Supporting foster children guides the mission of the Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation. The nonprofit, founded in 2013, develops a range of programs, services and initiatives to ensure the success of young people in the L.A. County system.
Mainly comprised of First AME Church of Los Angeles congregants, the organization’s volunteer team also includes members of other denominations as well. Binding them together is a deep love and concern for the well-being of foster children.
“Los Angeles County is home to the largest foster care population in the nation. We felt we were losing too many talented young people to the dreadful statistics of foster care, so we wanted to find ways to support these young people,” said Executive Director Jackie Broxton, who shared some of those “dreadful statistics.”
Some of the most glaring numbers are 50% of foster youth never complete high school, 15% enroll in college with only 3% graduating, and 25% suffer from PTSD – post traumatic stress disease – and experience high rates of depression and extremely low self-esteem.
The Foundation strives to counter those figures by offering access to higher education and providing mentoring support. Braxton said, “We began a scholarship program in 2018 that has exceeded over $200,000 in scholarship awards to current and former foster youth. The scholarships are for academic as well as vocational training.”
The organization aims to establish a legal clinic tailored to handle issues faced by foster youth and once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, they will resume sponsoring outings and special events for the children. Also, the Foundation is working to open a one-stop, walk-in center that caters to the physical, emotional, social and other needs of current, former and emancipated foster youth.
Although the number of foster children is large, the Foundation has chalked up some success stories in aiding youth, noted Broxton. “Recently, one of our scholarship recipients who was a senior at Cal State was faced with a car problem. She needed her car to take her young son to school and then drive a distance to Cal State.
“We were able to work with the Department of Children and Family Services to identify funding to repair her car and ensure her on-time graduation. This is a clear example of our ability to collaborate with an agency to provide support,” she recalled.
In another instance, the Foundation assisted a young lady attending college out-of –state, said Broxton. “She was experiencing challenges in getting housing and meeting her expenses. We were able to work with the university to resolve her housing issues and provide gift cards to meet her other needs.”
The Foundation certainly operates in a similar manner as its namesake, Bridgett “Biddy” Mason. A former slave, Mason was a nurse, philanthropist and real estate entrepreneur. She accumulated close to $300,000 (the equivalent of $9 million today) that she shared with charities and the poor.
Mason also opened a traveler’s center, operated an elementary school for Black children and was one of the first African Americans to purchase land in the city. In 1872, she donated the land to establish FAME, the oldest church founded by Blacks in L.A. Biddy Mason Park, located at 3rd and Spring Streets, features an artistic illustration of her life.
“She became a legendary figure in early Los Angeles, not only for her astute business acumen, but for her philanthropy. Her home on North Spring Street became a refuge for many destitute settlers and Biddy, who spoke fluent Spanish, cared for the sick and became a mentor to many,” shared Broxton.
The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation welcomes volunteers and contributions to the nonprofit. As Braxton vowed, “We’re going the distance to make a difference for foster youth.”
To learn more, call 323-697-5378.