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Fall 2023 Stakeholder Update from Omar Carrera, CEO

October 16, 2023

It has been a busy summer for us! As the air turns crisp and we settle into fall, I want to pause and take a moment to celebrate our progress – progress that you have been instrumental in making possible.  

Specifically, I want to share today about 1) Canal Alliance’s new and permanent headquarters, 2) progress toward our 2028 Vision and our five-year programmatic growth framework, and 3) two recent awards we were honored to receive. 

A NEW, PERMANENT HEADQUARTERS TO SUPPORT PROGRAM EXPANSION AND INCREASED IMPACT 

It is with great pride that Canal Alliance announces ownership of a new, permanent headquarters at 711 Grand Avenue in San Rafael.  

Over the past several years, Canal Alliance has explored the acquisition of its own larger facility to support strategic program growth and ensure organizational sustainability and permanency in the Latino community we serve. In November 2022, with a generous investment of $5M from longstanding donor Maja Kristin, Canal Alliance closed on the $6.94 million purchase of the San Rafael property. 

Located two and a half blocks from the San Rafael Transit Center with easy freeway access, this centrally located property includes two adjacent buildings that comprise 28,690 square feet, nearly twice the size of our current spaces at 91 Larkspur and 86 Belvedere Avenues. The new headquarters facility brings permanence to Canal Alliance and our programs and will allow for our continued expansion in meeting the immediate and long-term needs of Marin’s Latino community. 

You can learn more about our new headquarters here.  

2028 VISION AND FIVE-YEAR PROGRAM GROWTH GOALS   
In 2018, we engaged in a strategic planning process that resulted in the development of our 2028 Vision and a 10-year plan to achieve it. Now, five years later, we are halfway toward implementing our plans, reflecting on what we’ve accomplished and focused on what we have yet to achieve. Through our five-year plans for growth we will simultaneously engage in two types of work: we will 1) strengthen our existing core programs and continue to expand our workforce services while also 2) launching new initiatives in the areas of entrepreneurship support, asset building and affordable housing, all aimed at providing more financial and social stability for Latinos in Marin. It is with these objectives in mind, that I am happy to share the following news: 

WORKFORCE PROGRAM EXPANSION – NOW OFFERING FIVE PATHWAYS TO CAREER-PATH EMPLOYMENT 
In my spring letter, I shared an update about the expansion of our workforce services and the addition of two new career pathways for our clients: last fall we piloted our first cohort of a bus operator program in partnership with Golden Gate Transit, and we were anticipating the launch of a new Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) pathway. Now, I am pleased to add that we have launched one more career pathway in finance and have fully enrolled our first cohort. Offered in partnership with College of Marin, UnidosUS and Bank of America, this new training pathway will prepare clients to work in customer service and cashier roles in banks and other financial institutions.

In total, our workforce development department now offers four short-term, certificate-based pathways to industry-specific career employment, including CNA, construction, finance, and bus operator. As you know, we support all students throughout their participation in these programs and for two years after they complete their studies, helping them secure and succeed in jobs that offer living wages and benefits in their new fields. For those individuals interested in pursuing entrepreneurship, we also offer a 10-week small business development course. We currently have enrolled cohorts for all five programs. 

WORKER-OWNED CO-OP FEASIBILITY STUDY 
As I shared above, one of the five career pathway programs we offer is a Spanish-language Small Business Course, offered in partnership with the Marin Small Business Development Center. This 10-session program is offered three times per year, and currently enrolls 60 small business owners annually. As part of our five-year program growth plan, Canal Alliance has started to explore the possibility of launching worker-owned cooperatives to support Latino business owners in various industries. To determine how we might best launch and maintain successful cooperatives, we have engaged a consultant to conduct a feasibility study. Our goal is to explore development of cooperatives capable of providing our Latino entrepreneurs with access to capital, support for back-end administrative and accounting functions, and childcare. We will also explore the need and demand for such support in various industries. We anticipate the study to take four to six months and will require the consultant to conduct a member‐use and initial market analysis. I look forward to updating you on the findings from this study. 

FOSTERING COLLABORATION FOR HOUSING SOLUTIONS IN MARIN  
Our five-year programmatic growth plan also includes the development of a more robust strategy around affordable housing, focused on the “the three Ps” of protection, preservation and production. Affordable housing is a complex issue everywhere, and perhaps especially so in Marin. But what we know for sure is that our Latino community lives at the intersection of many of the symptoms of this problem: constant threat of eviction, ever-rising rents, overcrowding, poor conditions, and inadequate information on their rights as tenants. Because collaboration and coalition-building are central to much of our work at Canal Alliance, and fundamental to much of our success, we are now bringing this same approach to the issue of housing. 

On September 14, in partnership with Community Action Marin, North Marin Community Services and Legal Aid of Marin, we convened regional housing experts at Dominican University of California to begin to build momentum to address this worsening crisis. At the event, Building Bridges for Marin Housing Solutions, Canal Alliance and our partner organizations called for coalition-building, innovative collaborations, and unity across Marin jurisdictions to protect, preserve, and produce housing for Marin’s most vulnerable residents. The event brought together housing leaders from across the County who are dedicated to making housing change and facilitated a conversation about practical and achievable next steps. This event represents the beginning of our coalition-building work, which we know will be necessary to make change here in Marin. While Canal Alliance alone cannot solve this problem, together so much is possible and we invite you to follow us on this issue as we develop stronger partnerships and plans aimed at supporting our vulnerable community members who also provide essential support to our workforce, our economy and our culture. 

CANAL ALLIANCE RECIPIENT OF TWO SIGNFICANT AWARDS 

CANAL ALLIANCE NAMED UNIDOSUS CALIFORNIA REGIONAL AFFILIATE OF THE YEAR 
I am delighted to share that Canal Alliance was named the 2023 UnidosUS Regional Affiliate of the Year. In July, during the awards gala marking the conclusion of UnidosUS’s 2023 annual conference, UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía presented the award to Richard Martinez, our chief program officer. At the conference, Canal Alliance joined thousands of community and business leaders, young advocates and allies from UnidosUS affiliates across the country to discuss issues affecting the Latino community. 

STRENGTHENING LATINX ADVOCACY WITH THE SAN FRANCISCO FOUNDATION 
At Canal Alliance, we have always understood the power of collaboration, and that when we come together and build bridges, we can shape policies and drive the change our communities need. This same spirit is reflected as the San Francisco Foundation (SFF) is bringing together a cohort of leaders from ten Latinx-led organizations across the Bay Area, including Canal Alliance, to strengthen Latinx power-building and advocacy infrastructure across the Bay Area.  

This powerful collaboration was set in motion through a generous grant of $3 million from SFF. Each Latinx-led organization that is a part of this powerful cohort will benefit from a $250,000 grant dispersed over two years. The funding provides much-needed general operating support and resources for the development of trainings and activities designed to enhance Latinx advocacy and power-building. 
 
The cohort’s first convening, hosted by SFF, was a forum for peer learning and relationship building. As Aaron Burnett, Canal Alliance’s Director of Policy and Civic Engagement (PACE), shared, “This was an initial step to coalesce around the top issues affecting the Latinx community. This collective approach enables us to voice our concerns more effectively and to push for transformational changes.”  
 
We are honored and excited to be a part of this initiative and look forward to future convenings.  

In closing, I want to reiterate my gratitude for all that you do for Canal Alliance and for the Latino community we serve. If you would like to learn more about any of the news shared in this letter or schedule a visit or tour, please reach out to me directly, or contact Jennifer Caynan, Senior Manager of Leadership Giving, at jenniferc@canalalliance.org

Our growth and progress are possible because of your support. Together, we are building a better Marin for all.  

Gracias,

 Omar Carrera, CEO of Canal Alliance

Omar Carrera 
Chief Executive Officer 

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