Over a decade ago, Community Vision committed to increasing our presence and focus in the Central Valley in response to high levels of poverty, unemployment, and vast inequity. For this reason, Community Vision supports local stakeholders in social equity and economic mobility by providing consulting and capital to nonprofits and social enterprises that promote equitable employment, affordable housing, healthy food, health care, and human services.  Despite the many community development challenges that exist for low-income communities throughout the Central Valley, the area is an important intersection of California’s diverse culture and one of the nation’s leading agricultural economic forces.

Since 2006 Community Vision’s Fresno office has been staffed by Alice Rocha, Community Vision’s Business Development Officer, who has longstanding ties to the community.  Since that time, we’ve built a foundation by which to best serve and partner with the Central Valley community. So far Community Vision has invested a total of $54 million in the region, led 19 workshops, provided technical assistance to more than 50 community-based groups, administered grants to six, and provided financing, including New Markets Tax Credits, to more than 55 projects.

One of the first proactive steps Community Vision took in our place-based work was to create a Central Valley Advisory Council. This council pools local talent that guides us in maximizing our impact.  The group acts as a creative problem solving forum from which recommendations are made to Community Vision staff and Board that guide our decision-making and strategy development in the region. Members share Community Vision’s mission of strengthening nonprofits and identify prospective projects that revitalizes low-income communities throughout the Central Valley.

“Our Central Valley Advisory Council has brought so much to the table. For example, we were exposed to the massive inequities surrounding clean water access in this region through members of our Council,” said Rocha. “Learning about the challenges facing residents here has been critical in furthering our impact throughout the region.”

The Council also supports Community Vision in achieving regional goals and strategies by acting as Community Vision ambassadors throughout the area. With members representing diverse constituents, communities and industries, Community Vision’s strategy is built around these core partnerships, which are critical to collectively addressing the region’s community development challenges.  Despite being one of the nation’s leading agricultural producers, the region is also home to a vast amount of food deserts, resulting in lack of fresh food access and other resources, to the area’s low-income people. Community Vision is committed to bringing solutions to low-income farmworkers and others in these region facing inequities.

As the fruits of these efforts materialize and our presence in the Central Valley grows, we ensure members of our Central Valley Advisory Council include representation from areas of programmatic focus, communities we serve, and other allies in the field. We have the fortune of longtime committed members that have served on the council for ten years in addition to continuing to attract new advisors.

We’d like to welcome our newest members of Community Vision’s Central Valley Advisory Council:

Lilia Chavez, Executive Director, Fresno Arts Council

The Fresno Arts Council is a nonprofit government organization dedicated to promoting the arts mainly by funding local artists, awarding prizes, and organizing local events. It is the official agency of the City and County of Fresno and promotes the arts as a vehicle of community development. Lilia is a native of Fresno County, where she has been an active advocate for the arts for many years. She is also a co-founder of Arte Américas, a Community Vision client, and served as its principal administrator for nearly ten years.

Caroline Farrell, Executive Director, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment 

The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment is a national environmental justice organization providing legal, organizing, and technical assistance to low-income communities and communities of color. The organization is rooted in the San Joaquin Valley, which faces immense environmental and economic challenges. Caroline has been working in the area for the last 14 years and supports communities fighting for environmental justice.

Janaki Jagannath – Coordinator, Community Alliance for Agroecology 

The Community Alliance for Agroecology works alongside the most impacted communities of the San Joaquin Valley to address the environmental injustices perpetuated by the food and farming system. The organization creates solutions that foster ecological balance, public health, and economic equality in the region while building political power throughout rural communities. Janaki is a fierce advocate for social and economic justice for low-income farmworkers in the Central Valley. You can read more about her work in this Civil Eats piece from April 2017.

Daniel O’Connell – Board Member, Food Commons Fresno 

Food Commons Fresno is a growing a community food system that fosters health, stewardship, equity, and supports economic development. The organization started a rapidly growing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and has taken over operations of an organic farm in Fresno. Prior to joining Food Commons Fresno Daniel served as the San Joaquin Program Manager for American Farmland Trust.

We’d also like to offer our deepest gratitude to the long time commitment of our ongoing members:

John Chan, Senior Vice President, BBVA Compass

Tom Collishaw, Vice President, Director of Development, Self-Help Enterprises

Mike Dozier, Former Director, Office of Community and Economic Development, California State University, Fresno

Arthur Dyson, Architect, AIA, IAA

Salam Nalia, Chief Financial Officer, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission

Debbie Raven, Executive Director, Valley Small Business Development Corporation

Tim Rios, Senior Vice President, Community Development Manager, Socially Responsible Group

Doug Weber, Senior Vice President, Comerica Bank

Dennis Woods, President, United Security Bank

We thank all of our members as we could not do this work without you and your collective expertise.