It’s been a nail-biting, yearlong fight, but members of can finally rejoice.
In danger of shutting down at the end of July, the 20-year-old Union City youth program was recently awarded a $125,000 grant from Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services. The grant will secure funding for another three years.
“We are just so amazingly relieved,” said Christopher Cara, youth services director for FAJ. “Things looked pretty bad. We were going to close if we weren’t going to get another contract.”
FAJ, which runs youth development and alcohol and drug prevention programs, lost a county health services grant in March. That’s when things began to look grim.
The cash-strapped community group had been receiving $60,000 from the county annually for the last 15 years, Cara said. Though the funding was supplemental by money from the City of Union City and various foundations, the county dollars were FAJ’s lifeline, he said.
Last year, the county health services program restructured its funding process and began offering fewer but heftier awards of $250,000. According to Cara, FAJ was the highest recommended bidder in 2011 but an appeal from another provider alleging a conflict of interest led to the county re-opening the application process. FAJ ended up getting snubbed.
“We were very prepared to pack our things and go,” Cara said.
According to Cara, the county had allotted $2 million to fund the various programs but not all of the funds were used. Thanks to the support from county district leaders Nadia Lockyer and Richard Valle, FAJ was able to secure $125,000 from the surplus, he said. They received news of the award at the last Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting on July 24.
Though the money isn’t as much as other county programs will receive, it’s enough to keep FAJ open for now, Cara said.
“We were really breaking ourselves for the last year and a half,” said Cara, adding that the organization was forced to cut its staff to one full-time and one part-time employee in the last year.
The new grant will provide baseline funding for the organization’s various programs, which include a young men’s group at , a ninth grade group at and a support group at , along with a new young women’s group at Alvarado Middle School.
FAJ is also home to various youth leadership and community organizing programs, including the Pilipino Youth Coalition and the Regional Alliance for Community Empowerment, both of which were active in helping to push the city to create its youth violence prevention program.
“We think it’s really important to not only provide prevention education but also leadership,” Cara said. “We also believe in lasting change in the community.”
While the money will keep FAJ afloat, Cara isn’t sure how far it can stretch.
The City of Union City, which provides financial assistance to 12 local nonprofit groups, currently gives $22,000 a year to FAJ. In March, but has yet to hear back from city staff, Cara said.
“We would like to see the city increase its commitment to us,” Cara said. “There are a number of different providers that the City of Union City is giving funding to and we would like to see a more equitable distribution of funds to all those different providers.”