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WVCS check-2

Silicon Valley’s economy is booming, but pockets of poverty exist. Non-profit agencies that provide housing and support services to the low income and homeless say despite the region’s economic prosperity, they are seeing more families and youth in need.

“Life can change suddenly for anyone. When crisis hits, things happen and a family can become homeless,” said Kohinoor Chakravarty, director of Development and Communications for West Valley Community Services (WVCS).

At a meeting held in the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) office in Cupertino, Chakravarty said the agency, which serves underprivileged families and the homeless in Cupertino, Saratoga, West San Jose, Monte Sereno and Los Gatos, provides 672,380 pounds of food to low-income and homeless families and $167,829 in emergency assistance for rent, utilities and deposits. Its food pantry provides 1,223 individuals with groceries, household items, diapers and personal care items. The agency also has special programs that help families during the holidays and school year with holiday food baskets and shopping spree, its backpack program and back-to-school event, which helps over 100 children shop for clothes for school.

WVCS has also opened food pantries in De Anza and Foothill colleges for about 200 students who are homeless, with no food or place to live. “High rents forced their families to move out of the area, but these students chose to stay because they know finishing their education is the only way to get out of the cycle of poverty,” said Chakravarty.

Marie Bernard, executive director with Sunnyvale Community Services, told REALTORS® that homelessness and hunger in Santa Clara County are exacerbated by skyrocketing rents. One-bedroom apartments are renting for $2,542 on average, and two-bedroom apartment rents average $3,228.

“For many families, it’s a choice of rent over food,” said Bernard.

Like WVCS, SCS is the first stop for families seeking help. Last year, the agency helped 7,991 low-income residents, a 16 percent increase from 2015. The agency has also extended its help to the Alviso area, where there are many people who are underserved and families whose homes are red-tagged because their utility bills are backed up for six to eight months.

“Keeping people fed and housed is the best economic investment our county can make,” said Bernard. She said while it costs to feed and help the poor, it would cost more if the county did not provide the help.

Chakravarty and Bernard said the non-profits cannot provide their services without help from residents who volunteer to help sort the food and distribute them to needy families. Local grocery stores donate food to their food pantries.

“Without volunteers uniting behind us, we cannot do this work. You can make it happen because you are our community,” Chakravarty told the REALTORS®.

SILVAR’s Cupertino/Sunnyvale District, through the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation, has donated $750 to West Valley Community Services. The donation will be used to purchase backpacks for WVCS’s Back-To-School Backpacks program. Pictured above with the big check are Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour director Mark Burns with Chakravarty.







The Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation donated $93,000 in 2016 to non-profit organizations that help the homeless and low-income individuals and families in Silicon Valley. Funds this year also went to scholarships for graduating seniors from public high schools in the region.

The Charitable Foundation is a trust which makes grants available to organizations from donations by REALTORS® and affiliate members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR). In addition to voluntary contributions from members, grants are funded by proceeds from the local trade association’s district fundraisers, like the Los Gatos/Saratoga District Annual Bocce Ball Tournament and the Los Altos/Mountain View District Annual Pumpkin Auction. SILVAR represents over 5,000 REALTORS® and affiliate members engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay.

The 2016 Charitable Foundation grant recipients include Adolescent Counseling Services, which provides a network of skilled family therapists and support groups for teens and young adults in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties; Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, which seeks to provide stability to children who have experienced abuse and neglect; East Palo Alto Kids Foundation, which promotes educational opportunities for students in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park; Friends of Deer Hollow Farm, an educational farm located in the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve; JustRead, a cross-generational program composed of retired professionals who teach reading and writing basics to students who did not learn these skills in earlier grades; LifeMoves, which provides services to enable the homeless to return to stable housing and self-sufficiency; Westwind 4-H Riding for the Handicapped, which provides children with disabilities the opportunity to have fun while improving their coordination and strengthening their muscles; and Youth Community Services, which provides service learning and leadership activities to underserved students in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

From money raised to support further education for U.S. veterans, the Charitable Foundation presented $10,000 each to Palo Alto University and West Valley Community College, and $25,000 to Foothill-De Anza Foundation, an auxiliary organization of the Foothill-De Anza Community Colleges District for the creation of “The John Tripp – Silicon Valley REALTORS® Veterans Scholarship Endowment.” The late John Tripp was a veteran of the Korean War and past president of SILVAR and the Charitable Foundation.

As part of its annual scholarship program, the Charitable Foundation presented a $1,000 grant to each of 18 graduating seniors from public high schools in Silicon Valley. The foundation has been assisting students with the scholarship grants for the past 17 years. SILVAR’s districts, through the Foundation, also donated $6,195 raised at the annual Los Gatos/Saratoga District Pumpkin Auction to the Family Giving Tree for Operation Reindeer; $1,350 each to the West Valley Community Services and Sunnyvale Community Services backpack programs for needy students and $1,000 to the Cupertino Educational Endowment Foundation raised by the Cupertino/Sunnyvale District; and $1,797 raised by the Los Altos/Mountain View District at its spring and fall Legal Updates to Community Services Agency.

“It has become more costly to live in Silicon Valley, so we thank our members for being so generous in supporting the foundation year after year,” said Eileen Giorgi, president of the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation. “With our members’ continued support for and contributions to the communities where they work and live, we are able to continue our commitment to the welfare and prosperity of these communities.”


Some sectors of Silicon Valley may be prospering, but there is another side to the valley, that of individuals and families struggling to make ends meet. Their number is rising, according to non-profit agency officials, and striking is these days is more among the needy are younger clients, many of them students.

At last week’s Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting, Marie Bernard, Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS) executive director, said in response to the rising need, SCS has deepened its programs and will be extending services to those in need in the Alviso area.

SCS helps over 7,000 residents in the Sunnyvale area with food, in-kind assistance and financial aid. Bernard said SCS is very focused on the young and seniors – 39 percent of SCS clients are under the age of 18 and 14 percent are seniors.

Every Monday, the agency distributes 30 to 40 pounds of free fresh produce to an estimated 900 families. Clients are able to pick up for additional bags of nutritious food to help stretch their budgets a little further. SCS also provides children school meals throughout the year, including the summer months. In addition to all these, the SCS has a food pantry program, where families can shop once a month for meats, dairy items, canned food, household supplies, paper products, and more.

The nonprofit provides emergency financial assistance to low-income Sunnyvale residents who have been hit with an unexpected expense, like a major car repair, medical bills and other emergencies that can throw them off their budget.

“We help those who are one bill away from being homeless,” said Bernard.

Bernard explained by the time residents come to the SCS for help, they are already strapped with loans. Many are victims of payday lenders who charge interest rates as high as 459 percent on an annual basis, and owe these lenders thousands of dollars.

Kohinoor Chakravarty, director of Development and Communications for West Valley Community Services (WVCS), painted the same sad picture of the plight of the needy when she presented an overview of the agency’s services at the SILVAR district REALTORS® tour meeting last May.

Like SCS, WVCS is a non-profit, community-based agency that provides direct assistance and referral services to needy individuals and families. Clients served by the agency reside in Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, West San Jose and the unincorporated mountain regions.

Chakravarty noted the agency is seeing many students who are homeless and hungry. There are 200 students from De Anza College who are homeless. Their families cannot afford the rising rents in the area and have moved away. The students have chosen to stay so they can finish their studies. Since they cannot afford to rent an apartment, some couch surf; others live in their cars.

“It’s a sad situation,” said Chakravarty. In response to the rising needs of homeless and hungry students, she announced WVCS will be establishing food pantries at the De Anza and West Valley community colleges.

Currently 1,614 individuals are served through the WVCS food pantry and 770,515 pounds of food are distributed to clients. There are 231 individuals enrolled in food stamps, free/reduced lunches and health insurance.

WVCS also provides $100,615 in emergency financial assistance to 69 households. Among the agency’s special programs are its holiday food baskets, which are distributed to 212 needy families; holiday shopping spree serving 593 families; and its Back-to-School event, which helps 120 children shop for clothes for school.

In addition to the opening of the food pantries at the community colleges, the WVCS executive director announced the agency will be starting a mobile care service. With a newly acquired vehicle, the agency will be dropping off basic food and health services to its beneficiaries, since many clients travel two hours to receive the services.




The Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation donated $29,500 in grants and scholarships this year, as part of the Silicon Valley REALTORS®’ outreach to help the communities where they live and work. The Charitable Foundation is a trust which makes grants available to organizations from donations by members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®.

Grants are annually presented to different non-profit organizations that help homeless and low-income individuals and families in Silicon Valley. The 2012 grant recipients include Friends of Deer Hollow Farm, Youth Community Services (YCS), Westwind 4-H Handicapped Riding Institute, JustREAD (on campus of Mountain View/Los Altos Union High School District) and East Palo Alto Kids Foundation (EPAK).

As part of its annual scholarship program, the Charitable Foundation likewise presented a $1,000 grant to each of 18 graduating seniors from public high schools in Silicon Valley. The Foundation has been assisting students with the scholarship grants for the past 13 years

In addition to voluntary contributions from members, grants are funded by proceeds from the local trade association’s annual charitable foundation golf tournament and fundraiser and donations from the REALTOR® group’s districts to their local community nonprofit organizations. Donations from the districts included $1,200 for backpacks for needy students through West Valley Community Services and $1,000 to the Cupertino Education Endowment Foundation.

John Tripp, 2012 president of the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation, said the Charitable Foundation grants support three main causes: families, youth and housing. He thanked members for their contributions and fundraisers this year in support of the foundation.

“We thank our members and friends for being so generous and supporting the foundation in 2012,” said Tripp. “Please support this cause in 2013, as well, so we can continue our commitment to the welfare and prosperity of communities where we live and work.”

The Charitable Foundation trustees meet quarterly to evaluate grant applications. Serving on the 2013 Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation Board of Trustees are Tripp, Lehua Greenman, Jimmy Kang, Carolyn Miller and Susan Sweeley.

Non-profit organizations operating within the areas served by the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® are eligible for grant consideration provided they meet certain guidelines. The guidelines include community need for the expenditure and people who will be served; impact on the recipient organization; location of the community served; financial soundness and efficiency of the organization; accuracy and completeness of the application; structure of volunteer organization and level of volunteer support; and  appropriate use of the Foundation’s previous grants (if applicable).

The Charitable Foundation trustees meet quarterly (March, June, September, and December) to evaluate applications. Applications must be received by Feb. 15, May 15, Aug. 15, and Nov. 15 in order to be considered at the quarterly meeting. For more information and details about the Charitable Foundation grants and an application form, visit, or call SILVAR at (408) 200-0100.

Mark Burns, Sujatha Venkatraman and Carolyn Miller pose by all the backpacks donated by the District.

Thanks to the Cupertino/Sunnyvale District, 62 students from low-income families in the Cupertino and Sunnyvale school districts will be sporting new backpacks at the beginning of this school year. The backpacks are an annual project of the District.

The backpacks were presented to Sujatha Venkatraman, director of Stability Support Services for West Valley Community Services, at yesterday’s Cupertino/Sunnyvale District tour meeting. The non-profit agency distributes the backpacks yearly to disadvantaged students in both communities. Venkatraman thanked SILVAR members for continuing to support the program through the years.

“We value your support each year,” said Venkatraman.

Venkatraman said in addition to backpacks, WVCS is partnering with JCPenney in Cupertino to allow local children the chance to shop for new back-to-school clothing tomorrow, August 4. She said volunteers paired with each child help the children choose which items they need and keeping track of how much they have spent.

According local school officials, a child who comes from a family where there is significant economic or emotional crisis tends to have major attendance issues in school. In addition, families who are already struggling to pay for basic needs, face difficult choices, such as having to compromise on rent, gas, food, etc. so their children can get the essentials needed for school success, like backpacks, school supplies and appropriate clothing. Many families cannot afford new clothes for their school-aged children, which can hinder both attendance and successful learning. Venkatraman said the support from SILVAR and other businesses in the community help make the school year brighter for the children.

SILVAR past president and PRDS President Mark Burns, Charitable Foundation trustee Carolyn Miller and WVCS executive director Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto display the big check $2,000 to West Valley Community Services (WVCS).

This week, the Silicon Valley REALTORS® Charitable Foundation presented $2,000 to West Valley Community Services, a private non-profit, community-based agency that provides direct assistance and referral services to over 6,000 individuals and families annually in the communities of Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, West San Jose and the unincorporated mountain regions.

Receiving the check from Charitable Foundation Trustee Carolyn Miller, Naiomi Nakano-Matsumoto, executive director of West Valley Community Services (WVCS), thanked SILVAR members. She said the 2011 Homeless Point in Time survey has indicated an estimated 7,042 individuals are experiencing homelessness in Santa Clara County each night. While there are some signs the economy is improving, it doesn’t appear that way for some individuals and families, according to Nakano-Matsumoto.

Nakano-Matsumoto said the Charitable Foundation grant will support the WVCS Comprehensive Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP), a program which provides one-time financial assistance to prevent homelessness, hunger and utility disconnection for individuals and families experiencing unexpected financial setbacks.

WVCS also has the Haven to Home program, which provides supportive services and stable housing to homeless individuals and families; 30 homeless persons have been moved to permanent housing. The WVCS Transitional Housing Program houses 12 homeless men and six single mothers with a child. The program provides them with skills so they can secure permanent housing, find and maintain employment, and enhance income opportunity. WVCS likewise owns and operates Vista Village Apartments Complex, a permanent housing for low-income households.

Nakano-Matsumoto said the agency is in great need of volunteers to pick up, carry, as well as distribute food to the homeless. She added that they are short on food items. She said Second Harvest Food Bank, one of the groups with whom WVCS partners, is low on food items, so the agency has had to seek other partnerships to support its food program. 

“It is such a rewarding feeling for all of our District members to be able to share with others in and around our local community. Naomi always fills us in as to where the money will be going. . . .always to great causes. We are so happy we’re able to send consistent contributions to this worthy cause,” Miller, who also serves as SILVAR’s 2012 president-elect.

The Cupertino First-time Home Buyer Seminar held last Saturday was well-attended.

The City of Cupertino and SILVAR’s Equal Opportunity Committee partnered to present a First-Time Home Buyer Seminar at the Cupertino Community Hall last Saturday. SILVAR members served as panelists in discussions focusing on credit information and tips for first-time home buyers. A third segment of the seminar was presented by The Housing Trust of Santa Clara County.

Presenting advice on credit, Richard Miller (Proficio Mortgage Ventures), Kenneth Chan (HSBC), and Jimmy Kang (Bank of America) stressed now, more than ever, your FICO score is very important. Miller recommended that potential buyers check their FICO score at least once a year to make sure their credit report is accurate; six credit cards are ideal; and make sure debt on each credit card is no more than 30 percent of the allowed credit. Chan informed international buyers of requirements for buying property here in the U.S. Kang talked about the different loans available for buyers.

A panel of REALTORS® with Chris Alston (Keller Williams Realty), Nina Daruwalla (Coldwell Banker), Grace Keng (Re/Max Real Estate Services), and Moise Nahouraii (Referral Realty) informed prospective home buyers that these days, in addition to having a good credit rating and history, they need to get pre-approved by a lender before they start looking at homes or contacting a real estate professional. They differentiated between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent, stressing REALTORS® pledge to abide by a Code of Ethics. They reminded buyers there is no “perfect home,” but with the help of a REALTOR® who is knowledgeable and employing good negotiating strategies, one can find the best property for the best value and clinch the deal.

Dan Lachman, program manager of The Housing Trust of Santa Clara County, then shared information on programs that provide financial assistance to first-time homebuyers, including the Closing Cost Assistance Program (CCAP), the Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP) and Equity Share Co-Investment (ESCO).

“Almost 80 percent of all home searches today begin on the Internet. With just a few clicks of the mouse, home buyers can search through hundreds of online listings, view virtual tours of neighborhoods and homes,” said Tess, Crescini, chair of SILVAR’s Equal Opportunity Committee. “Many prospective home buyers don’t realize a lot of preparation is needed before their search. We hope we were able to educate them about these important steps, so their home buying experience can be successful.”

Crescini moderated the SILVAR panels, along with Sue Bose, who is also a member of the committee. The weekend seminar was held in observance of Affordable Housing Week. Also represented at the event were credit counselors from SurePath, West Valley Community Services, Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley, Project Sentinel and Habitat for Humanity.

See article and more photos on here.

October 2017
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