EASTSIDE : Businesses to Help Nonprofit Groups

A group of local business owners have agreed to set aside a percentage of their advertising dollars to form a nonprofit organization to help other nonprofit groups in the area with training, fund-raising, organizing and raising awareness in the community.

The Community Care Corp. held a free event with games and entertainment at Mariachi Plaza in which several nonprofit organizations set up booths to meet with residents. The event, which offered information on boys and girls clubs, free dental and medical exams and free HIV testing, attracted more than 500 residents, said Executive Director Lorenzo Almada.

"It's a new concept that we're working on to inform the community," Almada said. "Our intent is to become a community-oriented, grass-roots training organization."

An advisory board composed of the nonprofit organizations will consider which of the group's needs--such as computer training, time management, fund-raising techniques or advertising--should be targeted.

Meanwhile, the group will hold regular events like the one at Mariachi Plaza to give the nonprofit groups access to as many members of the community as possible, Almada said.

The eight businesses, which include doctors' and lawyers' offices, supermarkets and a pharmacy, will arrange for entertainment and other atttractions. They also hope to establish a database of local services for the community.

"We're trying to put together something that will benefit the community and the merchants," said dentist Jerry Lanier, whose business, Kids Dental Care, is a founding member of the organization.

Often, the perception in the community has been that businesses have different interests from social service agencies, Lanier said. But the Community Care Corp. arose out of a realization that many of the needs were the same.

"This benefits the small social service organizations and gives exposure to the small businesses as well who don't have the wherewithal to get their name out to the community," Lanier said.

The union of private and public interests has resulted in a number of unexpected benefits, such as a deep-sea fishing trip next month that Lanier wants to take with teen-agers from the nearby Aliso-Pico housing project. The teens helped during the Feb. 26 event at Mariachi Plaza.

In April the group will unveil a mural on Cesar Chavez Avenue and offer residents information and exposure to local merchants and agencies.

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