Many Mansions, honored as Nonprofit of the Year

This editorial originally appeared in Ventura County Star, on July 4, 2017,
“Many Mansions, Conejo Schools Foundation honored as Nonprofit of the Year”

Two local nonprofits received California’s Nonprofit of the Year award during a ceremony in Sacramento last month.

Affordable housing developer Many Mansions and Conejo Schools Foundation, an education and social service organization, were among about 100 California nonprofits to be honored by state politicians. Leaders from both organizations were flown to Sacramento for a celebratory lunch and tour of the Senate floor. Additionally, all honored nonprofits received plaques to commemorate their ongoing service.

The Thousand Oaks-based Many Mansions was honored by state Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, due to the organization’s dedicated efforts to combat the county’s housing issues. Many Mansions is particularly notable because the organization provides a variety of programs and services to its tenants, in addition to actual housing, Irwin said.

“There’s been a huge discussion about housing and homelessness and I thought that it would be appropriate to pick a nonprofit that is trying to be part of the solution,” Irwin said in an interview. “It’s not just the housing they develop: They have children’s programs, after-school programs, STEM programs and adult courses for financial training and life skills.”

Beyond the actual services that the organization offers, Irwin noted that Many Mansions constantly works with residents and city officials to ensure cooperation and understanding with regard to new affordable housing developments.

Receiving the Nonprofit of the Year award was a distinct honor for Many Mansions president Rick Schroeder, who recalled the nonprofit’s humble beginnings.

“Many Mansions started as a small organization dedicated to helping under-served residents that were having a hard time paying their rent,” Schroeder said in a statement. “We eventually grew to have our own affordable housing and community programs. I’m deeply appreciative of Assemblymember Irwin for recognizing the hard work of our organization, staff and volunteers.”

Like Many Mansions, Conejo Schools Foundation was designated a Nonprofit of the Year due to its success in combating serious issues in Ventura County. Conejo Schools Foundation provides educational assistance to children and families throughout the Conejo Valley Unified School District, with a focus on underprivileged that may have been left behind by the school system.

Like Irwin, State Sen. Henry Stern chose to honor a nonprofit that aligned with his platform to improve Ventura County’s public education system. The Conejo Schools Foundation is especially noteworthy due to its family outreach and consistent track record, Stern said.

“Their key is the relationships (and) trust they’ve developed with parents in the Conejo Valley Unified School District,” Stern, D-Canoga Park, said in an interview. “What the foundation has been doing is a model for other similarly situated communities throughout California. Everyone can learn from Conejo Schools Foundation.”

For Cindy Goldberg, executive director of Conejo Schools Foundation, receiving the Nonprofit of the Year award validated her organization’s work and served as a motivation to keep assisting families throughout the school district.

“We have the recognition that we’re on the right track and it’s nice to see government officials recognize the work that nonprofits do every day,” Goldberg said in an interview.

State Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Monique Limón, both Santa Barbara-based Democrats representing parts of Ventura County, honored Santa Barbara nonprofits Environmental Defense Center and Leading from Within for the award, respectively.

The Environmental Defense Center is an environmental law firm that works mostly within Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. It was formed after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and since 1977, has worked to advance awareness of environmental issues.

Founded in 2008, Leading from Within’s mission is to grow social sector leaders and strengthen the network of public-minded organizations to benefit the community.