We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of GrantStation by interviewing some of our longstanding Members. Bernita Walker of Project: Peacemakers in Los Angeles, CA, has been a Member since 2003, so I wanted to gain insights from her years in grantseeking.
David: Thank you for talking with me about your organization! It was nice getting to “meet” you over the phone recently when you called about your GrantStation Membership. It was a treat to talk about music and learn that your father was T-Bone Walker! As a musician, that blew me away.
Bernita: Yes, he was blessed with the blues, and I was blessed with other skills!
David: And those are the skills I want to hear about. Tell me about Project: Peacemakers.
Bernita: We are a nonprofit organization located in South Los Angeles, serving victims of domestic violence. Over the 25 years of our existence, the program has worked to educate the community about the issue of domestic violence while assisting the victim to become empowered to move to a survivor, with a thriving attitude. We provide counseling, individually and group; confidential protective housing; Restraining Order applications completion/filing and court accompaniment; Life Skills classes, which includes basic computer training as well as classes addressing financial management, parenting, and anger management. We also provide Court assigned Child Abuser Treatment Classes, and are a SUD (Substance Use Disorder) provider.
We are a small agency of 15 team members, which includes our part timers and volunteers. It takes the right people for this work, with the right training and personality, to serve our population. Even our receptionist takes the training. And our janitor picks up the key principles just from talking with us. It’s essential to have a well-trained system.
We have 189 to 195 clients each month. When clients have completed their work with us, we can then draw from our waiting list, which is long since we have a reputation for quality of service. We refuse no one!!! Our motto is “We want to ‘BE’ the cause of change in your life.”
David: Wow, that is an inspiring motto! How did you start this work?
Bernita: I was part of the formation of Jenesse Center, a domestic violence prevention and intervention organization, back in 1979, so I go way back in this field. I even remember when GrantStation started in Alaska! As I worked in this field, I learned that only 3 to 4% of domestic violence survivors actually go to a shelter. The spirit moved me to serve the 96 to 97% that don’t or can’t go for whatever reason.
I was motivated to serve this area of Los Angeles since communities of color are underserved because of assumptions that often get made. I heard an executive director of an agency in a more privileged area say, “Well that’s just the way they (Blacks) live.” I had to educate her that it is NOT how we live. That is a stigma that we have to fight.
At that time California was responding to the federal initiative to address by enabling every county, not just the privileged ones, to have resources. One of the ways to fund domestic violence shelters was to raise the costs on marriage licenses.
David: It’s fascinating how revenue gets raised in such interesting ways. Tell me about your funding.
Bernita: Over half of our funding comes from the county of Los Angeles through CalWORKs - the California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids program, which is funded by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal programs. It’s a welfare-to-work program, and many of our clients are in that situation, so part of our work is to help battered families by providing services around job training, life skills, financial management, etc. We are in need of match funding to meet this effort.
One of our private grants was from Verizon. That funding was to serve immigrant populations, who have a fear of being confronted by ICE even when they have all their documentation. This is helpful since CalWORKs funding is only for U.S. Citizens, Qualified Aliens, Permanently Residing Under Color of Law, or Domestic Abuse survivors.
David: It sounds like you find funding that isn’t necessarily aimed towards battered families but that happens to address their various needs. We often tell our Members to look at their work from a variety of angles rather than the most obvious ones, and then to find funding for that angle. It sounds like you do just that.
Bernita: Yes, we have needed to do that. This is because many private foundations that focus on giving for battered women will only give to those agencies with a shelter. Like I said, that only addresses 3to 4% of battered women. So we have to get creative to find funding for the 96 to 97%.
David: It’s good then that you got plugged into the CalWORKS government funding. It sounds like you have had that funding for a number of years?
Bernita: Yes, we have a pretty easy time renewing when their RFP comes up. This is because we keep many statistics and have high quality control, so we can speak to what a government grant requires. It’s helpful that we can share our evaluations from our clients. We work consistently to pass their audit of compliance as well as submitting our monthlies before the deadline. We sometimes even get an increase in funding, like when another agency cannot use all of their original approved budget amount.
David: It sounds like you are disciplined with your data. Your approach is a great example of using “outcomes-based evidence” to get funding rather than just using activity-based statistics. What are some of your next steps as an agency?
Bernita: We are thinking about how we can effectively collaborate with other agencies in the L.A. area. We are all doing our work and it would be nice to have a pool for the different areas. That’s a webinar I would like to see GrantStation offer.
David: Collaboration is definitely a topic that we preach about on a regular basis, and I can see how we can add that to our online learning offerings. You can find some grantmakers who specifically fund collaborative efforts in our U.S. Charitable section. If you select National and California grantmakers, then Domestic Violence, and then add “collaboration” as a keyword, you’ll get ten results, including the Blue Shield of California Foundation.
Bernita: Thank you, I will try that out the next time I log in.
David: Well, thank YOU for bringing up the topic, and for sharing your story, and your insights with our community!
ABOUT BERNITA WALKER
Bernita is the executive director of Project: Peacemakers and has been a Member of GrantStation since 2003. She has been working in the field of domestic violence since 1979 when she started working the program of Jenesse Social Club, which was incorporated in 1980 and thus started her work in grantseeking. Her breadth of experience comes from being a DV survivor and a retired deputy sheriff for the county of Los Angeles.