CIELO Fund offers $360,000 to 31 organizations in new round of grants

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The Cultivating Inland Empire Latino Opportunity Fund at Inland Empire Community Foundation recently announced that $360,000 will be distributed to 31 Latino-led and serving organizations and initiatives in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The announcement adds another milestone to the fund, which has invested more than $765,000 in grants and scholarships to the area’s Latino community since it launched in 2022.

“We are humbled by the impact the CIELO Fund has made in just two years and are proud of the number of organizations we’ve been able to support and the research we’ve produced,” Jesse Melgar, IECF vice chair and CIELO Fund founding chair, said. “This round of grantees embodies the best of the Inland Empire –innovators who do all they can to provide critical services and resources to those most in need. We are inspired by these groups who make our neighborhoods, our communities and our region better.”

The impact of the Latino community is significant throughout the region. Latinos comprise the majority of the Inland Empire, making up 51.5% of the population, and projections by the USC Center for Latinx Studies reveal that the figure will rise to 74% by 2060.

The growth breeds opportunity, but also illuminates areas where disparities persist for Latinos in the region. To that end, the CIELO Fund’s Leadership and Grantmaking Committee is funding organizations in the current round with several key components in mind.

“This round of grants supports organizations who have a $500,000 operating budget or smaller and have a greater impact at the community level,” Melgar said. “We’re investing in those local community-based, community-driven organizations throughout the Inland Empire. The total number of organizations this fund has invested in throughout the region in its first two years is about 60 organizations total.”

That includes partnerships in the media, he noted.

“We have invested into community-led organizations doing really impactful work on the ground,” Melgar said. “That’s a powerful and inspiring thing our committee has been able to do thanks to the support and investment of other organizations, businesses, and individual contributions who have invested in the fund.”

Photos above: Students are seen at the 2022 Summer Leadership Development Conference in Idyllwild. (Courtesy of Inland Empire Future Leaders Program)

Funding was prioritized for organizations working in the following areas: leadership development and capacity building, economic mobility, educational equity, health equity, housing security, environmental equity and climate change, racial equity, and immigrant inclusion.

Grants were also awarded to local and regional media outlets and specific projects hoping to uplift positive narratives with impact about the Latino community in the Inland Empire.

The list of grantees ranges from groups such as the Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California and Latino Media Collaborative to Inland Empire Latino Lawyers Association and Spanish Town Heritage Foundation.

“Part of what we’re doing here is building and strengthening a culture of philanthropy among the region’s Latino community,” Melgar said, noting several memorable high points over the last year, including supporting a leadership institute for Latino students through the Inland Empire Future Leaders Program.

Other milestones include the investment the fund has provided for farmworker communities and a San Bernardino organization that helps at-risk youth through engagement with boxing and learning how to box through Highlander Boxing Club in Highland.

“The CIELO Fund was created because there wasn’t a regional Latino philanthropic effort that centered on the voices, the experiences, the impacts, and also some of the struggles and opportunities of our community,” Melgar said. “With the help of the IECF staff, who’s really stepped up to help launch this effort, we’re very humbled by the impact that we’ve been able to make with our partners over the last two years – and we look forward to the continued work ahead.”

Learn more about CEILO Fund at iegives.org/cielofund.

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