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What do 50 stories tell us about Orange County?

What do 50 stories tell us about Orange County?

The ConnectOC Blog is a place for sharing insight, information and examples of how Orange County residents, donors and nonprofits are working to build a brighter, stronger, more vibrant community.  We welcome you to share your thoughts by commenting below

Together, local nonprofits are building up Orange County through collaboration.

My column in the Faith and Values section of the Orange County Register last week marks my 50th opportunity to shine the light on our extraordinary local nonprofit sector.  These columns have allowed us to feature more than 80 local nonprofits and their leaders, allowing them to tell their stories, provide perspective on their clients, and inspire readers to take individual and collective action to address our community’s greatest needs. 

On the occasion of this 50th “anniversary”, I revisited the three nonprofits I started with in my first column: Taller San Jose, Families Forward and Second Harvest Food Bank

I asked them what has changed over the past year —what has changed for Orange County and those they serve — and was inspired to hear that inclusivity and collaboration were their defining themes. 

“Over the past year, we’ve increased our collaboration with other nonprofits, including those in other parts of the county, to meet the needs of the low-income and homeless families,” said Margie Wakeham, executive director of Families Forward. “I’ve seen a lot more collaboration than I have in the past, particularly for donors making the best use of their resources. They are looking for problems to solve, and when we can offer a network of services, outcomes are greater.”

Taller San Jose CEO and Executive Director Shawna Smith also stresses the crucial role of collaboration. 

“How do we help our young adults sustain economic self-sufficiency when they leave us?” she questions. “Through exciting partnerships, which take the work force training we do and leverage it across their lives! One of those partnerships is with Santa Ana College. Faculty from the college teach technical components, so our students earn 18 college credits and complete one of the business certificates. We’re really helping students accomplish.”

Second Harvest Food Bank also has increasingly embraced community collaboration since our first column, and Barbara Wartman, director of marketing and public relations, acknowledges that much of the work begins by dispelling myths and finding ways to tackle issues holistically. 

“We will continue to educate people in Orange County that hunger exists here. Our mission is to end hunger, but that’s just part of the problem,” Wartman said. “We’re going to have to collaborate and partner with other organizations to achieve our mission. That will be a trend.” 

And that trend will bring us closer to the dream we all want: a more vibrant, prosperous community for everyone who calls Orange County home. If you’d like to help, please join us at Nonprofit Central, Orange County’s source for comprehensive data about local nonprofits. 

Get involved with the issue closest to your heart.  Together we can build it up!


Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected].

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