Working for the Earth

One of our newest offices, located in Vancouver, British Columbia, has an innovative Earth Day tradition. Formerly Pulse Energy, Yardi Vancouver is a founding member of EarthWork Day (EWD), an annual collaboration with three other environmentally-minded companies. “Held on or close to Earth Day every year, staff from each company dedicate their time on EWD to local environmental projects,” explained Colin Chan, a CSD manager for the Yardi Smart Energy Suite. This year, two projects were taken on the day before Earth Day, Friday, April 21. Each team member receives a small budget of $22 to put toward supplies, and the projects selected are always environmentally conscious. Teams are mixed between the participating companies, so everyone gets to meet and work with someone new. At the end of the day, it’s time for a get together to share snacks, notes and beer. This year’s projects were: Maplewood Flats Habitat Restoration “This is the third year we have participated in this project, restoring habitat for the Anise Swallowtail Butterfly that has gone extinct from the North Vancouver area from urban development,” Chan explained. “We’ve been removing invasive plant species and planting native species in the hopes that we can eventually import caterpillars from other areas where the butterfly still exists and re-introducing it to the area.” The effort at the habitat aids the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia. “It’s been personally rewarding to see the progress we’ve made from year-to-year. The Wild Bird Trust is a small non-profit with limited funding and resources, so it’s a great feeling to help contribute to the success of their habitat restoration project,” said Jennifer Sinclair, office administrator for Yardi Vancouver. “It has also been a fun annual team-building event for our office!” Garden Planter Construction A Vancouver public low income housing complex needed garden planters to help residents improve food security by growing their own produce. “In one day, the team built 15 planter beds, including some that were accessible to residents who use wheelchairs,” Chan said. Tyler Fawcett, creative director in the programming department, participated in the effort. “We joined forces with BC Housing to construct planter boxes behind two of their residential buildings. 15 new boxes were constructed and filled with soil, to be used as flower and vegetable gardens by the building residents. “Before the boxes were even half-done, many enthusiastic residents had come out to claim their plots in the new garden,” Fawcett shared. Photos from the day appear in the gallery...

Honoring Towbes May02

Honoring Towbes

The Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County (HTF) has received a $5,000 contribution from Yardi in honor of the late Michael Towbes, local businessman and philanthropist, and to support the agency’s new South Coast Workforce Homebuyer Program. “Michael Towbes was a champion of workforce housing and was committed to the Housing Trust Fund’s mission to expand workforce housing opportunities. Yardi is pleased to be a ‘seed sponsor’ of HTF’s new South Coast Workforce Homebuyer Program. We hope that our donation in honor of Michael Towbes will inspire other business to contribute to this worthwhile workforce housing program,” said Gordon Morrell, Executive Vice President of Yardi. Michael Towbes served on the Board of Directors of the Housing Trust Fund for 12 years and the agency greatly benefited from his expertise, experience and generosity. The grant award from Yardi will provide key operational support for HTF as it launches the South Coast Workforce Homebuyer Program, which will provide low-cost down payment loans up to $100,000 to help first-time working households buy an entry-level home in the community where they work. The Housing Trust Fund is a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose mission is to expand affordable rental and homeownership housing opportunities throughout Santa Barbara County for working households and our most vulnerable populations.  HTF operates a countywide $6.7 million Revolving Loan Fund for affordable housing in partnership with community lenders. The loan fund provides short-term, low-cost loans to qualified sponsors of affordable housing for the production, preservation, and rehabilitation of affordable housing for low-income households. The agency also operates a countywide Workforce Homebuyer Program that provides down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers. HTF was created by countywide community leaders to address our region’s critical affordable housing needs by building innovative partnerships between the...

Helping the Hungry

According to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, one in five Cleveland kids goes hungry on a regular basis. Yardi’s Cleveland office recently teamed up in a friendly competition to do something to help. “Since 2013, we have held a non-perishable food drive and competition each year to contribute to the Food Bank’s Harvest for Hunger campaign,” said Karen Parker, a technical account manager on the Cleveland CSD team. “Each year we have topped our previous effort and raised more than the previous. We started in 2013 with 48 employees and collected 375 pounds of donations. This year we have 70 employees and managed to collect 1,735 pounds.” The theme of the effort is the “Fight Hunger Games,” a concept Parker came up with when the popular book trilogy Hunger Games, now also two films, was wildly popular a few years back. “The office is divided into Districts.  Each District is represented by a Tribute.   And the Fight Hunger Games begin,” Parker explained. “Each District brings in supplies and food donations.  These are counted and become part of the final score. The Tributes participate in a round of games.  The scores are totaled and winners announced.” It’s a fun and friendly competition but can get competitive, said Parker, leading to some spirited games of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Other games included Guess Who and Corn Hole. There’s also a potluck food component that everyone in the office can enjoy. “A soup kitchen is created with staff members bringing in various types of soups, dips, salads and desserts.  A donation of two cans of food will get you all the soup you can eat.  And believe me, it was really yummy,” Parker said. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank explains that the donations are badly needed, especially at...

Computers for Families Apr03

Computers for Families

Since 1996, Computers for Families (CFF) has provided computers and Internet access to low-income families in the Santa Barbara area. The inventory is comprised of donations from local businesses, organizations, and South Coast residents. The need for accessible technology continues to grow. Executive Director Chelsea Pacino Duffy explains, “Despite the fact that technology is more prevalent today than it was when the program first began, we continue to see a steady need for both computers and internet access as demonstrated by nearly 600 families who attend our computer distributions each year.” The distributions benefit families who demonstrate the greatest need. CFF collaborates with Santa Barbara County teachers to identify students who lack access to educational technology at home. Before being able to take a computer home, families receive guidance on device maintenance and program usage. After their training, families choose their computer and take it home. “We’ve became aware of how technology training for parents is just as important, if not more so, as is having a computer in the home. So we are currently working to expand our training efforts to help parents be better supporters of their children’s education,” says Duffy. To date, CFF has contributed more than 11,000 computers to Santa Barbara households. The initiative aims to help students stay engaged in school. Access to educational technology also gives students the competitive edge needed to succeed in the workplace as adults. Internet access is an equally important resource for today’s students. CFF educates computer recipients on the availability of the Connect2Compete (C2C) program at Cox Communications. C2C connects families to low-cost broadband internet services so that they can get the most out of their devices. CFF has recently expanded those offering thanks to a new grant. “We have been lucky to work with the California Emerging Technology Fund through a Frontier-sponsored grant this year,” says Duffy. “Through the grant, any family that signs up discounted internet–whether it be Frontier, Cox, or another provider—is qualified to receive a free Chromebook. To receive this offer, families simply need to submit proof of installation in the form of their first bill. Computers for Families staff is providing support to families who need help signing up for discounting internet.” The combined programs are already changing lives. Duffy recalls a recent experience: A single mother of four struggled to provide reliable internet access for her four children. The only access she could provide was through a smartphone. Unfortunately, each of the kids began to fall behind in their studies; many school assignments required the use of a computer, internet research, or digital presentations. During parent/teacher conferences, the mother voiced her concerns. The teacher mentioned Computers for Families. “The mother didn’t know that the program existed,” says Duffy. “She could not believe that she could receive a free desktop computer. While meeting with staff, she also shared about her issues getting internet access.” CFF staff invited the mother to the upcoming distribution fair where she received a desktop computer for her family. She also qualified for discounted internet through Frontier and a free Chromebook. “She was amazed by the many options available to her and that CFF was able to help her,” says Duffy. “As a result of this support, those four children will be able to do their homework that required internet and computer access.” Community support doesn’t stop there. CFFpartners with the Los Prietos Boys Camp, a residential rehabilitation program for young men. The teen boys receive training on computer repair and tech support, and also assist CFF distribution events and provide assistance to families. Through their involvement with CFF distribution events, the young men learn customer service and leadership skills. Their training may ultimately lead to additional education and career opportunities. Yardi is a proud supporter of Computers for Families. By donating 75 desktops and 150 laptops last year, the premiere software company provides opportunities for local children to...

SOHARA

Rekha Rao, Co-Founder of SOHARA, was born and raised in India. She grew up surrounded by the country’s rich heritage of visual arts, classical music and dance, all of which shaped her perspectives and values and an ongoing involvement in the cultural arts. It’s a time in her life that she remembers fondly. Rao relocated to America more than 40 years ago when her husband was finishing his Ph.D. in the United States. “We grew up in India and although now settled in the U.S., we go back often and continue to maintain strong ties to India,” says Rao. “Our children and now our grandchildren are born here and their ties to India are a little different than ours. We want all of them to be exposed to India’s rich arts and take pride in their heritage.” That yearning sparked the birth of SOHARA. The root word, “sohar,” represents traditional songs that were sung at the birth of a baby in the Mithila region of ancient India, current day Bihar. “It was perfect. SOHARA is the birthing of a small non-profit organization. We were inspired by our children, to share our passions with them in a more formalized way. The name was perfect and, at the time, SOHARA website was available, too!” Unfortunately, someone purchased the domain name shortly before the organization formed. (“I should have grabbed it when I had the chance,” laughs Rao.) Unfazed, the nonprofit marched forward with its mission. “Our mission, basically, is to bring the best of India’s arts and traditions here as opportunities come our way and share them with the audiences locally especially the younger audiences. We look to collaborate with other organizations involved in cultural arts, whenever feasible,” says Rao. To date, SOHARA has hosted events in...

Breaking the Cycle

Many Americans are unaware of the prevalence of domestic violence in our communities. Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS) strives to educate the public while creating a pathway of hope for those who experience domestic abuse firsthand. DVS is Santa Barbara County’s only full-service domestic violence agency, committed to ending the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence through prevention and intervention services. DVS provides the county’s only 24-hour shelter service, as well as the county’s only transitional housing program for domestic violence survivors. The necessity of these life-saving resources remains vastly unacknowledged. During corporate outreach events, DVS Executive Director Charles Anderson often asks, “Do any of you know someone who has been a victim of domestic violence?” Audience members often shake their heads. Yet without fail, after the meetings, someone discretely approaches Anderson or his staff. They carry their secrets in tow. “After one session, a woman came up and touched my arm,” Anderson recalls. “She said, ‘I was in your program eight years ago. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be dead.’ She worked in the office with all those people and none of them knew the struggle that she went through. People don’t tell anyone because they just want to move forward. Escaping can be hard enough.” Escaping domestic violence can often be an arduous and dangerous journey for the victims. Many take the first step towards liberation after a tragic incident that requires police intervention. Until recent years, law enforcement focused solely on securing the aggressors. Victims were left without resources to move forward safely or confidently. At times, victims were  even blamed for their role in their abuse. In response, DVS applied for a was awarded a three-year Domestic Violence Emergency Response Team (DVERT)  grant from the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES)....

Painting it Pink Nov24

Painting it Pink

This October, Bozzuto enlisted its staff and residents to #PaintOurTownPink – and came up big in the battle against breast cancer. The Maryland-based developer and apartment manager is well known in the real estate industry for its stellar social media marketing, and the company used its reach online to produce a very successful campaign. The philanthropic effort is a great example of how property management firms can bring together residents as they rally to support a cause. When all donations were tallied, more than $21,000 was raised for the cause. The #PaintOurTownPink effort had multiple access points, documented on the website http://bozzutopink.com/ Social Media: The hashtag #PaintOurTownPink was promoted and used on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to document the many different ways that Bozzuto communities, residents and employees were participating in the campaign. On Wednesdays We Wear Pink: Both residents and employees were encouraged to “pink out” on each Wednesday in October to show support for breast cancer awareness and fundraising. Pennies for Pink: Bozzuto offices and community front desks collected spare change to be donated to Susan J. Komen Passionately Pink. Donation Portal: A link on the website led directly to the Bozzuto fundraising page for the Susan J. Komen Passionately Pink campaign. The Instagram photos posted demonstrate the breadth of participation and particular creativity that Bozzuto communities brought to the fundraising effort. With a month to put on creative events, encourage residents to drop off spare change and get the word out to the general public,  wide variety of images were posted. See them here. Yardi salutes longtime client Bozzuto for their efforts on behalf of this very worthy cause....

#GivingTuesday Nov23

#GivingTuesday

The highly anticipated in-person deals and online exclusives of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner, marking the biggest sales of the season. From gadgets and gizmos to furniture and vehicles, these are two of the year’s busiest shopping days. According to the National Retail Federation, sales in November and December account for as much as 30 percent of annual sales. In 2015, more than 74 million shoppers ventured out on Black Friday, spending an average of nearly $300 per person. For the crowd-opposed or time-strapped, Cyber Monday offers online discounts the Monday after Thanksgiving. Nearly 90 percent of online retailers had Cyber Monday sales, and 45 percent offered coupons or discounted deals. For many, the holiday season also inspires a sense of altruism. After the spending splurge, #GivingTuesday kicks off a movement of paying it forward worldwide. Now in its fifth year, this celebratory event is a global day of giving powered by social media and the spirit of collaboration. #GivingTuesday was created by the 92nd Street Y, a New York City cultural center that has been celebrating diversity and service since 1874. The movement has grown and gone global with the help of influencers from all sectors and walks of life. #GivingTuesday takes place on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States. This year, the fifth annual event will be celebrated worldwide on November 29, 2016. Here’s how it works, according to its website: “#GivingTuesday harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges. It also brings together the collective power of a unique blend of partners—...

Helping the Homeless Nov22

Helping the Homeless

The Voyager Front Line Residential Santa Barbara teams joined forces to volunteer at PATH Santa Barbara last week in the tradition of Yardi’s commitment to the community. PATH is a non-profit organization which addresses homelessness for individuals and the community. It provides services to improve their health, increase their income, and transition to stable housing. “We had a great time sorting vegetables, fruits, breads and desserts. We also helped clean the tables and set up the food. Most especially, we enjoyed serving great food to our less fortunate brothers and sisters,” said Jomel Esleta, Team Leader, CSD. “We can see the happiness in their faces when they saw the team helping out and received non-stop ‘thank yous’ from all of them,” Esleta said. “It always feels great to help other people,” said team member Evan Hamilton. In addition to Esleta and Hamilton, Yardi employees Brandon Paul, Ryan Daley, Baron Wei, Richard Ngoy and Allen Shelledy spent four hours on a Saturday at PATH. The PATH community kitchen is open 365 days a year and serves other local agencies that assist the homeless, including Common Ground, Giving Tree, Presbyterian Church, Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Stalwart House, WillBridge, and Unity Shoppe. For information iabout volunteering at PATH in Santa Barbara, visit this...

Hillside House

Since 1945, Hillside House has edified Santa Barbara’s residents living with disabilities. The organization continues its mission into a new era that will expand services and build a stronger sense of inclusion in the community. The organization began as a care center for 15 young adults with cerebral palsy. Over time, it acquired the resources to care for people living with a variety of developmental and intellectual disabilities. Today, Hillside House is a therapeutic learning community comprised of 59 residents. Residents receive meals, medical care, and 24-hour assistance in the care of 90 staff. Executive Director Craig Olson joined the team at Hillside House 12 years ago. The non-profit has become a second home. “I just have a love for our residents and I want to help,” says Olson. Olson’s passion for building community began with his interest in the art of wine making. “[Wine culture] has taught me a lot about hospitality and being upbeat about life. You have to have that vibrancy. Wine brings people together and creates a sense of community. I aim to replicate that sense of inclusion and community here.” The first lesson of inclusion, Olson learned, was to interact with people with disabilities in the same way that he would interact with anyone else. “One common misconception is that they’re different than anyone else,” chuckles Olson. “I remember the first time that I came to work and I was supposed to do an activity with the residents. It was a softball game. I said, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ My coworker said, ‘Well…just go play softball. Just treat them like you would anybody else and it’s going to go fabulously.’” That brief exchange highlights the methodology of Hillside House in Santa Barbara:  the organization promotes inclusion...

Affordable Care

Patricia Cooper found herself facing a two-fold void in the Santa Barbara community. A growing number of families were in desperate need of counseling, but they could not afford traditional services. Countless graduate students vied for scarce opportunities to fulfill their 3,000-hour residencies. Once the connection between the two dilemmas became evident, Cooper sprang into action. Filling both needs became easier than Cooper had expected. In 1984, Cooper and her partner, Jaclyn Henretig, opened the doors to Community Counseling and Education Center (CCEC). The nonprofit organization offers counseling and educational programs for low-income individuals in the community. CCEC doubles as a training ground for graduate students. The demand for low-cost counseling and hands-on training was so great that the organization thrived immediately. Cooper laughs, “We just kind of took off and didn’t look back. We trusted and everything just fell into place. If you look in retrospect, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into in terms of how much time and effort it was going to take. But along the way, we had so much fun doing it.” CCEC assists a diverse range of clients by offering individual and couples counseling, group therapy, Spanish-language services, as well as programming for single parents and the LGBTQ community. Each program has flourished since the organization opened. Communication and coping mechanisms are two of the most popular topics in counseling sessions. “The most requested service among couples is to strengthen communication skills,” observes Cooper. “It’s also a lot of looking at past habits for handling stress that are not functional. We’re looking at alcohol and drug use, specifically.” During the Recession, the organization experienced an increase in clients. Those years highlighted the necessity of affordable counseling programs that can serve the community without clients’...

MC Companies

The first thing you notice on MC Companies website is that the Arizona-based multifamily housing provider is a very compassionate company. It’s one of the traits that make them one of Arizona’s “most admired companies.” The “Good Life Promises” that are part of the firm’s foundational values include a rent rescue program that excuses late fees and “life interruption relief,” a standardized accommodation for residents who might need a little help recovering after a job loss. ‘”Giving is very important to our company,” said Lesley Brice, principal and president of MC Companies, a Yardi client. Fellow principals Ken McElroy and Ross McCallister founded the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company in 1985. McElroy, a real estate entrepreneur and author who is passionate about giving back to the community, first became involved in Autism activism 11 years ago, when the child of a friend was diagnosed with the disease. McElroy is now chair of Scottsdale’s annual Autism Speaks fundraising walk. The event is held nationally each fall. In Arizona alone, 20,000 people walked in 2015, and 25,000 are expected at this weekend’s event. “Ken quickly realized that based on the statistic of 1 in 68 children (1 in 44 boys) with Autism that there are tens of thousands of affected individuals living in our apartment communities in Arizona,” Brice said. And with that realization, the entire MC Companies team was galvanized to action. As Brice explains it, the need to mobilize quickly to fundraise for the 2015 walk produced two exceptional ideas that MC Companies used again for the 2016 campaign. Hours4Autism – “We developed a program that allows companies to raise donations through Paid Time Off donations.  In our first year with our 300 employees, we raised over $20,000 or 1100 hours last year and expect to...

Combating Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. As a company, one of our core values is community service. Participating in nonprofit work and giving back is a shared part of the culture at Yardi. Many of our employees give back regularly through local and global charities, volunteerism, and raising awareness. Yardi is honored to support organizations doing work to further research, prevention and education efforts in the fight against cancer. American Cancer Society The American Cancer Society (ACS) has been working to raise public awareness about cancer for over 100 years. Founded in 1913, the ACS started as a small group of committed doctors and civilians with one mission: to fight back against the disease.  In the late 1930’s, the organization created a legion of volunteers to educate the public and fundraise. Later in 1946, the ACS expanded their programming to include cancer research, raising more than $4 million to fund the Society’s groundbreaking research and educational initiatives. The ACS has been involved in almost every major cancer research breakthrough in the last 70 years. This also includes the strategic fundraising of cancer-fighting medications, the passage of the National Cancer Act in 1971, as well as advocacy in legislation and preventative medicine. Their annual events, including Relay for Life and Making Strides, encourage community members to get involved, promotes awareness and early detection, and raises millions of dollars for cancer research and prevention education. Thanks in part to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are nearly 14.5 million people in the United States who have survived cancer. Cancer Care for Hope CancerCare was founded in 1944 with the goal of providing free, professional support services and information to people managing the different challenges of cancer. In the past year, CancerCare has provided nearly $13 million...

The Gershen Group

Princeton, N.J.-based property management firm The Gershen Group LLC opened in 1959 as a small family based firm.  It concentrated on planning and consulting before branching out to housing management in 1972.  Its principal focus today is affordable and senior housing, although the company’s commercial holdings have consistently increased over the years. Long after The Gershen Group moved past the mom-and pop-phase, a family-based orientation remains the core of its operating philosophy. Extended Family “We tend to keep employees a very long time, which is not the norm in today’s business world,” according to Jonathan Gershen, vice president and general counsel of the company his parents founded. “Only a few employees are actually family members, although they almost could be—one person has been with us 35 years, another for 25 years.  We think of our staff as family, and this mentality has served us very well.” This attitude extends to the company’s business partners.  “With our clients—whether they’re our fee-managed properties or our residents—the relationship goes beyond ‘Just pay your rent and that’s it.’  We know who they are, and they know the building manager who’s been there for 10 or 20 years.  We want to keep that connection,” adds Deborah Gershen, vice president and director of property management. She adds, “It would be very easy to manage everything that comes in the door.   We’ve given up projects, or not taken them on, when people say ‘the building’s broke, we don’t have to spend any more money.’  My answer is, ‘We’re not the right manager for you.’  We’ve been very selective that way, and that won’t change.” Technology as an Ally When it comes to adopting property management software, The Gershen Group makes another subtle yet firm distinction between personal and business considerations. “Our...

Eva’s Initiatives

Nearly 10,000 youth in Toronto struggle with housing instability each year. On any given night, about 2,000 of them call the streets home. Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth strives to prevent homelessness while facilitating a brighter future for homeless young people. Andrea Gunraj serves as the Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications at Eva’s. She bears testimony to the dire situations that drive people out of their homes. Many misunderstand the catalysts for homelessness. “They assume young people are not following the rules or they’re getting into things that they shouldn’t. It can be a blame approach,” reflects Gunraj. She continues, “I think one of the things that people often misunderstand is why young people become homeless in the first place. In Toronto, there is a high number of people who experience issues at home like abuse. With 70 percent of young people, they identify that as one of the reasons for leaving home. And it’s not easy to leave by any means when you don’t have money or support. Often, there are really dire situations that push people to leave.” There is also a misconception that mainly youth from economically disadvantaged families are at high risk of homelessness. About 50 percent of homeless young people come from middle- and upper-income families. Eva’s provides services for young people and their families to keep the household healthy and intact if possible. Two shelters and a transitional housing facility, plus education and job training services, are available to help them make the transition to independence. Yardi supports Eva’s Satellite, Eva’s Phoenix, and Eva’s Place. The three facilities are home to 123 homeless youth aged 16-24 every night. Residents receive basic necessities such as food, clothing, and hygiene items. Staff members assess the young persons’ mental, physical, and...

Walk with Heart

You see the little Heart-Check mark anywhere there is food these days: a box of Cheerios in your pantry, a can of Campbell’s soup in the store, a Subway sandwich wrapper at the park. Today, 92 percent of consumers recognize the efforts of the American Heart Association brand. But that wasn’t always the case. Heart disease used to be a silent killer. The American Heart Association (AHA) has brought the importance of heart health to the foreground of wellness. The U.S. faces a sincere need for heart health education. One in every four deaths is the result of heart disease, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control. That makes heart disease the leading cause of death among men and women. Lisa Thomas, Senior Heart and Stroke Walk Director, hopes to change that. Through public education and fundraising, Thomas and her team work to reclaim lives from the clenches of heart disease. “Public education is a part of everything that we do,” says Thomas. “It’s so important to know your risk, know your numbers and see your doctor every year to stay up to date. Prevention is key. Prevention saves lives.” Eating a heart-healthy diet is a good place to start, hence the Heart-Check mark on certain foods at the grocery store. These foods meet the nutritional requirements set by AHA to promote heart health. Common characteristics are foods that are low in cholesterol and salt, and contain ingredients that favor the cardiovascular system. Consistent exercise is another key preventative measure. “Powerwalking is a good one. It’s so easy to just grab your shoes and walk, in the neighborhood, at the mall, the park—anywhere there is space,” says Thomas. That basic concept is the backbone of the association’s annual Heart Walk series...

Investing in Humanity Sep01

Investing in Humanity...

Curious about sustainable investments? You’re not alone. Sustainable investments result in better operational performance, improved stock prices, and proven psychological benefits. So why aren’t more advisors talking about it? JP Morgan defines sustainable investments as “investment approaches that enable investors to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into their investment strategies and create positive benefits for society.” In 2014, an estimated $21.4 trillion of global assets were reported as sustainable investments. That is an $8 trillion increase from 2012. This field of investment continues to grow due to favorable results: The University of Oxford and Arabesque Partners reports that 88% of companies that practiced effective ESG management were also able to improve operational performance. Stock prices performance improved for 80 percent of companies that prioritized ESG issues. JP Morgan and the University of Oxford have not analyzed the warm and fuzzy sensation that can come as a result of investments with a higher purpose. But others have. New York Times compiled several studies that examine the connection between acting for the greater good and emotions. Sources conclude that supporting causes that we feel good about reduces stress levels and can even extend lifespans. When we feel positively about a cause that we support, we are more likely to support that cause wholeheartedly and consistently.  Do-gooding simply makes us feel better about ourselves and the prospects of the world that we live in. Meir Statman’s What Investors Really Want explains that investors value an emotional connection with the company or organization in which they are investing. Such strong emotions can “drive prices and performance above the funds and fundamentals involved,” reports JP Morgan. With financial and personal benefits to gain, why aren’t more asset managers broaching the topic with clients? Only 63 percent of...

UCSB Arts & Lectures...

Roman Baratiak got his start as a work study student at UCSB. He instantly fell in love and has been changing lives ever since. “I soon discovered what happened when the lights went down and the curtain opened and incredibly talented artists and performers took the stage,” says Baratiak. “They brought us to other worlds, introduced us to other cultures, and provided us with a beautifully aesthetic and fulfilling experiences. I fell in love with that.” Three years later, that love transformed from a work study position into a full-time career. Baratiak has now been with the organization for nearly 40 years and currently serves as Associate Director. He enjoys organizing the lecture and film program because it allows him to present the Santa Barbara community with people who are extremely interesting, informative, and unique. “I have very eclectic tastes so it’s the perfect job for me,” says Baratiak. “I can go to work and learn something every day and feel like I’m growing as a person. I know I’m in the right spot.” Though Baratiak loves to learn during the lectures, it’s the benefit for the community that elevates his enthusiasm about his work. He strongly supports education for people of all ages as a way to keep us connected with the global community and with our own humanity. “The arts will always be important. They teach us about the world that we live in. They also allow us to get in touch with our own humanity and creative side. As a spectator, we can see human potential on stage by seeing amazing musicians, dancers, and speakers. We grow to understand the amazing amount of talent that goes into these things. It’s also a bit like going to the spa or getting a...

Fairview Gardens

Over a hundred years ago, a farmer stuck his shovel in the dirt on a small plot of land in Goleta, California. The site has never been the same. The site is now The Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, a non-profit educational facility and working organic farm. The organization aims to nurture the human spirit through interactive public programs and community services.  Two years ago, Angela Miller-Bevan stepped away from her career in corporate advertising and marketing to join the Fairview Gardens team. She began as a volunteer, then worked as an assistant to the Development Director before accepting the position. “I came to promote the mission: to educate everyone—from birth to the end of your life—to know how important it is to eat the right foods and know where your food comes from. And how to eat food we can actually grow right now because we are in a drought. It’s about sustainable community and keeping something alive that has been in our community for so long,” says Miller-Bevan. For decades, Fairview Gardens has served the community through public programs including the Teen Permaculture Apprenticeship and the new Sprouts program. Yardi supports the Apprenticeship Program immersion experience that ranges from six to ten months. The program equips young adults with the skill needed to own and manage their own farms and farm programs. Participants explore permaculture ethics, the slow food and fiber movements, organic agriculture, watersheds, alternative economics, farmworkers’ rights, herbalism, and living soils. Apprentices also learn natural dyeing, making herbal medicines, and harvesting wild edibles. “Most people don’t know that the average age of farmers is 72. It’s sad,” observes Miller-Bevan. “You can’t go to a computer and have a computer grow your food. It’s impressive to see young adults...

Uplifting Cleveland Kids

Ron Soeder did not know that he would fall in love with the nonprofit sector. He spent decades in for-profit businesses, beginning as a staff accountant before ending that leg of his journey as an Executive Vice President. Yet after a detour with his startup, he found himself on a new path. “My path to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland was divine intervention,” says Soeder. “A friend of mine who works in nonprofits said, ‘They’re great companies that need good leaders,’ so I started networking. My path ended up at a few board members’ doors on a Tuesday morning. I interviewed with them and they called me back the next day and said, ‘Can you start tomorrow?’” What began as a tentative 12-week agreement has morphed into a presidency lasting for more than ten years. “At first, I wasn’t sure if it would be a good fit for me or how I would be received by the community,” admits Soeder. “I found that I had so much empathy for the community. I’ve really connected with people here. I’ve seen kids come up from nothing, go through college and get good jobs. It has become a calling, a passion of mine. I can’t think of any other words other than divine intervention.” With Soeder at the helm, the organization has experienced numerous positive changes. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland (BGCC) grew from five locations to 15 locations, from serving 3,000 kids to 8,000 kids. The community’s involvement is a direct response to effective programming. BGCC has launched several grassroots initiatives that speak to the root of a child’s sustainable success: programs that nurture learning, maximize youths’ talents, and develop youth leadership skills beyond the scope of the project. The Junior Achievement Entrepreneurial Educational Track teaches participants what it takes to create a business plan and build a company. Through the Farm Program, kids apply the skills that they learned in Junior Achievement to a real world environment. “We’re blessed to work with one of the serial entrepreneurial funds located in northeast Ohio, Burton D. Morgan Foundation,” explains Soeder. “We wanted something that embraced the entrepreneurial spirit so we created an urban farm where we can teach the kids about the land and growing. They are directly involved in what to grow. They make decisions in their space. And then we teach them how to market to grocery stores, farmers markets, and companies.” Heinen’s, a local grocery chain in Cleveland, has given Farm Program students the opportunity to hone their skills in a retail setting. Participants create their own brand, logo, and shelf topper. The chain’s new downtown store, located in a mixed-use development, is a fantastic source of exposure for the students’ growing businesses. Kids don’t have to get dirty in the soil to participate in BGCC leadership programs. The Graphic Arts Program allows students to develop their skills in design and publishing. Their work is used in marketing materials throughout the organization. It all started with a van. Soeder challenged the kids to come up with a design for a van recently donated by Liberty Ford. Then 13-year-old Kameron Pearson stepped up to the challenge—and won. He was able to see the production of his work from start to finish: transforming a digital file into a vinyl decal, the application, and even the press conference that presented his artwork to the public. Soeder recalls, “It was impressive because I was there with the owner of the Cleveland Indians [Paul Dolan] and the first thing that he saw when he came [to the center] was this kid’s graphic of a baseball player. He said, ‘That is so cool.’” Now, students regularly build their portfolios through their commercialized work with BGCC.  The club directors go directly to students when they need content for marketing fliers, announcements, event invitations, and other materials. The students are also in charge...