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Coast Hills

All In: $16,000 to local charities in 2016

by Joshua D. Scroggin
April 04, 2017
Agape Homes
CoastHills Community Relations Officer Amanda Hollingworth, far left, and Member Service Officer Risa Hawkins, second from right, present a $1,000 sponsorship to staff of Agape Homes, including Director Adrian Cooks, far right. The donation comes from CoastHills Credit Union's voluntary employee giving program "I'm All In," which gave away $16,000 in 2016.

CoastHills Credit Union employees understand the value of working together.

A little more than a year ago, we asked our staff if they would participate in an innovative company giving program — one where they choose how much to give and where the money goes.

The program is called “I’m All In.” It turned out fitting since almost immediately, nearly the entire staff of 130 folks opted in. And in the 12 months since, the program gave away $16,000 in grants to worthy causes like Agape Homes, where Member Service Officer Risa Hawkins chose to send her $1,000 check.

Here’s how it works: Employees make a donation straight from their paycheck. They can give as little or as much as they choose. Like any crowdsourcing drive, the strength is in numbers. And the more ours add up, the more we can give to local charities in our community. Four times a year, we pull names out of a bowl to determine which employees get to choose how the money is spent. Each name drawn gets to present a $1,000 sponsorship to the cause of their choice.  

Hoping to give away $1,000 each quarter when we started, the immediate overwhelming support gave us a chance to hand out three sponsorships in the first quarter alone. By the end of the year, the quarterly drawings came in fives. In total, the program delivered $16,000 to 16 local organizations in 2016, supporting and addressing community issues such as education, homelessness, health, and more.

Risa is one of the lucky winners drawn in December. Moved by her fiancé’s passion for his career in the group home industry, she immediately thought about what this donation would mean to the young men at the local Agape Homes facility in Orcutt.

Group homes serve an important function in the community by giving foster youth a place to succeed. Risa has seen firsthand the hard work that dedicated employees like her fiancé put in every day to make sure that these kids overcome their adversity and are prepared to be successful adults.

“We’re going to buy some recreation equipment for them, things they utilize,” Director Adrian Cooks said with a wide smile after Risa delivered her donation. “These young men and women are involved in things like basketball, football, fishing, all these other things which have expenses that we would normally absorb for them.”

Adrian stresses the importance of participation in these clubs and activities and how they make a positive impact on enforcing responsibility and accountability.

He stumbled into the group home industry when seeking an internship in college that he could balance between his studies and sports. Adrian quickly realized that he found his calling. He had a passion for guiding young people into becoming exceptional citizens. After pursuing his masters of business, Adrian established his own programs in Santa Maria, Agape Homes and Changing Faces, because he saw opportunities to do more for the kids than what he saw in the other programs he had worked in.

“We’re not in the group home business anymore. We’re in the treatment, therapeutic, community business,” he explained. “It works, they see results.”

The life skills the program focuses on — such as practical skills, creativity, business skills, accountability, responsibility, and planning and achieving life goals — can be transformational for the kids assigned to Adrian’s care. As the members age out of the home, they leave with a plan and go on to succeed.

“Some of our first kids we ever had are still a part of our family,” he said. “That says a lot. We’re family. This is our home. Once they leave here, they’re good.”

The biggest challenge Agape Homes faces is in seeking people to come mentor the kids and reinforce the life lessons that they are taught at the home.

“They need a good role model to teach them after we teach them,” he said.

The most valuable thing they receive in the program is positive one on one attention, and he hopes he can guarantee them that when they leave. 

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