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'We are there for each other:' United Way of Kern County steps up for fellow nonprofit

The United Way of Kern County has worked with The Blessing Corner Ministry before, and has been impressed with the work they were doing.

So when United Way board members and administrators learned that the struggling nonprofit on Union Avenue and First Street might lose its building, it didn't take long to decide they wanted to help.

"United Way is a nonprofit organization as well, and we have seen what The Blessing Corner has done for our community," said Emily Duran, vice-chair of United Way's governing board. "So we thought it would be appropriate (to use) some of the extra funds that we had to really reinvest in our community."

United Way did exactly that at an event held Monday at The Blessing Corner's modest Bakersfield location by making a $20,000 donation to the nonprofit.

Several United Way board members, along with the organization's President and CEO Mari Pérez-Dowling, presented a check to The Blessing Corner's Executive Director Bonnie Turner.

"I'm not normally at a loss for words," Turner said. "But this is one of those days."

Pérez-Dowling said United Way has partnered with The Blessing Corner in past community events and has seen, firsthand, the love and hard work they put in to assist underserved individuals and families in Kern County.

Last year when United Way had the opportunity to provide relief funding for fellow nonprofits during the pandemic, Blessing Corner was one of those organizations, Pérez-Dowling said Monday. When they learned The Blessing Corner was having difficulties, they felt they had to step up and help.

"We need to work together, and we need to know we are there for each other," the CEO said. "I think The Blessing Corner brings a tremendous amount of help to this area."

Besides, United Way is in a good financial position to be able to help its community partners in tough times, Pérez-Dowling said.

Turner and her husband, the ministry's pastor, John Turner, said they were grateful for the help.

"Where we are serving, we're right in the midst of so many needs," Turner said of the Union Avenue corridor. "One of the things that we've observed is that there are not only families that come to us ... these families come with children, many of whom live in these motels up and down Union Avenue."

Creating a safe haven for those children is one of the goals of the nonprofit.

Javier Lozano, past chair of the United Way board, said the work done by the organization on Union Avenue hits close to home for him.

"I was raised in this area, and I recognize the need of this organization," Lozano said. "So I thought it was the perfect opportunity for United Way to do something."

The same day Lozano learned of The Blessing Corner's dilemma, he brought the information to his fellow board members.

"It just happened to be that the same day we had our board meeting, and during the board meeting I brought up the conversation about Blessing Corner.

"From there, this is where we landed," he said. "We were able to provide $20,000 to support what they're trying to do here."

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.