A Kaleidoscope of Talent Celebrates Two Decades of Grass Roots Philanthropy
What do four therapy wolf dogs, a troupe of teen hip-hop dancers, a pair of young actors from a Los Angeles Shakespeare program, a youth choir, a group of world music drummers, and more than 200 guests have in common?
Together, and joined by other talented local youth and adult performers, they created the 20th annual Blank Rome Adopt-a-Center event held at the American Jewish University in Bel Air, California, on September 16, 2018. An eclectic collection of talent and enthusiastic support, to be sure! The event, Kaleidoscope of Change, was a celebration of all of the past recipients of the Adopt-a-Center Program going back to our very first: Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services.
What Exactly Is the Blank Rome Adopt-A-Center Program?
It is a unique form of local philanthropy that allows our law firm to go beyond writing a check to a nonprofit. Instead, the program selects one deserving nonprofit agency each year that benefits disadvantaged family populations in our city, enabling us to support groups that provide essential outreach to distinct communities all over Los Angeles. Through an RFP process each January, the selected recipient works hand-in-hand with Blank Rome’s Los Angeles office to plan an event for their constituency, one that often includes the greater community. In addition to receiving underwriting for the costs of producing and publicizing the event, additional funds are typically donated by supporters of the Adopt-a-Center Program, friends of the firm, and attendees at the event. In many years, the selected nonprofit has made such a profound impression on the firm and our advisory board that some individuals have become personally involved with the organization as volunteers, mentors, and board members.
The Adopt-a-Center Program was established in 1999 by my former law firm, Phillips Lerner, and formally “adopted” by Blank Rome LLP when I joined in 2016. I am thrilled that it is now part of Blank Rome’s venerable tradition of philanthropy. For this milestone, we did not follow our usual course of selecting a single recipient organization. Instead, we chose to recognize the depth and breadth of our Adopt-a-Center Program’s reach over the past 20 years through an afternoon performance of dance, music, song, and community spirit.
Is There a ‘Typical’ Recipient?
The winner of the annual Adopt-a-Center award is, by design, a grassroots Los Angeles nonprofit providing services to local children and families, doing so in innovative ways that inspire and lift up the communities they serve. Over the past 20 years, the program has recognized and supported:
Wolf Connection (2017), founded in 2009, is a unique nonprofit that has rescued more than 50 wolf dogs throughout the nation who were victims of abuse, neglect, and abandonment; trained them to be therapy animals; and incorporated them into their youth programs, providing life education and skill-building experiences to thousands of at-risk youth to reduce violence in local communities.
The Advot Project (2016) is a grassroots nonprofit that works with incarcerated young women ages 13–25 while in the LA County probation lockup facilities, and after their release. The project uses art and theater as communications tools to foster self-esteem, manage anger, promote healthy relationships, and prevent violence.
Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra (2015), has since 2012 provided after-school and summertime music and singing instruction and instruments to children ages 6–14 living in Boyle Heights. In this East LA neighborhood, where poverty is extreme and violent crime is high, this nonprofit is enriching children’s lives and changing the fabric of an entire community.
El Nido Family Centers (2014) is a nonprofit whose mission is to empower families in Los Angeles County’s low-income communities to break the cycle of poverty, child abuse, violence, academic failure, and teen pregnancy through educational, youth development, health, and therapeutic services.
Los Angeles Youth Network (2013) has served homeless runaway, foster, and other youth, ages 12–21 since 1985, by providing emergency and long-term housing, educational and enrichment programs that teach independent living skills, and resources to help them achieve productive lives.
Imagine LA (2012) is a nonprofit whose mission is to end the cycle of family homelessness in Los Angeles by mobilizing trained mentors, collaborative public and private resources, and community leaders who understand that a roof over one’s head is merely the starting point to a better life.
Upward Bound House (2011), founded in 1991, is a community-based social service agency that helps mitigate the affordable housing crisis on Los Angeles’ Westside, with a specific focus on homeless families with children and very low-income seniors.
United in Harmony Mentoring Program (2010) is a nonprofit that provides homeless and impoverished children from more than 12 Los Angeles County shelters with hope and opportunities to develop positive self-esteem through enriching programs and interactions with teenage and adult role models.
Fred Jordan Missions (2008 and 2009) is a nonprofit mission located on Skid Row that works on the streets of inner-city Los Angeles and throughout the world to “help share God’s love” by providing nourishing food, warm clothing, blankets, and other vital services to people in need.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles (2007) provides children facing adversity with strong, enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that improve their lives for the long term.
Dispute Resolution Services Youth Peer Mediation Program (2006) helps individuals, families, schools, and communities in LA resolve conflicts through mediation, facilitation, and other problem-solving methods. This training and coaching teaches people the skills to constructively address disputes in a wide range of personal, community, and work settings.
Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Services Youth Conflict Resolution Program (2005) promotes a nationwide collaboration of partnerships, joining governmental, public, and nonprofit agencies with schools, families, and community groups to teach positive conflict prevention, resolution, and life skills to K-12 children.
Children Uniting Nations (2004) was launched in Los Angeles in 1999 to provide academic and relationship-based mentoring for at-risk children to create “loving, tolerant, and capable world citizens.”
Ocean Park Community Center (2003), based in Santa Monica, is a network of shelters and services for low-income individuals, homeless persons, battered individuals and their children, at-risk youth, and runaways to help rebuild their lives.
Break the Cycle (2002) is an LA agency that engages, educates, and empowers youth to end dating violence, and provides free legal services, advocacy, and support to youth ages 12–22.
Venice Family Clinic (2001) is a comprehensive health clinic that serves uninsured and low-income adults and homeless children, regardless of their ability to pay.
Free Arts for Abused Children Foundation (2000) is a nonprofit that serves abused and neglected children in Los Angeles and Orange counties through its “art heals” philosophy, which teaches expression and promotes healing through the fine arts.
Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services (1999) provides comprehensive, family-centered social, educational, and behavioral health services that encourage children, adolescents, and their families to lead self-reliant, stable, and productive lives.
It is our hope that our 20th anniversary event brought increased awareness to our program, enabling us to attract new organizations to make vital contributions to the lives of underserved children and families in Greater Los Angeles. If you are part of such a nonprofit or know someone who is, please refer to our 2019 Request for Proposal, available at blankrome.com/adopt-center-program. If you are interested in creating an Adopt-a-Center Program for your business or corporate entity, please contact us at 424.239.3450.
Won’t you join us and be part of the kaleidoscope of change? Get involved today and spread the word!
“A Kaleidoscope of Talent Celebrates Two Decades of Grass Roots Philanthropy,” by Stacy D. Phillips was published in the December 2018 edition of CSQ Magazine.