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 central and south Los Angeles with small grants to faith and community-based programs, and to support the study of urban ministry at the Claremont School of Theology.
Now in its 36th year, the foundation’s longevity and stability, combined with the professional expertise of staff and a widespread and diverse volunteer corps, has led to a more focused ministry on youth and young adult development and leadership. The church continues to provide leadership to the foundation through the Urban Foundation board chair, Stewart Kwoh, and board members Rev. Mandy McDow, Ginny Brideau, Sara Munshin, and Naty Rico.
In 2008, First Church invited the Urban Foundation into a partnership to serve youth in the church by founding Kid City Hope Place. Now in its tenth year, Kid City has encouraged and supported over 350 low-income, first-generation students to enroll in college, touched the lives of thousands of students and family members, and has over 50 college graduates, many of whom return to volunteer, mentor, serve as staff, and have even joined the Urban Foundation board of directors. Long-time church member and original Kid City founding member, Kwesi Essilfie now serves as program coordinator of Kid City, and Kid City alumna Naty Rico provides the children's program at First Church. First Church continues to be the lead partner in Kid City, and the program is enriched by this affiliation. We are blessed to be a partner of First Church!
Claremont School of Theology
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
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. Over the years, “Seeds of Hope” grants have supported many youth organizations and youth services. In 2009, the foundation made a decision to align its Seeds of Hope grants with its programmatic approach at Kid City. Since then, grants have been awarded to partner organizations that like the Urban Foundation and Kid City, lift up youth and young adults and provide warm and welcoming spaces for them to grow in leadership and prepare them for college and careers. We are proud to partner with these programs, including Holman United Methodist Church Community Development Corp., which has evolved fully from grantee in 2012, to full-fledged collaborator today. Holman's Jobs for Kids and Youth at Work programs keep the Urban Foundation programs fully staffed during the summer months, when those programs provide essential job training and pay for student interns.
2015 Seeds of Hope grantees included:
- Peace Camp at United University Church
- "Mi Familia" at Baldwin Park United Methodist Church
- We Lift LA, a program operating out of St. Paul's United Methodist Church
For the last three years, the foundation has paused its grant making program in order to strengthen its infrastructure and build its endowment. We hope
In 2005, the California Wellness Foundation helped the Urban Foundation provided 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 in 2010 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. The museum continues to be a fiscal sponsee of the Urban Foundation and an important and esteemed collaborative partner.
DIRECT SERVICE: KID CITY HOPE PLACE
In 2009, the foundation responded to a need identified by youth of First Los Angeles United Methodist Church for a neighborhood after-school program. Those five kids, the Foundation and First Church partnered to found Kid City, our first direct service program. In just a few years, Kid City grew from a safe, enriching after-school environment for low-income children and teens in downtown Los Angeles to an excellent and highly regarded college access and completion program serving hundreds of youth and young adults. Kid City has grown thanks to the support of local foundations, donors, and other contributors, and is now a national model for faith-affiliated college access and completion programs. Kid City also offers an outstanding music program, offering music lessons to young people who otherwise would not have access. Please read more about this amazing program on our Kid City page.