History

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In 1983, the congregation of First United Methodist Church in Los Angeles made a generous, lasting gift to the people of Los Angeles by creating the Los Angeles United Methodist Urban Foundation. With proceeds from the sale of this beautiful church building, previously located on Hope and 8th, in 1982, the congregation set aside two million dollars to establish an endowment for the Urban Foundation. Its original intent, which is still true today, was to support “Seeds of Hope” in urban Los Angeles with small grants to faith-based community programs, and to support the study of urban ministry at the Claremont School of Theology. Now in its 30th year, the foundation’s longevity and stability, combined with the professional expertise contained within its infrastructure, has led to a natural expansion -- with hands-on help and technical assistance for faith-based organizations committed to transforming urban communities throughout the Los Angeles region.

Claremont School of Theology

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At its founding, earnings from half of the Urban Foundation endowment were earmarked for the urban ministry program at the Claremont School of Theology. To date, the Urban Foundation has provided more than $1.6 million toward urban ministry education and training at Claremont, which has provided hands-on urban internship experiences for seminary students. In 1993, the link between the Urban Foundation and the Claremont program was confirmed by the naming of the professorship in urban ministry after Mildred Hutchinson, a long-time member and chair of the Foundation's Board of Directors. The Mildred M. Hutchinson Chair of Urban Ministry has been held by Cornish Rogers, Grant Hagiya, Michael Mata, and most recently by Helene Slessarev-Jamir.

Dr. Helene Slessarev-Jamir

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Helene Slessarev-Jamir, Mildred M. Hutchinson professor of Urban Studies at Claremont Theological Seminary is currently researching the character of religiously inspired justice work in response to globalization and American empire. Her books include Betrayal of the Urban Poor, and more recently, Prophetic Activism: Progressive Religious Justice Movements in Contemporary America, which includes chapters on congregational community organizing, activism in support of worker justice, immigrant rights, peace-making, and ending global poverty. Dr. Slessarev-Jamir serves as a consultant for the Urban Foundation board.

Seeds of Hope

In its three decades, the Urban Foundation has awarded over two million dollars in “Seeds of Hope” grants to community- and faith-based organizations, and grassroots urban projects in urban Los Angeles.

2013 Seeds of Hope grantees included:

  • Rising Tide, housed at Covenant Presbyterian Church, offers academic and cultural enrichment for multi-cultural, low-income families and children. From the “cuddle café” a private, safe space for children five and under to their teen center, children of all ages are involved in tutoring, academic enrichment, sports, and community service.
  • Power Girl Network promotes healthy choices for teens living in urban south Los Angeles.
  • We Lift LA helps foster youth make a seamless, successful transition to independent adult living (in Tarzana).
  • Loving Hands at Stevens Bryant Youth Organization provides a safe and positive learning environment, cultural and recreational programs for children in Pomona.
  • Jobs for Kids at Holman United Methodist Church CDC helps youth become job-ready and develop their spiritual, social, and economic potential.

Visit our Seeds of Hope page.

PARTNERSHIP GRANTS

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In 2005, the California Wellness Foundation helped the Urban Foundation provide three years of funding and on-site assistance to two partner grantees: St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and Rakestraw Community Center. Read our report “The Intersection of Faith and Wellness: How foundation-church partnerships benefit community health.”

The Foundation partnered with the Los Angeles District and Cal-Pac Conference of the United Methodist Church to incubate the Museum of Social Justice, now located at the historic La Plaza Methodist Church on Olvera Street in Los Angeles.

DIRECT SERVICE: KID CITY HOPE PLACE

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Over the years, “Seeds of Hope” grants have supported many youth organizations and youth services. In 2009, the foundation responded to a need identified by First Los Angeles United Methodist Church and with First Church founded Kid City, its first direct service program. In just a few years, Kid City grew from a safe, enriching after-school environment for very low-income children and teens in downtown Los Angeles to a college access and completion program serving hundreds of children and teens.

Visit our Kid City page.