Nonprofit Helps Low-income Residents
Roseville, CA- A young woman who left her abusive husband in order to protect her three children and pursue a college degree to seek a better life for her family.
A senior with a life-threatening health issue who faced a financial hardship because of mounting health care bills and other day-to-day expenses.
And a single mother whose elementary school-aged daughter wanted to participate in youth sports but the cost made it impossible.
All three, along with many others, have been helped by the JB Brown Fund, a partnership between USA Properties Fund Inc. and social services provider LifeSTEPS.
The nonprofit organization helps low-income residents at many of USA Properties’ affordable communities attend college, participate in youth sports or deal with unexpected financial challenges.
“We want to continue to address some of society’s needs,” USA Properties President Geoff Brown said during the recent annual JB Brown Fund Reception in Roseville.
The fund has raised more than $1.12 million during the past eight years, helping hundreds of residents. Large corporations, midsize companies, small-business owners, USA Properties executives and employees, and many others statewide have donated to the JB Brown Fund.
“You have all played some kind of role,” college scholarship recipient Desmond said to many of the donors and volunteers at the reception.
It’s been a difficult path for Desmond, who witnessed the beating of his mother by her then-boyfriend. “I felt powerless, worthless and out of control with the situation,” said Desmond, who was 11 at the time.
Today, education is his foundation – and helps him gain control of his future. He will graduate in the spring with a business degree from Sacramento State University and plans to earn a master’s degree in sports administration
“I have control when I get my degree … and can be true to my values,” he said. “There are very few things possible without an education.”
Indeed. Education provides more economic opportunity, empowerment and equality.
“I had no idea how hard it would be,” said Jessica, who left her abusive husband but had no job, no money and three children.
JB Brown Fund scholarships helped her attend Sacramento State and paid for parking, textbook and other school supplies.
“I could not have done it without the help of the scholarship,” she said. “I could focus on school and my family. It also provided a much-needed nudge to keep going.”
Now, she is working towards her master’s degree in speech language pathology and recently remarried.
‘Allows us to accomplish our dreams’
“Going to college has opened a lot of doors for me,” said Roulon, a scholarship recipient who graduated last spring with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Sonoma State University and wants to enter nursing.
Roulon had a challenging childhood and has lived with his grandmother in recent years. But college has definitely changed his life.
“People have to work very hard to get where they want,” but receiving the scholarship makes the path a bit easier, he said. “I know a lot of people were rooting for me to reach my goals. The (scholarship) allows us to accomplish our dreams.”
JB Brown Fund has issued 242 scholarships to 75 students (residents can apply for a scholarship every semester). So far, 14 scholarship recipients have graduated from college, like Jessica and Roulon, thanks to the JB Brown Fund.
Valuable Life Skills
But the JB Brown Fund is more than college scholarships. It also helps low-income children participate in youth sports, where they can learn valuable life skills such as camaraderie, sportsmanship and teamwork, USA Properties’ Brown said.
“I was so embarrassed to ask anyone for help,” said Esmerelda, whose 11-year-old daughter wanted to play soccer. The JB Brown Fund paid for the enrollment fees and the soccer gear, including shoes. “We were so happy and grateful.”
The JB Brown Fund has also allowed her daughter participate in basketball, cross-country and even boxing. “Her confidence has changed so much,” she said.
For senior Wendy, a hard-working retiree who moved from the East Coast to a USA Properties community in the Sacramento region in summer 2017, the fund provided some much-needed financial relief as she battled cancer – and the bills that followed.
“We didn’t have money to pay the rent,” Wendy said through tears recalling her fight against breast cancer, including radiation treatments, and her money troubles.
The JB Brown Fund covered her rent and a counselor developed a financial plan.
“He helped me learn many ways to save money,” she said. “That took a lot of pressure off of us.”
The JB Brown Fund has helped almost 300 families and seniors deal with unexpected financial hardships.
‘The ability to change lives’
Whether it’s residents wanting to attend college and pursue their dream career, or seniors facing a money crunch, the JB Brown Fund is a helping hand – not a handout.
The JB Brown Fund helps “move the needle and breaks the cycle of poverty,” said Beth Southorn, Executive Director of LifeSTEPS. The fund, its donors and recipients are “carriers of transformation and positivity.”
The JB Brown Fund has “truly outpaced the expectations of your dad,” said Lisa Gutierrez, Assistant Director of Business Development for US Bancorp Community Development Corp., referring to J.B. Brown, the late founder of USA Properties and father of Geoff Brown.
Wells Fargo and US Bank are major donors to the JB Brown Fund.
“We’ve heard some fantastic stories of people all over California who need some extra help,” said Josh Hart, Region Area Manager for Wells Fargo Business Banking.
But everyone has a significant role to play in helping recipients, Brown said. For example, USA Properties employees held a bake sale and also paid $5 to wear jeans on Thursdays, raising more than $5,000 for the JB Brown Fund.
Every dollar raised is donated to the JB Brown Fund – and invested in the lives of residents.
The JB Brown Fund has “the ability to change lives,” said soon-to-be college graduate Desmond. “You made this possible. I want to someday be a man in your shoes” and be able to give back and help others.