The Manaus Fund Receives John Denver Aspenglow Fund Grant

[Carbondale, CO] – The Manaus Fund announces the receipt of a $90,000 grant from The John Denver Aspenglow Fund at the Aspen Community Foundation, to support the Valley Settlement Project’s program for families with children zero to three years old.
The zero to three component of Valley Settlement Project’s Early Childhood Education effort is a bi-lingual child development program for parents and their children that recognizes that education begins at home from birth. Thirty parent/child pairs participated in the early learning programs (formerly known as Mommy & Me) for one hour each week during 2012–2013. This program has evolved into a new model that includes programing on the social, emotional, and physical well-being for each generation. Parents, their children, and a leader, come together for twice weekly neighborhood-based classes to learn strategies to promote the healthy development of their child well before preschool. This foundation for the multigenerational approach empowers parents with the skills and confidence to become the child’s first and most important teacher.
Executive Director, Jon Fox-Rubin, says, “We are excited to begin this partnership with The John Denver Aspenglow Fund, are honored to be a part of John’s legacy and are happy to extend it into the next generation of this valley’s children.” Morgan Jacober, VSP Project Director, agrees, “This grant allows us to enrich our zero to three programing and to continue to educate parents and their young children even before preschool.”
Karmen Dopslaff, spokeswoman for The John Denver Aspenglow Fund, says “The healing mission that the Valley Settlement Project offers so many with undreamed of heights, fresh passion, deep feeling, power and grace, reminds us of John Denver’s spirit and presence felt through every program, much like the mystical quality of footprints in windblown snow.”
About The John Denver Aspenglow Fund:
The Fund was created after the sale of John Denver’s Windstar property (located in Old Snowmass) in April 2013. Aspen Glow allocates its funds to local, successful causes that speak to John Denver’s legacy and vision for a world that works.
About the Valley Settlement Project:
Valley Settlement Project is a multigenerational program focused on school readiness, elementary school achievement, economic stability and community engagement for low-income families who are not successfully settled or attached to the community in which they live. Valley Settlement Project works to support and empower these families through community organizing and partnerships with nonprofits and schools.
About The Manaus Fund:
In 2005, The Manaus Fund was founded by local philanthropist, educator, rancher, photographer, and physicist, George Stranahan. George’s passion has always been social justice and his initial intention was to address inequities that he saw in the philanthropic world. The Manaus Fund is committed to social justice issues, particularly as related to low-income populations. Through community organizing, The Manaus Fund works to empower people to identify problems, set goals, and become effective leaders to achieve a more just society. Valley Settlement Project is a working model of this approach.
For more information about The Manaus Fund and Valley Settlement project, call (970) 963-0851 or visit

Veronica Felix Lopez — Immigrant Stories

Parents helped improve conditions for fruit pickers

May 26, 2014

Intro: Veronica Felix Lopez is the Lead Community Organizer for the Valley Settlement Project, “a multigenerational program that focuses on school readiness, elementary school achievement, economic stability and community engagement” for the Roaring Fork Valley’s low-income families. Veronica was born in California’s Central Valley, the daughter of farm workers who joined with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta to organize agricultural workers and establish the United Farm Workers.

Felix Lopez: My mom grew up in a poor family in Mexico. She was one of nine kids, and things got so bad that her dad had to send her and two of her sisters to the United States to live with his brother.

Gallacher: Did she ever talk about that?

Felix Lopez: She said it was hard, but when she went back to visit she said there was barely enough to eat. Sometimes the kids would only get half a tortilla for their meal. My grandfather didn’t have any cows or any land, but his older brother was doing much better in the United States, and he offered to take the girls and help my grandfather get his papers to come to the U.S. That was in the  early ’60s.

Gallacher: It was a lot easier in those days to move back and forth across the border, wasn’t it?

Felix Lopez: Oh yes, that was when my grandfather quit his job with the Mexican government and became a farm worker in the United States. He and my grandmother and the three oldest children started working in the fields of California.

Gallacher: So was your mom  working?

Felix Lopez: Yes, she started working when she was 12. She went to the sixth grade and after that she had to help her family. She said there was a lot of discrimination at that time. There were no work breaks, and they had to carry their food in a bag that they tied to the belt loops of their pants. Mom said that they were required to work even when the fields were being sprayed with pesticides. They were told to just wear a hat and something over their face. They had to eat standing up, sitting down wasn’t allowed, and there was no water and no toilets.

Gallacher: There was no water all day?

Felix Lopez: All day, and this was in the heat of the summer. The growers weren’t focused on the workers, they were concerned about the time it was taking and the money they were making. At that time, they were making $1.25 an hour.

Gallacher: So the three older kids worked. What did the little kids do while everyone was in the fields?

Felix Lopez: They went to school in the morning and came home about 3, and that was when my grandmother would stop work and take care of them. But on weekends and during the summer the kids had to come to the fields with the family.

Gallacher: What would the little kids do in the fields?

Felix Lopez: They would help by dragging boxes to the end of the rows for pickup. I think that was one of the things that really moved my mom to get involved in organizing, because the growers didn’t care about mothers with kids. If you didn’t meet your quota of boxes you had to stay late. Families didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t any child care, and they couldn’t leave the kids alone at home. My mom used to talk about feeling hopeless during this time. She and her brothers and sisters often wondered how much longer they could endure. They had to work and live like that for about six years. By then my mom was 18, and that’s when she met my dad. They met working in the fields and were married a year later.

Gallacher: What’s your dad’s story?

Felix Lopez: My dad came to the United States as a Bracero*. He was born and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico. In those days there was an office in my dad’s village that recruited farm workers to work in the fields of New Mexico picking chilies. There was this one grower who would make the five-hour drive to Mexico to pick up the workers and take them to his fields. My dad and his brothers and cousins all signed up to work for him. The fields were just across the border in Deming, New Mexico. My dad and his family did that for about six seasons. It was during the sixth season that the grower talked to my dad. He told him that he had to sell his land. He had just been diagnosed with cancer and his kids weren’t interested in taking over. “But” he told my dad, “I want to do something for you and your family. I want to help you apply for immigration status here in the United States.” The grower took my dad and four of his relatives to the immigration office and helped them apply. My dad said immigration was very different than today. There was one sheet of paper to fill out, a picture was taken, a birth certificate was presented and the grower wrote a letter of support for them. Two weeks later, their green cards arrived at the grower’s home.

Gallacher: Totally different than today.

Felix Lopez: Very, very different. That next year my dad came to the United States and went with his uncles to work in the fields of California. It was there that he met my mom and experienced the working conditions that she and her family had to endure. My dad said he had never been treated that way. It was about this time that they met Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and my dad decided to become a union organizer for the farm workers. I remember, as a little kid, going to Cesar’s meetings with my parents. I remember Cesar coming to our house and putting paper on the walls and planning meetings with my dad. Mom and dad would go into the fields and talk to farm workers. My dad traveled from state to state during the grape boycott**.

Gallacher: Explain the boycott.

Felix Lopez: Cesar and Dolores decided to focus on table grapes because they were so popular and one of California’s main crops. They figured that by refusing to pick the grapes and asking consumers not to buy them they would get the attention of growers and people around the world. They used the grape boycott to call attention to the mistreatment of farm workers. After five years, the farm workers got their first contract and started to see conditions change in the fields. I am proud of my parents for the work they did to make that change.

Gallacher: So you grew up in the midst of this movement. What did you take from that experience?

Felix Lopez: I can’t see myself doing anything else. Helping people learn how to help themselves is a part of who I am.

Gallacher: Cesar Chavez was the face of the farm workers movement, but Dolores Huerta was just as important.

Felix Lopez: I worked for Dolores and her foundation for about five years helping farm worker women. We held classes in leadership training and taught women to become more self-confident and realize their potential.

Gallacher: Talk about what you do now and what you bring from your experience in California.

Felix Lopez: I am a lead community organizer for the Valley Settlement Project and in 2011 we surveyed the valley. We visited 300 low-income households and found that one of the main  concerns was lack of affordable preschool for the kids. So what we did was develop a program that takes the preschool program into their neighborhoods. We have two buses that have been converted to preschool classrooms. Teachers drive the buses from neighborhood to neighborhood twice a week and conduct classes on the bus. We have 90 kids who are participating in this dual language program. For the last six weeks, I have been conducting leadership-training classes for women, two in Glenwood and one in Carbondale. Women come in very shy and hesitant at first but by the third session they are engaged and actively participating.

Gallacher: What are the elements of this leadership class?

Felix Lopez: We focus on their goals and help them think about the steps they need to take to accomplish them. Some of these women want to be teachers but they have never allowed themselves to think about that possibility. I give them information about the steps they need to take to move toward that goal. For example, the women in these classes said the reason many of them can’t take classes is because there is no affordable child care. So I asked them what they wanted to do about it, and they decided to apply for a food booth at Carbondale Mountain Fair this summer and raise the money. For the next six weeks, I will be meeting with them as they lay out their plan for this fundraiser. Dolores always told me “never do for others what they can do for themselves.”

* The Bracero Program grew out of a series of bilateral agreements between Mexico and the United States and allowed millions of Mexican men to come to the United States to work on short-term, primarily agricultural labor contracts. From 1942 to 1964, 4.6 million contracts were signed, with many individuals returning several times on different contracts, making it the largest U.S. contract labor program. braceroprogram.org/about

** The Delano Grape Strike was a strike, boycott and secondary boycott led by the United Farm Workers (UFW) against growers of table grapes in California. The strike began on Sept. 8, 1965, and lasted more than five years. The strike was a significant victory for the UFW, leading to a first contract with these growers.

 

Read more Immigrant Stories With Walter Gallacher

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PRESS RELEASE: THE MANAUS FUND RECEIVES GRANTS TO SUPPORT EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

The Manaus Fund Receives Grant to Support Early Childhood Education

[Carbondale, CO] – The Manaus Fund has received an $80,000 Daniels Fund grant to support the Valley Settlement Project’s Early Childhood Education programs.

Valley Settlement Project (VSP) is a multigenerational program focused on school readiness, elementary school achievement, economic stability and community engagement for low income families who are not successfully settled or attached to the community in which they live. VSP works to support and empower these families through community organizing and partnerships with nonprofits and schools.

The Early Childhood Education program consists of multiple components which are aimed at zero to five year-olds and their parents. Each component fills gaps in service in the community in a population of young children who would otherwise have no preschool experience prior to kindergarten, and is designed to improve school readiness. Both generations are engaged and the programming is based on the belief that the family is the child’s first teacher. VSP works to build trusting relationships with families and to support the healthy development of their children. The goal is to increase school readiness through child-centered, bilingual programming, rich in language and social emotional experiences.

Twice weekly neighborhood based classes are held for infants to three year-olds in which parents and children come together to learn strategies that promote healthy development of their child well before preschool. Through the El Busesito (The Little Bus) high quality early childhood experiences are provided for three to five year-olds. Each program includes a parent support component focused on extending learning in the home. Training is also provided to neighborhood caregivers through Family, Friends, and Neighbors to increase the quality of experiences these young children are receiving while in care outside of their homes.

Morgan Jacober, VSP’s Program Director, says, “We are pleased to have a strong partner in the Daniels Fund as our early Child Education program is critical to the families we serve.”

“We’re honored to have the Daniels Fund as a partner. With them we can continue to provide services that are integrated with the needs of the community,” said Jon Fox-Rubin, Executive Director.
Bill Daniels, a pioneer in cable television known for his kindness and generosity to those in need, established the Daniels Fund to provide grants and scholarships in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. For more information, please visit www.danielsfund.org.

For more information about The Manaus Fund and Valley Settlement Project, call (970) 963-0851 or visit www.manausfund.org.
About the Manaus Fund:
In 2005, The Manaus Fund was founded by local philanthropist, educator, rancher, photographer, and physicist, George Stranahan. George’s passion has always been social justice and his initial intention was to address inequities that he saw in the philanthropic world. The Manaus Fund is committed to social justice issues, particularly as related to low-income populations. Through community organizing, The Manaus Fund works to empower people to identify problems, set goals, and become effective leaders to achieve a more just society. Valley Settlement Project is a working model of this approach.

PRESS RELEASE: THE MANAUS FUND ANNOUNCES FIRST FULL-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: JON FOX-RUBIN

THE MANAUS FUND ANNOUNCES FIRST FULL-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: JON FOX-RUBIN
11 JUNE 2014—The Manaus Fund announces Jon Fox-Rubin as its first full-time Executive Director. Jon was chosen from an outstanding field of applicants to lead the Manaus Fund in its mission to catalyze social justice in our region.
“Social justice is woven into my persona and I am honored to join the Manaus team and excited to help build and sustain Manaus’ projects to empower people to create change in their lives and community,” says Jon Fox-Rubin. Rob Pew, the Manaus Board Chair, says “We at Manaus are fortunate to find Jon at this point in time, as we have ambitious goals for the organization and his passion, skills and ability to lead teams will help us realize these goals. We are very sorry to see Ellen Freedman step down as Executive Director but we are pleased that she is going to stay involved as a strategic advisor to Jon and the Board.” Freedman says “I’ve know Jon for years and am thrilled to pass the baton to him. I can’t think of anyone better to lead Manaus on the next leg of its journey.”
Jon has a long-standing commitment to social justice work. While in graduate school, Jon co-organized a coalition for social justice and volunteered for the Eastern Service Workers Association. Upon returning to the Roaring Fork Valley he served on the Basalt P&Z and was then elected as a Basalt Trustee, where he authored a resolution welcoming immigrants to Basalt. Jon was also a founding board member of Misión: Comunidad—the non-profit that produced the valley-wide bilingual newspaper, La Mision. More recently, Jon has become a founding board member of Energetics Education, a non-profit that challenges high school student teams to design, build and race sophisticated solar-powered remote control cars.
Jon brings to the Executive Director position deep experience managing large and diverse teams. Jon was a co-founder & CEO of two local start-up companies, Hypercar, Inc. and Fiberforge Corporation—both spun off from the non-profit Rocky Mountain Institute. Those companies developed and brought to market advanced composite technologies to make products lighter & tougher to enable better performance and efficiency in multiple industries including sporting goods, transportation and aerospace.
About the Manaus Fund: In 2005, The Manaus Fund was founded by local philanthropist, educator, rancher, photographer and physicist, George Stranahan. George’s passion has always been social justice and his initial intention was to address the inequities that he saw in the philanthropic world. The Manaus Fund is committed to achieving social justice by empowering people to identify problems, set goals, organize themselves and become effective leaders. With this strength we will build a more just society. Today, The Manaus Fund is focused on two key projects:
Valley Settlement Project: a dual generation program addressing school readiness, elementary school achievement, economic stability and community engagement for local families. Our focus is low-income families who are not successfully settled or attached to the community in which they live. Through community organizing and partnerships with local nonprofits, schools and government agencies, Manaus works to support and empower these families.
Community Organizing Project: Manaus believes that community organizing is the way to engage all people in a community to create change and achieve social justice. Manaus has partnered with the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation to learn from their decades of work in 29 states and explore how to best build our region’s capacity for broad based community organizing.