As a child growing up in Pleasanton, CA, my mother always inspired me to give back to my community. Throughout my early years, my desire to help others only grew. During my junior year of high school, with the assistance of my mother, I created a charitable group known as “Backyard Harvest”. We would rescue the unwanted, unpicked fruit from the trees in people’s backyards and donate the fruit to the local food banks who, in turn, would distribute the fruit to low-income families.
As I was starting college my ambitions and desires to assist the less fortunate did not wane. Leaving the only home I’d ever known in Pleasanton, I set out for new pastures in Chico, California. After class one day, one of my business professors at Butte College referred me to the North Valley Community Foundation. NVCF strives every day to empower local groups in the community and to engage citizens to create a better world. My passion led me to the North Valley Community Foundation and I eagerly pitched my idea of reducing food waste through the process of gleaning. Gleaning is the practice of picking up leftover produce after harvest, though by this point we had extended this to any potential recyclable objects that could be reused.
Walking into North Valley Community Foundation I was greeted with a smile. I immediately felt that they wanted to connect with me on a personal level, as those who are involved with the foundation want to make a positive impact on the world. The space was modern and welcoming. The positive energy that radiated within the room put my mind at ease. I did not know what to expect when going to my first meeting, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me! I met with Alexa Benson-Valavanis to talk to her about starting a fund at NVCF.
Alexa introduced herself and explained her position as CEO at the foundation. She asked me about my community service and I told her about my ambitions to create a non-profit centered around reducing food waste. Despite my young age and lack of experience, Alexa actively listened to my entire presentation. Alexa began to relay all her ideas for the project; I knew from then on that we were on the same page. The meeting went so well that I returned three more times seeking advice. Every time I went to meet with Alexa and her staff I left with new knowledge and drive to pursue my dream of a new approach to sustainability.
In the end, I chose not to start a fund with NVCF because I needed more time to gather the necessary resources and skills to fully realize my vision. Alexa graciously offered me an internship with the North Valley Community Foundation, putting me on the path to build the qualities that I need to achieve my goal of revolutionizing food sustainability.
For those who are reading this and whom also have a dream to create a nonprofit there is a lot to consider. As a young adult, I did not understand what I was getting myself into. There are many logistics to starting a nonprofit that I was not aware of at first. Start up costs, accounting, and insurance are just a few variables that come with creating a nonprofit. I had a small understanding of the legal aspect of starting a nonprofit, but after meeting with Alexa I truly understood the difficulty of the process. With that being said, Alexa and her staff are dedicated individuals who are willing to serve those who come to NVCF for guidance, leadership, and to turn their dream into reality.