Bank of America donates $200,000 to nonprofit working with North Sacramento kids

Cathie Anderson
Cathie Anderson

Over the next two years, Bank of America will donate $200,000 to the nonprofit Roberts Family Development Center in North Sacramento.

Founders Derrell and Tina Roberts finally feel as though they are hearing the sweet sound of dominoes falling after 12 years of working to improve the academic performance of disadvantaged kids around the city of Sacramento. It’s taken a long time, Derrell Roberts said, for individual and corporate donors to learn about and embrace their work. In February, he said, the center received a key endorsement when the Sacramento Metro Chamber awarded it a $15,000 Project Inspire grant. It will be used to construct a space where children can study with the teen interns who mentor them.

“If we’re not doing the work, it’s like this doesn’t matter,” he said, “but if we’re doing the work and no one notices, it doesn’t matter either. The work we’ve done over the years has expanded. Our after-school (tutoring) work has been recognized, and we no longer do work just here in North Sac. We’re now doing work in North Highlands at Foothill Ranch Junior High School. We’re now doing work in the south area at Meadow Glen Apartment Complex, and of course we’re doing the work downtown in the housing complexes at both Marina Vista and Alder Grove.”

In Old North Sacramento, Derrell Roberts said, going to college is not the norm. Within the center, though, he said, going to college is expected. Over the next two years, he said confidently, 10 teenagers from the center will head to college. They are working as interns now, mentoring students in the after-school program or in summer learning camps. Earlier this year, the center launched a new program aimed at closing the learning gap between affluent and disadvantaged toddlers with its College Bound Babies enrichment program.

“We just got awarded another year and a half or two years of funding for that program,” Derrell Roberts said. “That’s almost $250,000. The funding starts in January; we just received the designation.”

The Bank of America grant, Roberts said, will help him do two things: Pay competitive wages to key staff, and offer training in new educational techniques to the site leaders.

Her surreal life

Kimberly Haines told me that she is living a surreal life, opening a posh pet grooming boutique in Folsom, less than a year after graduating with a business marketing degree from California State University, Sacramento.

Haines had the experience. She’d worked as a groomer at a big-box pet store for a more than seven years. And the idea of being an entrepreneur seemed achievable because a number of her relatives had owned their own businesses, she said. She also had the education., as every class she was taking at CSUS suddenly became more practical than theoretical. And, she took classes led by SCORE volunteers that went over the basics of how to start and run a business. After one of the classes, SCORE volunteer Frank Cuzzo agreed to mentor her.

Still, as recently as June, she had no earthly idea how she would get the funding to open up shop.

“I tried going through traditional funding,” Haines said. “It wasn’t there. I didn’t have enough of my own capital. I had quite a bit of my own capital, but not enough. I didn’t have enough income. You have to have a certain amount of personal income, and I’d been working part time since being in school ... Traditional funding was not an option.”

She then went to her dad, John Haines, because he had encouraged her to go out on her own. “We were shopping one day, and we were talking about grooming and how much I loved it, talking about my career choices. I was thinking of going into sports marketing and working for someone else. He asked, ‘What do you think it would cost to start a grooming salon? How much money do you think you could make? How many clients do you think you could get?’ ”

Haines’ father agreed to give her a loan. Together, they had tens of thousands of dollars, but it still wasn’t enough, so Cuzzo suggested she try the microlender Opening Doors. As a member of its loan committee, he felt that she was the kind of candidate they were seeking. In July, Haines learned that her mentor was right. She got the loan and opened Pampered Pet Salon at 6610 Folsom-Auburn Road, Suite 10, on Nov. 15. She’s working one pet parent at a time toward success – and hopes to one day expand her services and, ultimately, the number of locations.

A stocking stuffer

Comerica Bank recently gave a $50,000 boost to the tiniest entrepreneurs by making a grant to Opening Doors.

Since 1999, Opening Doors has made $1.3 million in loans to nearly 150 low- to moderate-income individuals who wanted to launch or expand businesses in the Sacramento region. The nonprofit offers lessons and mentoring in financial management through its six-month MoneyWork$ Financial Academy, Spanish-language business seminars and expos where program graduates can network and promote their businesses. The Comerica funding will be used to help fund all of these programs in 2014.

“This is the third year that Comerica has given us funding, so they funded us in 2012 and 2013, and the amounts were smaller,” said Opening Doors CEO Debra DeBondt. “This year, they were able to give us this larger amount. … The first year, they did two grants, and one was $6,500, and the other was $25,000. And then this year, it was $25,000. This is a big step up.”

A Comerica Bank representative also volunteered time to sit on Opening Doors’ loan committee this year, Debondt said.

“They’re really focused on self-sufficiency, and that’s really what we’re all about, both with the lending program and with the MoneyWork$ program that helps people get on top of their personal finances. … We have a lot of people that have dreams of businesses, but they’re really not at a point where they can jump into a loan. You need to go back and deal with credit issues or, for some of the immigrants, just establishing credit or understanding how to budget, how the financial system works and what resources are available. Those are usually starting points for our clients,” Debondt said.