About two dozen organizations were selected to receive grants that will provide a big boost for Latino communities in the Inland Empire. It's made possible thanks to the Cielo Fund.
There are roughly 2.3 million Latinos in the Inland Empire, making up over half of the population. When the Cielo Fund started, it began with research to understand the needs within these communities.
"What we found there was that when it comes to health equity, when it comes to educational attainment, when it comes to economic mobility, these were the issues that among others, that were clear needs for our region," said Cielo Fund founder Jesse Melgar.
They received more than 100 applications for its inaugural $280,000 grant and selected 25 organizations based on those needs.
Javier Hernandez, the executive director for the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, says the money will allow them to continue to grow their campaign.
The Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice started in 2008 and is one of the organizations receiving between $5,000 to $20,000.
"We're hoping that with those funds, we're able to hire another part-time organizer," Hernandez said.
The coalition is working with street vendors in San Bernardino.
"We want to ensure that the city and the county sees these as small businesses and actually fosters their growth," he said.
It also advocates for the closure of the Adelanto immigration detention center, the largest in the country.
The advocacy work ICIJ does is personal for Hernandez, who came to the U.S. when he was just 6 months old and grew up in Pomona.
His father was deported almost 20 years ago.
"We didn't have organizations like other regions of the state that we could quickly tap into and call. So it was a big moment for me to realize that it's an injustice to be in a region that doesn't have this infrastructure to support all of our communities," he said.
A new report by the California Community Foundation and the Weingart Foundation found that: "Those who serve in the chronically underfunded immigrant rights nonprofit sector have experienced an unprecedented level of strain, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in high levels of burnout."
Angel Rodriguez is a Cielo Fund board member and associate vice chancellor of the San Bernardino Community College District.
"All of us who are from here want to give back to the communities that have given so much to us," Rodriguez said. "And that's what this is all about."