RCIF Reaches $5 Million Mark
With investments from the Sisters of St. Francis, the Sisters of the Presentation, and a generous donation from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, the RCIF fund now stands at over $5 million and can participate as an accredited investor in both domestic and international loan funds.
“There are many people in communities throughout the world we cannot be present with, so it’s nice to know some of our resources can be there to provide assistance,” explains Sr. Patricia Rayburn, Provincial Minister of the Sisters of St. Francis. As part of an international congregation, with a global ministry extending from East Timor to Poland, the Sisters of St. Francis understood RCIF’s wish to generate worldwide impact and contributed an additional $300,000 to help the fund reach its $5 million goal. Sr. Patricia adds that by collaborating with the fund, the Sisters are living their charism of being “a sign of hope to a struggling world.” “Through RCIF,” says Sr. Patricia “we feel we are able to reach out and bring that hope to so many in need.”
“We wanted to show our support in a concrete way,” says President Sr. Stephanie Still of the Sisters of the Presentation, whose recent $200,000 investment (added to a previous $100,000 investment) establishes the congregation at the “member” level. Founded in 18th century Ireland, the Sisters of the Presentation made their way to San Francisco in 1854 to support the Irish immigrant population of the Gold Rush era. Today, the Sisters view their contribution to the fund as another way to further their charism and historical mission to serve those made poor. “It’s a win-win for religious congregations,” Sr. Stephanie says. “It’s money being well used, and safely used.”
Sr. Mary Bernadette McNulty, Treasurer of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, relates the congregation’s recent $50,000 donation to its French origins. The founding sisters in 17th century France divided cities into quadrants and ventured out on foot to assess and respond to the needs of citizens. “Fast forward to the 21st century,” says Sr. Mary Bernadette “and we see how we respond similarly to the needs of our society with compassion and care to the marginalized.” Though fewer sisters serve actively in ministry today, notes Sr. Mary Bernadette, the Sisters of St. Joseph make a commitment to share their financial resources with the underserved. “Leveraging our investment with others helps to address economic injustices nationally and internationally, something we could not do on our own.”
RCIF Investment Highlight: San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund
Many coastal California communities command some of the country’s most expensive real estate. How then can low-wage earners working in these costly areas find suitable housing? Often such workers–farm laborers, school teachers, firefighters–must resort to commuting long distances from their place of work to their place of residence just to make ends meet.
The San Luis Obispo County Housing Trust Fund (HTF) addresses this pressing issue in its mission to increase the affordable housing supply for residents with very low to moderate incomes, and those with special needs. The statistics alone reveal HTF’s positive impact on the region; two HTF financed rental projects accounted for 30% of all housing starts in the entire county in 2010. These two apartment projects, Hidden Creek Village and the Village at Broad Street, together provide affordable, secure, and energy-efficient homes for 123 households whose monthly incomes range from about $900 to $4,000.
HTF combines financing, technical assistance, and advocacy to achieve its goal. Over $9 million in contributions and investments from individuals, firms, and organizations, like RCIF, help make it all happen. “RCIF has been a wonderful partner for us,” says Executive Director Jerry Rioux. “They’ve provided us affordable capital that we have used to help create and preserve affordable housing in one of the least affordable markets in the nation.”
Recent HTF projects focus on those with special needs. The Women’s Shelter Program (WSP) received technical assistance and bridge financing that resulted in the purchase of four units now used as transitional housing. “Because of HTF’s guidance, we identified and were awarded a $720,000 state-funded transitional housing grant,” describes WSP Executive Director Marianne Kennedy. Due to the lengthy process involved in actually receiving the awarded funds, HTF provided a one-year bridge loan to close escrow quickly on the property. “It was HTF that made all the difference, they made it happen,” says Kennedy.
HTF also prevented the eviction of individuals with developmental disabilities living in units that went into foreclosure. At the foreclosure auction, HTF stepped in and provided a short-term loan of over $300,000 to another nonprofit, Tri-Counties Community Housing Corporation, who won the bid and now own and operate the property. HTF and Tri-Counties, along with both the city and county of San Luis Obispo, have since put together a long-term financing package for the units that will in turn restore long-lasting housing security for its residents.
RCIF Director Joins Oikocredit USA Board of Directors
Meet Fatima Ali: mother, cocoa grower, and accomplished leader within the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union cocoa cooperative in Ghana. With loans from Oikocredit–a nearly $700 million fund with over 26 million clients served–Fatima and over 45,000 other Kuapa Kokoo farmers share ownership in the entire bean to bar process; from cocoa production and purchasing, to the manufacturing of chocolate products at the Divine Chocolate USA and UK companies.
RCIF proudly invests in Oikocredit, and RCIF Director, Sr. Corinne Florek, now sits on Oikocredit USA’s Board of Directors. She adds extensive sustainable and socially responsible investment expertise to an organization focused particularly on supporting women and rural-based clients. “Oikocredit’s commitment to empower women is even more important now as we struggle to end poverty worldwide in the new reality of this economy,” says Sr. Corinne.
When you select a Divine Chocolate bar off the grocery shelf, your purchase contributes to an enterprise that brings strength and confidence to the entire Kuapa Kokoo community. Some of the projects and improvements already undertaken by the cooperative include new school buildings, clean water wells, mobile medical clinics, and training for women in leadership and in alternative income generating skills.
“What I like best is the women’s training,” explains Fatima, who recently visited Divine Chocolate USA as a Kuapa Kokoo National Executive Council member. “They train us to stand in front of people, how to live with our husbands and our children and how to teach our children. They also train us to use our hands to do many things outside of cocoa.” Kuapa Kokoo women learn soap making, palm nut production and palm oil extraction, batik, and snail farming. Extra income from these products helps support families between cocoa growing seasons. “At Kuapa Kokoo they don’t say ‘she is a woman, so she should sit down,’ ” Fatima adds. “Four years ago we had a male president, but now we have a woman. To me, that means Kuapa Kokoo is changing.”
By Liana S. Mortazavi