Thirty-three valued sponsors generously made this gala possible. (See list of sponsors following blog — click to enlarge.)
The evening’s theme was “Generations of Success,” which held a twofold meaning: MEDA has been around for 44 years, which equals two generations of service to the Mission immigrant community; and the organization employs a two-generation approach in its daily work strengthening low-income Latino families so their children succeed academically.
After an hour of mingling while sampling hors d’oeuvres, emcee Ernesto Martinez of MEDA welcomed guests to take their seats for dinner coupled with an hour-long program promising to showcase a community using innovative strategies to better lives.
MEDA’s Executive Director Luis Granados was first to head to the lectern, his speech taking on a decidedly personal tone due to the shift in politics since he stood in the same spot one year prior. Granados shared what drives his work: His family of five crossed from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas each week for work and to visit family, with the clan subjected to undignified searches by border agents. After immigrating to Southern California, the accomplishments of the Granados family have been many.
“My family’s experience is not that different from the over 7,000 people MEDA serves yearly,” explained Granados, optimistically adding that the Latino community is resilient and will persevere despite recent challenges.
Next to the podium was CEO Fred Blackwell of the San Francisco Foundation. Blackwell’s inspiring 10-minute keynote speech perfectly echoed Granados words. The common theme of inequity of opportunity rang through, with Blackwell imploring the gathered community to work to generate equity in the San Francisco Bay Area. He noted that with unprecedented wealth being generated in the region, too many in communities of color were still being left behind.
It was then time for honorees, with the following awards handed out to deserving community members:
- Community Innovation Award to Ruby Harris, who manages the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development’s Small Sites Program, whereby nonprofits can purchase four- to 25-unit buildings with tenants vulnerable to no-fault eviction. MEDA has a portfolio of 15 Small Sites Program buildings, with 93 households and a dozen family-serving businesses already saved.
- Community Equity Award to Jane Duong, who served on MEDA’s Board for a decade, including a stint as president, and now drives The Greenlining Institute’s work to create equal access to opportunity.
- Community Leadership Awards to the four schools that comprise the Mission Promise Neighborhood: Bryant Elementary School; César Chávez Elementary School; Everett Middle School; and John O’Connell High School. Impact to date was showcased in a compelling video telling the story of Josue Alcocer, who graduated last spring and is now attending college, the first in his immigrant family to do so. Josue is representative of the 18 percent increase in John O’Connell’s graduation rate, with the jump for Latinos 26 percent.
The final award was for MEDA’s 2017 Client of the Year, Alicia Villanueva of Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas. She was introduced by MEDA Business Development Program Manager Edwin Rodriguez, who spoke of Alicia’s determination to create a business, which started with the immigrant from Mexico making 100 tamales in her kitchen. Flash forward a few years and Alicia’s diligence, continued one-one-one coaching by MEDA and a $100,000 Adelante Fund loan has translated into 40,000 of her homeland’s beloved dish being made monthly at a Bay Area plant, with her employing 18 community members. Alicia told of how she wanted to create such jobs so others could build their dreams in the U.S.
With the program concluded and dessert having been served, it was time for Adelante Salsa Band to get the crowd to the dance floor. With the band’s always-intoxicating beat, that was an easy task. A deejay played between sets to continue the festive mood.
There was even a photo booth, attendees donning props and taking home a keepsake from ¡VIVA MEDA!
The following day, it was time for the community to roll up their collective sleeves and get back to work strengthening the Latino immigrant community. Together, success will be possible for yet another generation.
(Click below to enlarge.)