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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, November 19, 2012, 6:00 am

Nonprofit Leadership Awards 2012: Oscar A. Chavez, Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County

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    Address: 1300 N. Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa 95401; 707-544-6911; capsonoma.org

    Age: 39

    Residence: Windsor

    Professional background: Since graduating from College, my work has focused on increasing access to education and opportunities for low income and minority students.  For the past decade through the Community Action network, I have worked to alleviate the conditions of poverty by shifting our focus away from merely addressing the symptoms of poverty to mobilizing communities to address the root causes of poverty.

    Education: B.A. in political science from Bakersfield State University

    Staff size: 250

    Describe your organization.

    Founded in 1967, Community Action Partnership is one of the largest nonprofits in the region, serving more than 13,000 low-income individuals annually. The organization is funded through 34 public and private sources and has an annual operating budget of $10 million. Our mission is to partner with low-income people to better lives and build community.

    To address inequities in health, education and income, we provide an array of programs: early childhood and parent education; family literacy; youth education, leadership & workforce training; health promotion; financial literacy, asset development and advocacy.

    Tell us a little bit about yourself.

    I am married going on 15 years and a father of four young boys.  I am a strong advocate of education. Having come to this country as young child and growing up in poverty I know firsthand the power that education has in moving people out of poverty.  I believe that when a community comes together to solve common problems we can achieve great things.

    What is your role in the organization?

    With the support of an 18 member board of directors, I serve as Executive Director working alongside a team of 250 dedicated people working to improve the lives of children and families in Sonoma County.  My role is also to advocate on behalf of our low-income communities and to work with partner organizations to address the growing disparities that plague our communities.

    What achievement are you most proud of?

    Last year we completed the construction of our newest Early Childhood Education Center in Windsor.  The new Head Start Center serves 80 children and their families with quality pre-school education and parent supports.

    What is your biggest challenge today?

    Most of our funding comes from federal sources and over the past two years we have seen a funding shift at the federal level towards supporting communities of greater disparity making it more difficult for communities like ours to compete. The biggest challenge today is shifting our strategy towards more private sector fundraising to meet the growing demand for our services.

    What the next major project either under way or on the horizon?

    Community Action Partnership is working with multiple partners and institutions to develop a community school within an existing middle school campus that will significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in distressed neighborhoods of Southwest Santa Rosa.  This effort will connect all segments of education from birth to college and will align social and academic support systems along the educational continuum.

    What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?

    AVANCE encourages parents to read to their children daily as a important way to encourage language development. The teachers do it too.

    Today’s funders are increasingly requiring more data around outcomes and stronger evidence of the effectiveness of programs.  As a result, we are investing in a new client data management system to track outcomes across the entire organization and will soon be working with partner agencies and funders to track outcomes across organizations and communities.

    How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

    Our profession has already started to undergo tremendous change. The tools and mindset we had prior to the economic downturn will not work moving forward.  Today, the only way to do more with less is through increased collaboration, innovation and by working across sectors to achieve greater impact.

    Most admired businessperson outside your organization: No one business person comes to mind, however I admire people and business organizations that are socially minded and committed to improving the health of the community that surrounds them.

    Current reading: The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz

    Most want to meet: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

    Stress relievers: music and PC games

    Favorite hobbies: I love raising chickens and building things.

    Words that best describe you: optimistic, compassionate, humble, hopeful

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