Dear Friend of the Grassroots Fund,
Last December, I stood in a field near Bakersfield with mothers and community leaders from Committee for a Better Shafter, shaking my head. I was staring at oil pumps that surrounded a small public elementary school, thinking there ought to be a law that protects children from the toxic fumes of these operations. Actually, there is a law; it’s just not yet adequately enforced – at least not here in the San Joaquin Valley.
When I think about the problems that surround our communities, I can feel so overwhelmed. And yet, as we stood in the dwindling afternoon light, I was inspired. Anabel and Felipa talked about how they were working with the Air Resources Board on an air quality monitoring and mitigation plan for Shafter, and how the Rose Foundation’s Grassroots Fund is supporting the Committee’s work to ensure that adequate buffer zones between oil operations and communities are enforced.
That’s the point. When I feel overwhelmed, I need to remind myself of what Margaret Mead once said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
Individual actions make a difference. Multiply many individual actions across many communities, and you start a movement. That’s how Mono Lake was saved. It started with a small group of citizens who refused to let Mono Lake die. I was privileged to lead the campaign that ultimately resulted in a decision by the City of Los Angeles to share water with Mono Lake and restore its streams and ecosystems. It took almost 20 years to win Mono Lake’s victory, and there were times when I despaired. But what made the difference were the many people who joined with us, in Los Angeles, throughout California, and ultimately across the world.
As a board member of the Grassroots Fund, I now have the opportunity to build on the work of all the people who helped save Mono Lake and to “pay it forward” to the community groups that are fighting today to improve air and water quality, protect public health, preserve the environment, and make California a better place for us all.
Take a look at some of the wonderful community work the Grassroots Fund has supported this past year. Thanks to the Fund, Alliance for Environmental Leadership is providing a smart growth alternative to Placer County’s proposed development of an industrial park across 15 square miles of prairie wetlands; Campesinas Unidas Del Valle de San Joaquin are holding educational meetings with local residents and health officials on how to address pesticides, mercury, and other local environmental health hazards; and the Cleveland Elementary School PTA in Oakland is teaching its 400 students how to sustainably grow their own food through the school’s garden program.
Grassroots Fund grant awards are modest – up to $5,000 per grant. But for small grassroots groups, these grant dollars provide tipping-point funding that catalyzes on-the-ground collaboration and real solutions. For example, a grant given to the Center for Farmworker Families in Watsonville last year enabled office space to be shared among multiple community groups including the Safe Ag Safe Schools Coalition. And funding provided to AGUA (Asociación de Gente Unida por el Agua) supported the effective coalition of citizens who won passage of the landmark California Safe Drinking Water Act in 2019 – a huge victory which will benefit millions of people for years to come.
I remember what small grants like these meant for the Mono Lake Committee. Receiving a few thousand dollars was like receiving manna from heaven. For the community groups supported by the Grassroots Fund, a small grant is a gift of belief in their cause, and a means of empowerment. It says to them, ‘you can do this, and we will do it together.’
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by our changing world. What can we do? For me, the answer is to invest now in the new generation of community leaders who are fighting for environmental justice, clean water, healthy communities, environmental protection, and climate resilience.
The Rose Foundation and I are trying to raise $20,000 for the Grassroots Fund by March 31st. With your support, I know we can reach this goal! And to encourage you to join me in investing in the Fund, I am pledging a personal gift to match all donations dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000.
Can I count on your support? Thank you for standing with me and the heroic community organizations that are fighting to create a better world for us all!
In humble gratitude,
Co-Chair, Grassroots Fund Funding Board