Bakersfield Homeless Center named Bank of America's 2021 Neighborhood Champion

·2 min read

Dec. 1—The Bakersfield Homeless Center was announced Wednesday as Bank of America's 2021 Neighborhood Champion for its work addressing homelessness and food insecurity in Kern County.

The designation comes with a $50,000 grant and leadership training meant to help the organization take its services to the next level.

This is the third Neighborhood Champion award given in Kern County. The first went to Garden Pathways in 2019. The second was awarded to the Boys & Girls Club of Kern County, which was attempting to continue its services early in the coronavirus pandemic.

"It goes to an organization that has made a difference and we want to continue to help move them to the opportunity to make a greater impact," Karen Zuber, president of Bank of America Bakersfield, said of the award.

She noted the organization's efforts to provide educational enrichment to homeless students through the Champ Camp program. The program offers tutoring and homework help to children aged five to 13. During the pandemic, when many students across the state struggled academically, the program proved especially vital.

"The Champ Camp was really there to help the students during the pandemic," she said. "The kids at the homeless center, they were not only impacted by a global pandemic, but during their time of homelessness and a school shutdown, those poor kids have been through so much."

The Homeless Center is not only in the early stages of moving to a new location, where it plans to increase its capacity by 200 beds, but the organization hopes to use the grant and training to more carefully track client outcomes to improve its service.

"We really try to make our environment at the homeless center a place of wrap-around services and 360 degrees of kindness to our clients," said Homeless Center CEO Lauren Skimore. "We know that once people come to our doors, we are going to do our best to make sure they have everything they need."

As part of the training, Homeless Center leaders will receive guidance on topics like human capital management, increasing financial sustainability and storytelling. In addition to the Neighborhood Champions award, Bank of America has donated $95,000 to the Homeless Center along with 200 toys.

Skidmore said the Homeless Center was beginning to enter a period of growth, and the grant would help the organization with the process.

"We're just really grateful for their continued support and partnership," she added.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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