Good Works: Amgen gives another $300K for COVID relief; Ventura nonprofits pursue housing reform; California Strong supports fire victims

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Amgen has announced it will contribute $300,000 to match COVID-19 relief funds raised by the Ventura County Community Foundation, bringing the Thousand Oaks biotech company’s total commitment to $1 million.

The Community Foundation and its donors have given out $14 million in grants to support small businesses, individuals and families, and other nonprofits, the organization said in a March 19 news release.

The foundation has set a goal of raising $600,000 over the next six to eight weeks, including Amgen’s $300,000. The money will go to nonprofits helping people with food and housing, child care, lost wages, mental health care, and other issues related to the pandemic.


Two Ventura nonprofits received grants totaling $150,000 from the Southern California Association of Governments to promote more equitable housing and land use policies.

The grants went to CAUSE—Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy—and House Farm Workers. They part of $1.25 million that went out to organizations throughout Southern California under the “Call for Collaboration” program, meant to combat racism and social injustice.

The funding comes from SCAG’s own grant funds, as well as the California Community Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Institute and the Irvine Foundation.

CAUSE’s plan for the money involves launching a “countywide housing coalition comprised of community-based organizations, local housing authorities and local government representatives in Oxnard, Ventura and Simi Valley with a focus on identifying a new regional source of funding for affordable housing,” according to a SCAG news release.

House Farm Workers plans to fund its mission of advocating for and supporting farmworker housing in Ventura County.


California Strong, a YMCA program that provides aid to victims of wildfires and other disasters, distributed more than $330,000 in gift cards in early March to 88 families still recovering from the Woolsey fire, which destroyed hundreds of homes in Ventura and Los Angeles counties in November 2018.

The money came from the Ventura County Community Foundation and was distributed in a drive-up event on March 2 at the Yarrow Family YMCA in Westlake Village.

Many of the recipients got aid shortly after the fire, when California Strong distributed two rounds of funding, and they are still waiting to finish rebuilding their homes or to find new ones. The organization reached out at the start of 2021 to see if any of the recipients needed more help, and “the responses were overwhelming,” California Strong said in a news release.

Their needs include help rebuilding their homes and paying bills, finding permanent housing and replacing furniture, and many also need legal and financial advice.

California Strong was founded shortly after the Woolsey fire and Borderline shooting in Thousand Oaks, by a group that included professional baseball players Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff.


Gerry Pantoja, the director of major and planned giving at the Ventura College Foundation, has been elected president for 2021 of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Santa Barbara/Ventura Counties Chapter.

Pantoja has more than 12 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, including eight in Washington, D.C. His work with the Ventura College Foundation is focused on gathering financial support for the college’s students and programs.

“Gerry has been very successful in generating significant donations for the foundation, even during these very challenging times,” Anne Paul King, the Ventura College Foundation executive director, said in a statement. “He will bring the same drive, knowledge and leadership to his role as APFSBVC president.”

In other nonprofit governance news, the Alzheimer’s Association has chosen Katina Zaninovich, a retired health care executive, as the new board chair of its California Central Coast Chapter.

In addition to her new role as chair, Katina will continue her term as chair for the chapter’s Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative Committee, which began in 2013.

Zaninovich spent most of her career in Santa Barbara at VNA Health—formerly known as Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care—as a hospital liaison, director of clinical services, and executive director. She has been active in her community, serving on boards including Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care Professional Advisory Committee, Cottage Health System, and San Marcos High School Foundation. She was also a caregiver for both her father and mother at the end of their lives.


The Foundation of Ventura County Credit Union handed out a total of $31,000 in grants to eight local nonprofits at a March 10 virtual event.

The recipients included the Boys & Girls Club of Camarillo, El Concilio Family Services, People’s Self-Help Housing, Project Bicycle Love, Ventura College Foundation, Ventura County Area Agency on Aging and Westminster Free Clinic. Since its founding in 2015, The Foundation has provided a total of $130,000 in grants to support nonprofits in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

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