Louis Medina

Today is Give Big Kern Day: one day to celebrate what Kern County is famous for: its giving spirit.

This online crowdfunding campaign organized by Kern Community Foundation is without a doubt the biggest part of my job. I devote about half of my work year to making sure our partners are strengthened not just by the dollars they raise and the volunteers they recruit through Give Big Kern, but also by the free trainings, marketing support, networking connections, use of givebigkern.org and many other tools we provide to help them become more visible, robust and sustainable nonprofits.

KCF's mission, Growing Community, Growing Philanthropy, goes hand in hand with this countywide day of giving that harnesses the giving spirit of Kern's residents like the Tehachapi and Mojave wind farms harness the wind to turn it into power; in our case, the power of philanthropy.

And we put on Give Big Kern for one purpose: to strengthen Kern's nonprofits. Why? Not just because a stronger nonprofit sector is better for the community, but also because our nonprofits and the work they do are the best expression of Kern County's big heart and giving spirit.

I feel fortunate to witness this again and again through Give Big Kern. Consider these examples:

  • A first-time Give Big Kern participant, Kern River Valley area nonprofit Strength of Shadow Dog Rescue, was launched just last year by Robbie Miller, who, soon after serving more than a decade in prison, saved a dog from death and had a revelation. "I decided I wanted to live my life for dogs. I learned that if you rescue a dog, you can change a human's life at the same time. We want to rescue dogs like Shadow that can save people like me." SOS Dog Rescue is fundraising to expand its facilities so that it can rescue more dogs and save more people.
  • Parents Catherine and Grover Waldon were desperate to find a program that could enrich the life of their developmentally delayed adult son, Trevor. Not satisfied with the local offerings, they bravely decided to start their own nonprofit less than three years ago: Independence Through GRACE, a faith-based enrichment program for adults with intellectual disabilities that now helps other families like theirs. While still a small nonprofit, ITG has raised the most funds out of all Give Big Kern participants to date, both in 2018 and 2019.
  • Bakersfield Ivy Legacy Foundation, an African-American-led nonprofit focused on academic achievement, health and wellness and environmental advocacy, has a generous executive director, Raquell Jones, who personally donated to several other African-American-led nonprofits participating in Give Big Kern, and actively cheers on others' fundraising efforts on social media.
  • One of the agencies to which Raquell donated is The Wendale Davis Foundation, which was founded by Wesley Davis in response to the deadly shooting on April 23, 2006, of his 16-year-old son, the organization’s namesake. The Davis family (Wendale’s sister Denise is the agency’s Chief Operations Officer) has turned their grief into a positive force for change in the community and is fundraising to support after-school and mentoring programs, offer assistance to victims of violence and conduct outreach events to continue to raise awareness about the senselessness of gun violence.

These are just four examples, but they illustrate the reason why we all, as a community, should come together and give to the more than 120 nonprofits participating in Give Big Kern: because like Robbie, the Waldons, Raquell, the Davis family and the agencies they represent, our nonprofit community as a whole embodies the life-changing generosity that the giving spirit of Kern County is all about.

Join me and thousands of others who have already given through Give Big Kern and donate today. Just go to givebigkern.org, search for an organization, find your passion and give. The minimum donation is just $5. For other ways to give, visit givebigkern.org/info/volunteering and givebigkern.org/info/events.

Like the Tehachapi and Mojave windmills harness the wind, let Give Big Kern harness the power of your giving spirit today.

Louis Medina is the director of community impact for Kern Community Foundation. He may be reached at Louis@kernfoundation.org.