Inland Leaders, a CIELO Fund grantee

The Cultivating Inland Empire Latino Opportunity (CIELO Fund) at Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF) recently announced that $360,000 will be distributed to 31 Riverside and San Bernardino County Latino-led and serving organizations and initiatives. The announcement adds another milestone to the fund, which has invested more than $765,000 in grants and scholarships to the area’s Latino community since it launched in 2022.

“We are humbled by the impact the CIELO Fund has made in just two years and are proud of the number of organizations we’ve been able to support and the research we’ve produced,” says Jesse Melgar, IECF Vice Chair and CIELO Fund Founding Chair. “This round of grantees embodies the best of the Inland Empire—innovators who do all they can to provide critical services and resources to those most in need. We are inspired by these groups who make our neighborhoods, our communities and our region better.”

To be sure, the impact of the Latino community is significant throughout the region. Latinos comprise the majority of the Inland Empire, making up 51.5 percent of the population, and projections by the USC Center for Latinx Studies reveal that the figure will rise to 74 percent by 2060.

The growth breeds opportunity but also illuminates areas where disparities persist for Latinos in the region. To that end, the CIELO Fund’s Leadership and Grantmaking Committee is funding organizations in the current round with several key components in mind.

“This round of grants supports organizations with a $500,000 operating budget or smaller and a greater impact at the community level,” Melgar explains. We’re investing in those local community-based, community-driven organizations throughout the Inland Empire. This fund has invested in about 60 organizations throughout the region in its first two years.”

That includes partnerships in the media, he points out. One example is KVCR’s weekly segment of “IE Latino Voices,” a five-minute segment featuring interviews with Latino-led and serving organizations.

“We have invested into community-led organizations doing really impactful work on the ground,” Melgar adds. “That’s a powerful and inspiring thing our committee has been able to do thanks to the support and investment of other organizations, businesses, and individual contributions who have invested in the fund.”

Funding was prioritized for organizations working in the following areas: leadership development and capacity building, economic mobility, educational equity, health equity, housing security, environmental equity and climate change, racial equity, and immigrant inclusion.

Grants were also awarded to local and regional media outlets and specific projects hoping to uplift positive narratives with an impact on the Latino community in the Inland Empire.

The list of grantees comprises a wide variety of organizations in the region—from the Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California and Get in Motion Entrepreneurs to Ezekiel’s Gift of Love Coachella Valley Down Syndrome Foundation and Inland Equity Community Land Trust. Find the full list of grant recipients here.

“Part of what we’re doing here is building and strengthening a culture of philanthropy among the region’s Latino community,” Melgar adds, also pointing out several memorable high points over the last year, including supporting a leadership institute for Latino students through the Inland Empire Future Leaders Program. Other milestones include the investment the fund has provided for farmworker communities.

“The CIELO Fund was created because there wasn’t a regional Latino philanthropic effort that centered on the voices, the experiences, the impacts, and also some of the struggles and opportunities of our community,” Melgar adds.  “With the help of the IECF staff, who’s really stepped up to help launch this effort, we’re very humbled by the impact we’ve made with our partners over the last two years – and we look forward to the continued work ahead.”

You can help us continue this work by donating directly to the CIELO Fund! Our Charitable Giving Team is here to answer any questions about your goals for establishing a fund, creating a scholarship, or leaving a legacy so future generations can benefit from your generosity. Contact them today.

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