“The Good Stuff” with Julie

San Dimas Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Silvia Melendez runs the nonprofit from the historic Martin House, located at 246 E. Bonita Ave. San Dimas, CA 91773. Like the business leaders she supports, Melendez guided her organization and others through the COVID-19 pandemic.
San Dimas Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Silvia Melendez runs the nonprofit from the historic Martin House, located at 246 E. Bonita Ave. San Dimas, CA 91773. Like the business leaders she supports, Melendez guided her organization and others through the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Rommel Alcantara

By Julie Salazar

Perseverance of nonprofits

Witnessing businesses struggle, reassess, recreate and concentrate their efforts to persevere through the pandemic was eye-opening.

The more time I spent listening to nonprofit leaders in the community, the more inspired I became. There seemed to be similarities, including a positive outlook of leadership, devotion of the staff, flexibility, true love for what they do and acceptance of a challenging situation.

Local organizations took time to assess, look at options, regroup and persevere during unique and difficult times. Each took the challenge as an opportunity to learn. 

COVID-19 times seem to have made nonprofit leaders thankful for the little things — both professionally and personally. They recognized the difficulty in operating during a pandemic, but they also felt they had learned great lessons.

With a renewed faith in the future, organizations like those highlighted below prove we can work through most anything, together.

San Dimas Chamber of Commerce

246 E. Bonita Ave. San Dimas, CA 91773

The San Dimas Chamber of Commerce bolsters the city’s economy and continuous development. The chamber supports local businesses by participating in local events and creating networking opportunities, demonstrating a dedication to making San Dimas a vibrant community.

The chamber is managed by Chief Executive Officer Silvia Melendez, who was met with a new challenge one year ago: how to operate during a pandemic.

Like the 325 businesses it represents, the chamber itself had to contend with COVID mandates. In the blink of an eye, it was forced to close and lay off staff.

Melendez says she reached out to other chambers of commerce to learn what they were doing to keep their members engaged during the pandemic. She was inspired to reinvent how the chamber could help local businesses by scheduling virtual meetings, including an educational series, mixers and coffee socials.

As daily COVID numbers increased and directives changed, the chamber emailed newsletters two to three times a week to keep the community abreast of changing information. Soon, Melendez noted that even non-members began calling to learn about current mandates. Businesses began to recognize the benefits of being an active chamber member, and membership increased.

Once chamber activities resumed, Melendez was able to rehire staff to plan virtual business activities that became the “new normal.” Although challenging, Melendez noticed this new trend created an opportunity to introduce members to virtual meetings and networking through technology.

Melendez believes that the challenges of the past year have been a lesson in perseverance, patience, devotion and adaptability. To her, the difficulties of the pandemic actually brought her, the staff, chamber members and the community closer by working together for a common goal.

Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity

2111 Bonita Ave., La Verne, CA 91750

  • For more information, contact Christine Charland at 909-596-7098 or visit habitatpv.org

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that helps build and improve places families call home. The nonprofit’s vision is to build “strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with families in need of decent and affordable housing,” according to the website. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.

Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Christine Charland expressed gratitude for the devoted donors and volunteers who persevered and helped keep projects on track by being productive and organized during COVID.

Because of Habitat for Humanity’s heavy reliance on volunteer power, projects slowed during the pandemic as challenges arose with coordinating volunteers’ various schedules and timelines. Like other nonprofits, Habitat for Humanity had to rely on virtual meetings, virtual fundraising, emails, social media and networking during COVID-19. 

Pomona Valley Habitat for Humanity is currently working on a project in Chino, and the organization would like to work on a project in San Dimas. 

McKinley Children’s Center

180 E. Via Verde Ave., Suite 180 , San Dimas, CA 91773

  • For more information about the organization, donations and fundraising, please contact McKinley at 909-599-1227 or visit mckinleycc.org

McKinley Children’s Center was originally founded over a hundred years ago as a residential facility for orphaned children and has now “evolved into a multifaceted organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people,” as stated on its website. 

McKinley provides a lifeline for those in challenging life situations by providing transformative education, counseling and social services in a nurturing and compassionate environment. Today, most of the children who participate in the program live off campus and attend area schools. Services are coordinated by McKinley, families, social services and the courts.

During the past year, like other schools and organizations, McKinley had to pivot very quickly. McKinley’s staff had to balance distance learning for children served by McKinley and their own children at home. Daily schedules changed, and everyone had to adapt.

McKinley President Anil Vadaparty described the challenges and unexpected benefits faced by the children and families they served during the pandemic.

“Being in one spot and having a consistent learning and living environment, uninterrupted, created a much more productive and less challenging behavior in their educational environment for their at-risk students. Reducing the amount of outside influences and overstimulation was a positive unexpected outcome of COVID lockdowns,” Vadaparty said.

Pivoting during these times took dedicated staff, new technology and constant coordination, said Vadaparty. He credits the creativity of McKinley’s staff, volunteers and donors with keeping the organization productive during COVID-19. The team focused on their mission and maintained a spirit of “we are all in this together,” Vadaparty said. 

Ongoing services in and around San Dimas

Holy Name of Mary Food Pantry

724 E. Bonita Ave., San Dimas, CA 91773

  • Open to all members of the community
  • Offers food pantry services Monday through Friday (closed Tuesdays) from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Donations accepted during food drives that are announced on the front lawn of Holy Name of Mary or through the St. Vincent de Paul Society
  • Contact 909-599-1243, ext. 138 to coordinate donation or to learn more

Shepherd’s Pantry

657 E. Arrow Hwy., Glendora, CA 91740

  • Open to Los Angeles County residents
  • Provides food and clothing
  • Home delivery service is available on Wednesdays only. Register by Tuesdays at 1 p.m.
  • Contact 626-852-7630 for more information

Faith Lutheran Church

505 E. Bonita Ave., San Dimas, CA 91773

  • Accepts non-perishable donations for the Pomona Food Bank
  • Call 909-599-3978 to coordinate donation drop-offs Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Food is also available at the church for individuals in need

New Song Church

945 W. Covina Blvd., San Dimas, CA. 91773

  • Open to all members of the community
  • Offers food pantry services
  • Donations accepted during food drives or by appointment
  • Food baskets distributed on Aug. 19, 28, Sept. 2, 11, 16, 25 and 30  from 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Contact the church at 909-394-9488 for more information

Disclaimer: San Dimas Community Post is a member of the San Dimas Chamber of Commerce.

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