Habitat for Humanity starts business grant program in Long Beach neighborhood – Press Telegram

Five businesses in Long Beach’s Washington neighborhood have received — or will soon receive — $20,000 each thanks to a partnership between Habitat for Humanity Greater LA and Republic Services Charitable Foundation.

The grants expand Habitat for Humanity’s philanthropic goals from homebuilding — which has been at the heart of the nonprofit’s mission since its 1976 founding in Americus, Georgia — to also addressing safety, quality of life and eroding neighborhood infrastructure.

Long Beach Rising, Crystal Clear Learning Center, La Bodega Mexicana 8, Popeye Donuts and La Fiesta Tortilleria will receive the grants — funding for which came from Republic Services Charitable Foundation — to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Habitat for Humanity helped select which businesses received the grants, with two others receiving money in the coming weeks.

“Habitat LA has seen the toll that COVID-19 has taken on many of our local businesses,” Erin Rank, president and CEO of Habitat LA, said in a news release. “These small businesses play an important role in the Washington neighborhood, and their success is vital to the continued growth of this wonderful community.”

The Washington neighborhood is bordered by the Los Angeles River channel, Long Beach Boulevard, Pacific Coast Highway and Anaheim Street. According to the most recent census figures, Around 9,000 people live here, according to the most-recent U.S. census figures.

Although the five businesses receiving grants serve different purposes, they have one concept in common: giving back to the community.

Habitat LA surveyed residents about which businesses should receive the grants, said Dawkins Hodges, the organization’s vice president of programs. The nonprofit gave a list of 12 businesses to Republic Services, which then selected the first five.

“Long Beach is a very special place for us,” Hodges said. “And we saw the Washington neighborhood being passed by, repeatedly, for development. The indicators in the neighborhood revealed that this area had a higher rate of poverty — almost 50% below state average — and that 93% of people are tenants.

“So we wanted to work on how we can increase home ownership rates as well as help business development,” Hodges added. “We felt like we could really make a difference.”

Crystal Clear Learning Center, 909 Pine Ave., is a licensed preschool.

“This is helping me to live my dream,” CEO Crystal Jones said of the grant, “and help my people in my community.”

Jones said her neighborhood needs more businesses and she will do whatever she can as a community advocate.

“Enough is enough,” she said. “We deserve to have our fair shot. I just want to do great work and support the cause.”

Abel Goñi, who owns La Bodega Mexicana 8, 305 W. Anaheim St., told an interpreter in a Habitat LA YouTube video that that financial aid allowed him to make improvements to his store.

“It looks much better,” he said. “I feel that our clientele has increased. The community sees the store differently.”

Long Beach Rising is a rock climbing gym, 205 E. Anaheim St., that opened 6 1/2 months before the pandemic hit. The grant paid for a portion of the climbing area to be free to the public, Owner Grayston Leonard said in that same YouTube video.

Popeye Donuts owner Hout Chnim bought a new doughnut case, a freezer and couple of fryers for his shop, 225 W. Anaheim St.

“Business has started coming back,” he said in the video.

Jose Guevara, who has owned La Fiesta Tortilleria, 1324 Pine Ave., for 19 years, said he is still waiting to receive his money. His store makes fresh corn tortillas every day and is the only tortilla market in the neighborhood. Guevara said has definitive plans using the money to improve La Fiesta Tortilleria.

“I want to make improvements to the store,” he said, “and also have the ability to sell my chips around the neighborhood. The only thing we do here is make corn tortillas and chips. I want the people around here to be able to enjoy them.”

Information on Habitat LA’s efforts in the Washington neighborhood: bit.ly/3hvvkWl.

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