, so we can go in and perform [that work] for no charge. The services that we provide save money, save lives.”

Most leaders, like Grable, gave similar answers when asked how the community shows its support to the nonprofits, such as donating money, goods, or time.

Most show their support through dollars, but Grable and others interviewed for this story believe showing up as a volunteer is the best way to demonstrate you care, especially since COVID-19 reduced volunteer numbers.

Cher Ofstedhal, CEO of both Children’s Foundation of America and Trinity Youth Services, also said that due to the current landscape nonprofits face — with a pandemic and rising prices affecting everyone — it’s difficult for nonprofits to fund current operations.

“Because, unlike other types of businesses that can raise the cost of a hamburger or a widget or whatever it is that they’re selling [to] pay for the economic increases, nonprofits just don’t have that luxury,” she said. “Even nonprofits like ours that are fee-for-service are tied to government contracts that don’t change, so when prices go up, we have no way to ask for more money.”

 

Cher Ofstedahl, chief executive officer of both Trinity Youth Services and Children’s Foundation of America, inside of her busy office on Tuesday, July 26. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

 

The final question — With 104 nonprofits in the area, do they really play a role in the identity or fabric to what makes Claremont, Claremont? — received a grab-bag of responses.

As the record keepers of Claremont’s long history, Shearer agreed, saying “Yes, it’s extremely crucial,” a sentiment echoed by CEF’s Leible.

Grable said SCIL, even with its four-decade presence in the community, is still a mystery to some.

“People still don’t know we’re here,” he said. “[But] the people that know we’re here, we’re extremely important [to them]. We’re probably one of the first calls they make if they have an issue or problem.”

To learn more about the nonprofits listed, view the online version of the story on claremont-courier.com.

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