Non-profits Collaborate at Bi-Annual ED Roundtable

Local leaders working to improve the lives of county's disadvantaged

About 25 non-profit leaders met Tuesday morning at the St. Francis Retreat
center in San Juan Bautista to discuss what's working – and not working – for
local non- profits. The Executive Director (ED) Roundtable provides a forum for local EDs to share best practices and learn strategies that will help them carry
out the mission of their respective organizations
"What are the top three greatest challenges facing our community today?"
facilitator and Community Foundation President & CEO Gary Byrne asked the group.

Participants listed health issues, such as obesity, lack of local jobs forcing
residents to commute, gangs and youth violence, lack of resources, and a
lack of strong leadership as some issues San Benito County faces.

The non-profits in attendance included the American Red Cross, CASA,
Emmaus House, Girl Scouts, Chamberlains Children's Center, the Youth
Alliance, Community Food Bank, Hazel Hawkins Hospital Foundation,
Hollister Downtown Assoc., The San Benito County Arts Council, Homeless Coalition, United Way
and the YMCA. Most of the organizations serve the county's mid-to-lower
income residents who are grappling with job losses, domestic violence,
hunger and other factors that affect wellbeing.

For non- profits, EDs are the equivalent of a company's chief
operating officer. They are in charge of raising funds, administration, and
carrying out their organizations' missions. MaryAnne Hughes of the Food Bank said that they are serving 2,100 households a week, or roughly 5,000 residents.

"Seventeen percent of San Benito County residents live below the federal poverty line," she said. The 2013 federal poverty line  $23,550 per year for a
family of four.

Non- profits fill the needs that local government has
been unable to address. The group discussed working together to urge local
leaders to address a specific issue with a collective voice.

"We need to do more than poke holes and name what's wrong," said
Hollister Downtown Association (HDA) Executive Director Brenda Weatherly. "We
need to offer solutions ." The HDA works to bring economic development and jobs to the area, as well as provide social and cultural events downtown.

Many of the EDs are working on such solutions, including a new Women's
Center at the hospital, plans for a new YMCA, permanent housing for the Homeless,
a "211"  live telephone service for non-emergency social services, and
several upcoming downtown events to spur local business activity.

Hughes suggested forming a "back office" where local non-profits
can pool their resources to handle administration and operations so they can
focus on serving their clients. For more information on non- profits and the
work they do in San Benito County, you can visit the community foundation website at



Julie Finigan Morris

Julie Finigan Morris is a journalist and business owner. She has worked as staff writer for several news organizations, including Thomson Newspapers in Washington D.C., McClatchy Newspapers and Scripps News Service. She is also the Co-Founder and Owner of Morris Grassfed and has lived in San Benito County for more than 25 years. Morris has also worked in corporate communications, marketing, and the non-profit sector. She is a founding board member of BenitoLink and currently serves on its Editorial Committee. She recently published her first novel, Exit Strategy. Visit her online at