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Community First Awards $24,000 in Community Building Grants to Three Guam Nonprofits

Match grants supported by Federal Home Loan Des Moines to strengthen communities

From left, Gerard Cruz, President and CEO of Community First; Derek Mandell, Assistant Vice President/Marketing Manager, Community First; Angel Toves, Residential Supervisor for Shelters; Peter Kwon, Case Manager, Sanctuary; Stephanie Drilon, Crisis and Corporate Communications Manager, Sanctuary; Dan Estephan, Case Manager, Sanctuary; Karen Carpenter, Office Manager, VARO; Charlene Quintanilla, Crisis Services Supervisor/ Victim Advocate, VARO; Diana Calvo, Executive Director, CSS Alee Shelters; Marge Isip, Executive Assistant, CSS Alee Shelters; Paula Siguenza, Deputy Director, CSS Alee Shelters; and Mike Finona, Chief Operating Officer, Community First.

Community First Guam Federal Credit Union awarded three Guam nonprofit organizations with $24,000 in match grants – the 2023 Member Impact Fund (MIF) – by Community First and Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines (FHLB Des Moines). Catholic Social Service (CSS) Alee Shelters, Sanctuary Incorporated of Guam, and Victim Advocates Reaching Out (VARO) each received $8,000 grants during an award ceremony on June 21, 2023, at Community First’s Tamuning Member Service Center.

This FHLB Des Moines match grant program offers eligible organizations critical financial support for affordable housing and community development initiatives. The MIF member-matching program was open to its member financial institutions to support organizations located in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Hawaii, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and American Samoa. FHLB Des Moines recently announced that it joined efforts with 85 members, including Community First, in providing nearly $15 million to hundreds of nonprofit and government agencies during the 2023 grant season.

Gerard Cruz, President and CEO of Community First, said, “Guam has many nonprofits that do so much good in our community, and it was difficult to select just three nonprofits to work with during the 2023 grant season. The three Guam nonprofits that received checks today met the criteria best, which aligned with the grant’s mission to strengthen our community through housing or community development initiatives or outreach.”

Earlier this year, Community First applied for the match grants to benefit the three Guam nonprofit organizations. MIF awards provide up to $3 for every $1 matching grant from its members. Each organization received $8,000 – $2,000 from Community First and $6,000 from the FHLB Des Moines’ MIF – during a ceremony at Community First’s Tamuning Member Service Center. Each organization noted how they will use the grant to support their important work in the community.

Sanctuary Incorporated of Guam

Stephanie Drilon, Crisis and Corporate Communications Manager for Sanctuary, shared during the ceremony that the organization will use the grant to ensure adequate temporary emergency shelter services for youth ages 12-17 and 16-24 with young children who are often victims of abuse or neglect.

“As a nonprofit, everything helps. The funds will be used toward our emergency shelter. This really will help our organization,” said Drilon.

The COED Emergency Shelter operates 24 hours, providing youth shelter, food, transportation to school, appointments, court hearings, and recreational therapy, to name a few.

Sanctuary is a community-based organization that exists to improve the quality of life for Guam's youth through reconciliation during times of family conflicts, foster the development of responsible community members, and advocate for their needs to preserve family unity. Sanctuary provides 24-hour crisis intervention services, a temporary safe refuge during family conflicts and abuse, supportive counseling for youth and families, outreach, education, and prevention programs.

Victim Advocates Reaching Out

Karen Carpenter, Office Manager for Victim Advocates Reaching Out, said “VARO is a crisis intervention service, so we often deal with clients immediately after the abuse has happened. We assist them and shelter them with immediacy and then work with them to get longer-term housing. We provide case management, food, and safety plans. We really appreciate this donation. As with all nonprofits, we are always short of money, especially for shelter and food.”

VARO provides short-term emergency housing for victims of crime, family violence, or sexual assault. Victims are homeless because they have had to leave their homes to stay safe or may have nowhere else to live. VARO rents rooms for their clients and their children, if they have children with them. VARO also provides case management services, transportation, safety planning, emotional support, a 24/7 hotline, accompaniment to other agencies, and referral to other agencies for services not provided by VARO. Currently, VARO is the only place where these clients can receive quick and initial shelter before moving to the Alee Shelter if there is an opening. VARO then assists the client in identifying longer-term housing options and assists them with the application process.

Catholic Social Service Alee Shelters

Diana Calvo, Executive Director of CSS Alee Shelters, was grateful for being selected as a recipient along with partner agency VARO, “Thank you for selecting CSS as well as our partners. We help trauma victims of abuse and neglect, and we also coordinate other services with our partner agencies, such as VARO. The work we do is not the kind of work that one organization can do. So each of us does the heavy lifting on our own based on our mission, then collectively we become the partner group that supports the whole effort of establishing awareness for the prevention of abuse and neglect and to advocate on behalf of the victims. Thank you for acknowledging our work and thank you to our partners, too.”

CSS provides direct services to individuals and families in greatest need, including the elderly, individuals with disabilities, the homeless, and victims of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and food insecurity. CSS operates two Alee Shelters, for child victims of abuse, neglect, and sexual assault, and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. CSS will use the grant to improve its housing environment for the children by purchasing two 36,000 BTU split air-conditioning units, a 50-gallon water heater, and four bunk beds.

Cruz added, “We congratulate and thank the three organizations announced today for the work that they do to serve Guam’s most vulnerable. We encourage our community to support them and other local nonprofits in whatever capacity you can.”



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