ORIX Foundation has announced a $3 million investment into four local nonprofits that are leveraging innovative, workforce-related solutions to disrupt persistent community challenges from poverty and unemployment to child abuse and neglect. The foundation, led by employees of Dallas-based financial services company ORIX USA, created the Community Innovation Project in response to a $3 million contribution from ORIX USA.
Community Innovation Project awardees include: Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep and Paul Quinn College, which help economically disadvantaged students change the trajectory of their lives through work-study programs with Dallas employers; On the Road Lending, which helps the working poor address transportation barriers to long-term employment and financial stability; and Community Partners of Dallas, which is seeking to improve protections for abused and neglected children through a privately funded work environment to support and retain Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers.
“These are all creative, problem-solving organizations that are willing to think differently and break with the status quo to better serve the Dallas community,” said Jim Dunn, who chaired the Community Innovation Project task force for ORIX Foundation and is President of ORIX Real Estate Americas. “Since we, as ORIX employees, better the community through our workplace, we were drawn to the idea of supporting transformational work experiences to further social change.”
The Community Innovation Project awards include:
Community Partners of Dallas received $1 million to fund a home base for CPS caseworkers.
Last year a report showed that Dallas County CPS workers quit at annual rate of 57 percent. High turnover has led to prolonged time in investigating initial child abuse allegations, neglect in working cases, as well as dozens of other issues that affect the children served. As the state-designated charity partner for CPS in Dallas, Community Partners of Dallas is creating a new, privately funded space for caseworkers that will be the first of its kind in the country. For caseworkers accustomed to working out of their cars or in crowded cubicles shared with multiple caseworkers, this space will help create a positive work environment and collaborative hub for working with peers to protect abused children.
Cristo Rey Dallas offers economically disadvantaged high school students the opportunity to gain real-life business skills and character-building experiences from local employers while earning the majority of their tuition. Cristo Rey Dallas opened in Pleasant Grove in 2015, and provides a quality college preparatory experience to students in an area where poverty is pervasive and less than half of adults over 25 have graduated from high school. The Cristo Rey model combines education and work experience to change the trajectory of low-income students’ lives at 32 schools nationwide, with 90 percent of its graduates admitted to college. The work-study program connects students to paid jobs with more than 70 of Dallas’ top companies – exposing students to prosperous employment opportunities across North Texas and encouraging them to pursue educational opportunities in these higher income careers.
On the Road Lending received $500,000 to expand its Keys to Empowering Yourself (KEY) transportation program.
This one-of-a-kind program offers reliable, low-interest vehicles and intensive financial coaching for vulnerable clients taking their first steps toward financial stability. Lack of transportation is reported to be the number one reason people lose their jobs, and public transport is often inaccessible in economically disadvantaged parts of Dallas. Funding from the Community Innovation Project will provide capital for low-interest vehicle loans for quality used cars under warranty, as well as financial coaching for those participants. The KEY program empowers individuals to avoid predatory loans, get and keep jobs, become more financially stable and have a healthier, better quality of life.
Paul Quinn College received $1 million for its Work Program. This program gives urban students, primarily from low-income backgrounds, real-world work experience while enabling them to contribute to their college tuition without sacrificing their academic performance. Paul Quinn College is the only urban Work College in the United States, and its New Urban College Model has the potential to become a national standard. The school has been recognized for being an anchor institution for its students and a workforce pipeline for employers, while reversing unemployment, dropout rates and student debt trends.
ORIX Foundation received an overwhelming response to its call for game-changing ideas to disrupt persistent community issues, with 164 applications submitted and vetted by a committee of ORIX employees over a nine-month period. This is the first innovation-focused grant opportunity from the employee-driven foundation, which has committed over $10 million in other grants to nonprofits since 2009, primarily in ORIX USA’s headquarters region of North Texas.
To learn more about the Community Innovation Project awardees as their projects progress, follow ORIX Foundation’s Facebook page or visit orixfoundation.org.