Sunday, December 23, 2012

And Where Do You "Where To?": Foundation for Second Chances and Board President Tara Davis-Quarrie

Anyone who knows me know that as passionate as I am about eating, drinking and being merry,
I’m even more passionate about giving back to the community.

And, even more importantly, I’m insanely passionate about my peers doing the same thing! My fellow college alum Tara Davis-Quarrie recently became President of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Second Chances (FFSC), an extremely active nonprofit that provides community and educational resources to inner-city youth in the Los Angeles area, and which has also been selected as an official charity partner of the 2013 L.A. Marathon.

She invited me to cover FFSC’s 3rd Annual Leadership Awards Brunch earlier this month at Hollywood’s Premiere Supper Club. Proud of her for taking up such a noteworthy cause, I packed my camera, pen, pad and recorder with the quickness, excited to head over and learn more about what she and this organization are doing.

The brunch gathered about 50 movers-and-shakers and moguls to pay homage to the theme of the year, “A Beacon of Light.”

“We wanted to honor people in the community that have acted as a beacon of light in areas that don’t necessarily get a lot of light,” Ms. Davis-Quarrie explained to me. Award recipients (pictured below) included:

Service in Arts & Entertainment Award
Faith Evans, GRAMMY artist
Community Service Award 
Alejandro Menchaca, Esq., attorney and community activist
Volunteer of the Year Award
Su-yin Kok, Education
Service in Business Award
Brad Johnson and Govind Armstrong, Post and Beam
Service in Education Award
Fernando Pullum, Musican/
Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center

The brunch was quite a classy affair and included an informative video that explained why Founder/Executive Director Melissa Wyatt launched the NPO eight years ago, brief speeches from the honorees and even a guest appearance from GRAMMY artist Estelle to discuss an upcoming collaboration project with her own NPO, the All of Me Foundation.

As moving as the brunch was, it was even more meaningful to exclusively talk in-depth with Ms. Davis-Quarrie about her involvement, minutes before showtime.

Here’s what she had to share – read on!

What everyone should know about the Foundation for Second Chances: “I would just let them know that although there are many foundations in the Los Angeles area, the Foundation for Second Chances really prides itself on taking personal initiative and personal investment into all the programs that we do,” says Ms. Davis-Quarrie. “We have really, really dedicated volunteers. We make sure that the people who do volunteer with us are familiar with the organization prior to even offering their services, and a lot of people that we have onboard and on staff have grown up in the Los Angeles area and have a connection to it. For instance, we have a board member whose – her own nieces and nephews went through the program when they were young, so she has a very deep connection to it.”

The foundation’s programs: “We do after-school programs, mentoring, tutoring,” says Ms. Davis-Quarrie. “We also have the reading wheels program, which happens once a month, where we read to kids in the local area.”

“And our most recent program,” she adds. “We partnered with GRAMMY-winner Estelle’s foundation, the All of Me Foundation. We’re really excited to work with her on a number of projects, because her foundation focuses on empowerment of young girls, which is an area we have not tapped into yet. Although some organizations do like to focus on one thing, we like empowering youth in as many areas as possible.”

Biggest accomplishment for 2012: “[Partnering with the All of Me Foundation] was our biggest connection,” says Ms. Davis-Quarrie. “We have always been looking to partner with different organizations that are doing the same thing. We don’t believe that we can do everything to help the youth in L.A., but we’re always looking for people who are like-minded and organizations that are like-minded. And to find someone with that kind of reach and that kind of dedication to her own program was definitely a big thing for us.”

2013 expectations:  “We’re looking to have more involvement with the community,” says Ms. Davis-Quarrie. “We really want to get people to different mixers and what not, just to let people know this is who we are – this is what we do. If you want to be a part of it, you can, and it doesn’t mean that you have to be a board member. You could even be a volunteer. You could come read to kids one day a month.”

How she first got involved: “I realized that I was at a point in my career where I really wanted to get some board experience, and I reached out to a number of organizations that were looking for people; anybody that was really willing to help someone new,” she says. “I met with Melissa Wyatt, who’s the executive director. We had quite a few conversations before we decided that we would each be a good fit for one another, and that’s how I came onboard.”

Her stance on nonprofits and young adults: “There’s not a lot of young people on boards in the Los Angeles area,” she observes. “If they are, they’re looked at as the token young person, which I hope changes over time because we have plenty of ideas. And I think our generation right now is the biggest. We’ve created the biggest jump in nonprofit employment over the last few years. I think it’s important for us to get that experience, and to enjoy it.”

Her thoughts on the brunch: “All of our awardees today really exemplify to us what it meant to be a beacon of light in a small area,” Ms. Davis-Quarrie says. “Sometimes people forget as big as L.A. is, there’s small pockets, and sometimes those need a little bit of extra light shone on them. We wanted to do something intimate. We didn’t want a huge, big party – that’s not really what our goal was. We have events like that, but we really wanted to just gather a small group of people and say thank you so much for what you do in the community because we help the same community.”

Her “Where To” destination:
“I really like Corkbar, downtown L.A.,” Ms. Davis-Quarrie admits. “Have you ever been there?”

[Miss Wilson inserts: “Love that place.”] “I love Corkbar,” she laughs. “That’s one of my favorite places, definitely. And I like doing stuff kind of off the beaten path. I’m a big museum girl, different exhibits and what not. There is so much to do in L.A. – so, so much to do, and you can go – there are some museums I can go to over and over and over: the Getty in Malibu, the Villas in Malibu – that’s one of my favorites…”

“So yeah…I don’t really go out too, too much,” she concludes, laughing. “But when I do, other people usually make the decision. That’s why I would have to read your blog to find out!”

For More information and to get involved:
Foundation for Second Chances, Facebook, @2ndChancesInc

 * Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for reading ease.

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