Mutual Assistance Network

Foundation donors directed thousands of grants to local nonprofits last year. Here's how one to Mutual Assistance Network made a difference, as featured in the Spring 2021 issue of Impact Magazine.

The Fund: Frans DeBry Fund

Both before the pandemic and during, Steven DeBry has directed grants from his Foundation fund, the Frans DeBry Fund, to support many organizations that serve Sacramento’s Del Paso Heights neighborhood. Why did he give to Mutual Assistance Network, Greater Sacramento Urban League, Food Literacy Center, and Neighborhood Wellness Foundation, among others? The reason is simple: “I believed that their work would be even more important now,” he said.

The Cause: Mutual Assistance Network

For thirty years, Mutual Assistance Network has aimed to advance social and economic opportunities in Del Paso Heights so its residents can thrive. At its four community centers, it has brought economic development opportunities, youth pop-ups, parenting and elder support services, and violence prevention services to its community. At the onset of the pandemic, Mutual Assistance Network shifted much of its programming online. 

“We never closed our doors or turned our backs to the neighborhoods we serve. We increased our crisis response work, became a COVID-19 testing site, and put resources towards mental health supports for our families,” said its team members—Executive Director Danielle Lawrence, and Directors Heather Gonzalez and Katy Robb—who asked to be quoted collectively. 

They used donations like those Steven directed from his fund to step beyond the restrictions of government contracts and remain responsive to the needs of neighborhood residents—providing food, technology, and support to the families they serve, right when it was needed. They also used philanthropic gifts to test new ideas that will strengthen their work into the future, which is exactly where they’re looking now. 

During the pandemic and renewed calls for racial justice, local government leaders recognized the power of trusted organizations like Mutual Assistance Network to deliver critical information and services directly to people in their neighborhood, more effectively than any outside organization could. As a result, they were called upon to bridge crisis response efforts for the families they serve. Moving forward, Mutual Assistance Network sees opportunities to strengthen those partnerships, leveraging them to bring sustained change to Del Paso Heights.

“Nonprofits have long been underfunded and under-invested in, but when a global pandemic hit, we saw priorities, investments, and commitments shift,” they said. “Our hope is that this is not a passing moment, and the efforts of organizations like ours can continue to be lifted and supported in ways that center culturally responsive investments, equity, and transformation for communities that need it the most.”

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