LA Diaper Drive: A Medium for Change for Families in Poverty

March 6, 2013

Los Angeles Diaper DriveLA Diaper Drive is the second largest diaper bank in the country, and has the unique position of being the only diaper bank using diapers as an incentive for attending GED prep and life skills classes. LASVP connected with LA Diaper Drive through the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and the organization is now one of our investees. You can watch Caroline Kunitz’s prize winning pitch for LA Diaper Drive here.

LA Diaper Drive provides diapers to families that can’t afford them.  If that was all they did, they’d be providing a wonderful service to communities in need.  But the organization does more than that.  Their strategy for distributing diapers helps families across Los Angeles find ways out of poverty.  That strategy is what got LASVP’s attention, and it’s a big part of why we chose to invest in the organization.

LA Diaper Drive donates diapers to established nonprofits, and those organizations use the free diapers as an incentive to get parents into programs, classes, and workshops that will help them learn how to be better parents and improve the lives of their family.  Take, for example, Anna and David*, participants in LAUSD’s Homeless Education Program.  In high school Anna became pregnant, and her parents kicked her out of the house.  After their baby was born, she and her boyfriend David did all they could to keep up their education by taking turns going to school.  Eventually this became too difficult and they stopped going altogether.  The Homeless Education Program intervened, helping them find a more flexible school and offering diapers from LA Diaper Drive as an incentive to keep going to class.

Anna and David started going to school regularly. They got help from some other programs, too, including a “Christmas adoption” program through which another family gave them presents for the holidays. The young couple eventually graduated from high school, found work, and made their way out of homelessness. They even became strong enough as a family to give back to the organizations that had helped them—after graduation, they became Christmas adoption sponsors themselves, providing presents for a family that was in the situation they were once in.

This kind of life-changing result is what inspires LASVP to support LA Diaper Drive.  A diaper may be a small thing, but, as Board Chair Caroline Kunitz tells us, “a diaper can help you move forward or keep you down.”  By meeting this fundamental need in a creative way, LA Diaper Drive is helping to change lives.

*Names have been changed

You too can aid this amazing work by making a financial or in-kind contribution to LA Diaper Drive through their website. Thanks to connections they have made with generous suppliers, LA Diaper Drive receives free or deeply discounted diapers. $1000 given to LA Diaper Drive can keep 29 babies in diapers and 29 parents in classes for an entire year. That works out to be less than $35 for an entire year’s worth of service to a family.

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Creativity, Compassion, Cardborigami

March 6, 2013

Tina Hovsepian, CardborigamiWe met Tina Hovsepian through the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch where she represented her invention and her nonprofit organization, Cardborigami. To watch Tina’s outstanding pitch, click here.

Tina Hovsepian is a textbook example of a young, passionate social entrepreneur.  She came up with a great idea while she was still an undergraduate studying architecture at USC: a collapsible, portable, recyclable shelter for the homeless.  Born and raised in LA, Tina was used to seeing people sleeping on the streets without shelter from the elements, and knew that she had the skills to provide a solution to this immediate need.  After creating a prototype “Cardborigami” shelter and testing it out on Skid Row, Tina started getting interest from buyers—people who worked with the homeless as well as groups who provided disaster relief.

But getting interest turned out to be the easy part.  Attracting funding, as is the case with many nonprofits, was a challenge.  “LA has a huge population of nonprofits and you have to really stand out from the pack to get the funding you need,” says Tina.  “Fast Pitch helped us create a very strong case for support.” Cardborigami was a finalist at LASVP’s 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and presented in front of over 1100 people.  Her experience at the Fast Pitch turned out to be incredibly useful training for a year packed with presentations and speaking engagements for the young architect, who since the Fast Pitch has presented her idea everywhere from the Pepperdine business school to the Occupy Wall Street encampment to NPR.  Tina says that since the Fast Pitch, “I know how to articulate the Cardborigami concept, and be simple and effective.  It also really helped my public speaking skills.”

In addition to the increased exposure, the Fast Pitch led to several useful connections for Cardborigami.  Tina’s Fast Pitch coaches Richard Hansen and Mark Loranger have stayed in touch, as has Fast Pitch coach and LASVP Partner Nancy Hammerman.  Nancy helped Cardborigami obtain skilled volunteers through the Harvard alumni “Harvard Serves” program, and Mark, the CEO of local homelessness organization Chrysalis, has been a useful connection to the community that Cardborigami aims to serve.  Fast Pitch also led to Cardborigami’s participation in the Annenberg Alchemy program, a major help to the organization as it started to build its board of directors.  “Annenberg Alchemy was a great opportunity that we wouldn’t have even been aware of without Fast Pitch,” says Tina.

Recently, Cardborigami has locked in a local LA-based manufacturer, and with the cost at only about $20 per shelter, it seems that we will see Tina’s invention in use very soon. You can sponsor one here. In addition to being one of the first organizations in the U.S. to receive funding from the pioneering microfinance organization Kiva,  Cardborigami is looking forward to launching with a bang through a City Council sponsored pilot program in Venice Beach.

Tina’s big dream is to use the manufacture of Cardborigami as a tool to help employ the homeless, adding a long-term strategy to this short-term necessity. “We need more compassion for each other to solve this problem,” says Tina. “Even before launching, I think we’ve accomplished something by breaking the typical stereotype of homeless people and telling their story.”

Carborigami is now seeking individuals to join their board recruiting task force. Members of the task force will nominate potential candidates for the Board of Directors and help with reviewing the organization’s bylaws. If you or someone you know is interested to be on Carborigami’s board recruiting task force, contact Tina Hovesepian at tina@cardborigami.org.


Partner Q & A: Robin Salter

March 6, 2013

Robin Salter, LASVP PartnerRobin Salter is a senior consultant at Concentric Consulting Services. Robin joined LASVP in 2012 and we’re so excited to have her on our team! 

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?
Robin: Diane Helfrey and I met through a mutual friend who had organized an “LA Salon” which was designed to draw like-minded people together into a fun, casual and intellectual discussion about a range of topics. That group no longer exists (or if it does, I am no longer involved!) but the beauty of it for me was that I got to meet Diane and be introduced to LASVP. I asked if I could be involved as a coach, since that is what I do for a living. “Time to give back!” I thought, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made, both personally and professionally.

Q: What is your favorite place in LA?
Robin: Palisades Park, between Alta and Palisades Avenues.

Q: What project are you working on with LASVP? Why did you choose to get involved this way?
Robin: Currently, I am on the Education Investment Committee and am organizing the Social Innovation Fast Pitch Alumni Program. This is a great opportunity for me to invest both time and effort in helping those who have been involved with our organization to remain involved, to learn about other ways in which LASVP can continue to help and support them, and also to create an ongoing forum in which these organizations, many of them fledgling, can learn from and support one another.

Q: What book are you reading right now?
Robin: I always have four or five books on the go at the same time. Currently, my list includes: Mantissa (John Fowles,) Finn (Jon Clinch,) You Are Here (Thich Nhat Hanh,) Rock Springs (Richard Ford,) Fortune’s Children (Arthur T. Vanderbilt II,) and The Cloister Walk (Kathleen Norris).

Q: What social issue are you most passionate about?
Robin: As a teacher, administrator and educational coach/consultant, I believe that Early Childhood experiences are key to the outcomes demonstrated in society as a whole. I know that children who are born into poverty, those whose families are affected by illness including drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness, children who grow up without loving and kind parents and role models, and others who endure adverse experiences in childhood are likely to face enormous emotional, intellectual, educational and even physical challenges later in life. Without the foundation of healthy early life, our community as a whole suffers damage. As Thomas Reid once said: we are only as strong as our weakest link. I believe that our energy and attention should be focused in great part on ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to start life in the best way possible.

Q: Who is your hero?
Robin: Victor Hugo. As a writer, I aspire to develop a fraction of the dedication he displayed to his work ethic. (After his exile to the Channel Islands off the coast of England, he used to stand at a podium to write, facing the window which overlooked the sea, and set a minimum of 4 hours at a stretch.) Hugo was a poet and writer of novels whose message of freedom from tyranny was clear and effective. I see him as one of the world’s iconic champions of social justice.

You can learn more about our Partners here on our website.