The SAM Initiative made several donations recently, See Page 2 for more information. Courtesy photo.

The SAM Initiative made several donations recently.

The SAM Initiative, an LA-based giving circle whose members pool their financial resources and experiences to fund and support nonprofits, has announced its grants totaling $285,000. The grants have been awarded to A New Way of Life, Safe Parking L.A., San Fernando Valley Refugee Children Center, WISE Readers to Leaders, Social Venture Partners Los Angeles, and Homeboy Industries’ newest social enterprise, Feed HOPE.

The non-profit giving circle was founded by Mindy Freedman in 2013 and is committed to driving social change and nonprofit sustainability.

Each year, SAM selects causes and organizations that address the most urgent needs in communities throughout Los Angeles. When the COVID-19 reached Los Angeles and shut the city down, SAM saw that the crisis exposed devastating inequalities and worsened challenges for underprivileged populations throughout the country.

“The unprecedented times demanded from us an immediate response,” reflects Freedman. “We reached out to our recipients and reassured them of our support. Based on those conversations and best practices set by other funders, we decided to expedite our funding and direct our giving to their greatest needs.” Adapting to the stay-at-home orders, SAM shifted all of its meetings and even its award celebration to Zoom.

This year’s recipients quickly pivoted their programs, to meet the needs of those they serve. One SAM recipient, Homeboy Industries’ Feed HOPE, was born out of the crisis. “COVID-19 has created significant food insecurity across LA, as more than 1 million people have lost their jobs and many places have shut down that provided a social safety net for those in need,” says former president of Fiji Water, Elizabeth Stephenson, who now is the Interim Executive Director for Feed HOPE.

Homeboy Industries stated that “SAM’s nimble structure and generosity allowed us to immediately address this crisis. Feed HOPE is now making more than 10,000 pre-packaged meals a week for homebound seniors, youth at risk, and others negatively impacted by the COVID crisis.”

The SAM Initiative granted A New Way of Life $95,000 to provide housing, case management, pro bono legal services, advocacy, and leadership development for women rebuilding their lives after prison. Susan Burton, the Founder applauded the SAM Initiative in their efforts to help formerly incarcerated women who are unseen and forgotten about much of the time,” she says. “By the time that we received the grant, the whole world was in crisis and funding had become that much more crucial. Receiving this grant was critical to the lives of the women that we serve and allowed us to expand our services and staffing at the very moment that the need was greatest.”

SAM members were humbled and moved by this year’s grant process. “Being a member of The SAM Initiative has allowed me to not only learn about the tremendous need in the LA area but to also make a difference,” says member Melanie Neumann. “Coming together as women and making change together brings me so much joy. A giving circle can open your eyes to organizations that you may have never found. Having the opportunity to collaborate and give as a group is a powerful way for social change to begin.”

SAM board member, Sophie Alpert, agrees: “SAM is so much more than a collective giving circle. I am inspired by the thoughtful conversations, and the ability our organization has to leverage a multitude of valuable skills while providing opportunities for members to dive deeper into social issues and get involved personally with organizations that speak to their passions.”

The SAM Initiative is coming up on its eighth funding cycle and is committed to educating themselves and addressing immediate needs. “We will use our platform to shine a light on inequality and to serve the community with even greater compassion and tolerance,” says Freedman.

For more information on The SAM Initiative, visit

Submitted by Michelle Ohayon