Like many of you, this isn’t the start to 2017 I imagined – certainly not in California, where this time last year health care for all and expanded rights for immigrants seemed to be on the horizon. Instead, dramatic attempts to unravel key national policies providing access to care and protecting immigrant lives have caused fear and suffering for some of the most vulnerable residents of our state. And we must take action when the communities we serve are under attack.
In January, anticipating winds of change out of Washington D.C., Cal Wellness Board and staff affirmed our Foundation’s core values and outlined four immediate grantmaking priorities in the statement Together, We Advance and Defend Wellness. We also reached out to listen and learn from community partners how best to respond to the needs of Californians most impacted by changes in the social and political environment. It was our grantees, in fact, who reminded us that while we need to defend progress at the national level, we can continue to advance issues affecting health and wellness in our state.
Over the last three months, we’ve made more than $6 million in grants to organizations working to both advance and defend wellness in California. For us, this has been an extraordinary experience of collective action. Our staff quickly organized to assess and respond to needs in the community; our board worked with us to accelerate our grantmaking process to address the most urgent needs; and our grantees across the state have swiftly engaged, providing critical services and advocating for change. I’m truly proud of the Cal Wellness team, but it’s our grantees who are the true heroes in the work we do together.
The truth is that the future remains uncertain. If the first few months of the year have taught us anything, it’s that we’ll need to stay focused, engaged and unafraid to act when our values are threatened. And it helps to know we’re not alone, that there is a growing community of social change agents – in philanthropy, business and government; on college campuses, in places of worship and around dinner tables across the state – who are willing to respond to advance and defend wellness for all. For that, I’m grateful.