The Mexican American Opportunity Foundation is looking to use its reach to educate as many low-income families as possible on everything from avoiding junk food to opening a checking account – and it's hoping corporate America will lend a hand.
MAOF, one of the largest Hispanic-serving nonprofits in the country, serves more than 100,000 Californians each year on a $57 million budget derived from state, federal, and county sources. All but 2 percent of the organization's funding comes from government sources.
MAOF President Martin Castro would like to change that.
His goal is to see 25 percent of its budget come from the private sector.
"We're always looking to grow our organization," he says. "Even though we're one of the largest in the nation, we know that any time that you have federal, state, or county grants those grants are not forever."
When founded by Dionicio Morales in 1963, MAOF aimed to empower Mexican Americans by providing much-needed job training to help get better paying jobs. Today, it provides a wide range of human services, including preschool and childcare for 8,000 children each day and programs for the elderly.
The nonprofit has grown in large part due to CalWORKS, a welfare-to-work program. Many families participating in the California program are single mothers with two or more children. Many cannot afford childcare and, as a result, do not have jobs and remain dependent on government assistance.
"(CalWORKS) eliminated a major barrier, which was child care," Mr. Castro says. At the time the program was introduced, MAOF was one of a few nonprofits providing subsidized childcare in Los Angeles County.
"That's where the organization really grew," Mr. Castro says.
Today, the organization has more than 40 facilities in seven counties throughout California.
MAOF is now in a prime position to offer more services and workshops on topics such as nutrition and financial literacy.
"We have a ready-made client base," Mr. Castro says. "We feel that we can expand to offer a wide variety of services that our community needs and the government is not funding."
Hispanics suffer from disproportionately high rates of diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol, says Mr. Castro, who hopes additional funding will allow the organization to hire more health and financial literacy educators.
"With corporate America we can expand and offer services like financial literacy services and health education and anything else that will empower the community," he said.
The few corporate sponsors the organization has partenered with have made an impact, Mr. Castro says.
HSBC-North America paid for a new computer lab and also underwrote the creation of monthly financial literacy courses that cover everything from basic banking to home ownership. In 2006, Kraft Foods paid for Spanish-language nutrition-based workshops.
In return, the corporate sponsors are allowed to put their logos in the classroom and have programs bear their name.
"We're actually promoting their companies with the communities they serve," Mr. Castro says.
Down the road, he would like to see MAOF leave a bigger footprint and spread out to other states. "It's our vision: To be known as the nation's premier provider of services for Latinos."
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