By Alisa Roberts
The South Robertson Neighborhoods Council has awarded their annual Neighborhood Purpose Grant to the Ness Center. “Last year I was put in touch with Dennis Brown of the Ness Center through another Council member, Michoel Bloom. Dennis seemed like a great candidate; the Ness Center helps a lot of Jewish and non-Jewish people in and around South Robertson with all kinds of addiction problems,” said Kevin Gres, a local criminal defense attorney who also serves as the Vice President of the South Robertson Neighborhoods Council.
The SORO Neighborhoods Council acts as an advisory committee to LA City Council members. When LA City Council members Paul Koretz or Herb Wesson want to know what the neighborhood thinks about an issue, this is who they consult. The 26-seat Neighborhoods Council deals with issues involving land use, parking restrictions, traffic, public safety, education, and more. They also award an annual grant.
“We get, as a total allocation, around $40,000 a year from the city,” explained Gres. “We decide how much to apportion to Neighborhood Purpose Grants, usually around $5000.” How does an organization qualify for one of these grants? “All you need is to be a 501-c3 or a public school (with supporting documents including a business tax registration certificate with the city of Los Angeles, a w-9, and an IRS determination letter); serve the greater community of South Robertson, which includes Pico Robertson, Beverlywood, and Crestview; and fill out the application, which is two pages. Once you submit the application, there is a brief presentation at the general board meeting where a representative of the organization gives a two-minute talk on who you are and why you need the grant, and answers any questions from the Council.”
The Ness Center navigated this process smoothly. “Dennis said that he turns away between 20 and 25 people a day who just can’t afford his services, even though he works on a sliding scale. He let us know that any amount of money we could get him would go a long way,” explained Gres, who sponsored the vote. “I forwarded him the application and went over it with him; he got it to me within a week. He was at the next board meeting and gave a really great presentation, answering some tough questions from the Council. The Council unanimously voted to award the $5,000. Three weeks later he got a check in the mail.”
Neighborhood Purpose Grants don’t usually all go to one organization, but there have been a lack of applicants recently. Gres’s theory is that people just aren’t aware of the work the Council does, or that the grants exist. “That needs to change; we need deserving applicants. If you think you are an organization, or know one, that qualifies, contact me. I will walk through the entire grant process with you.”
SORO NC holds a general board meeting the third Thursday of every month, at 7 p.m. at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. They strongly encourage people to come out and attend.