South Los Angeles non-profit gears up for an ambitious first quarter
On a sweltering August day in 1963, hundreds of thousands gathered between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. give his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. King set forth a vision of prosperity and equality.
More than five decades after the March on Washington and King’s prophetic words, Community Build, Inc. President and CEO Robert Sausedo transported his entire staff of 60 employees to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial atop the Kenneth Hahn State Recreational Park to reaffirm their commitment to King’s vision.
Leimert Park-based Community Build, Inc. (CBI) was created in the wake of the 1992 civil unrest. CBI’s mission is economic development and community revitalization through investment in human capital – specifically youth and young adults.
With a view of the vibrant downtown Los Angeles skyline in the background, Sausedo reminded his staff of King’s legacy and the agency’s role in revitalizing South Los Angeles.
“Our goal is to follow in the footsteps of Dr. King and continue to be a vehicle for hope and opportunity. We are all peacemakers that make a difference in our community,” said Sausedo.
With a focus on economic development and creating employment and job training opportunities, Sausedo outlined an ambitious timeline for the first quarter of the year.
After being out of commission in 2019, the Greater Leimert Park Village Crenshaw Corridor Business Improvement District, or BID, will once again be managed by CBI beginning in January 2020. The first quarter will also see CBI launch its first social enterprise, CBI Landscaping and Maintenance. The landscaping company will initially service the area within the BID’s boundaries before expanding to other properties.
CBI will also take possession of one of the properties it owns in Leimert Park Village, launching its second social enterprise, a full-service restaurant. The restaurant will provide an opportunity for employment, training and skill development for local youth and adults.
Sausedo also announced that the L.A. South Chamber of Commerce will relocate to CBI’s headquarters on Degnan Boulevard. He welcomed the addition of the chamber and said the chamber is solidly aligned with CBI’s economic development strategies for small businesses.
Following the meeting, Sausedo along with all 60 employees, walked through Leimert Park Village and along Crenshaw Boulevard to reach out to property owners, businesses and the community to share information about the organization’s services and programs.
For CBI Vice President of Intervention Services Leon Gullette, who developed and implemented many of the agency’s outreach programs, Sausedo’s words served to reinforced his mission. An outreach and gang intervention specialist for over two decades, Gullette has seen the effect that hopelessness and anger can have on a community.
Gullette’s first program, Project Save, was designed with the assistance of Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. Project Save was developed to assist at-risk youth ages 18 to 30 to develop skills to create a productive life.
“We help them walk through the steps of life, even the missteps , cleaning it up and going forward. It gives folks hope.” said Gullette. “Just because you messed up, doesn’t mean life is over.”
Project Save has been so successful, L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price (CD-9) and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD-8) have also incorporated the program in their districts.
Gullette also operates the South Los Angeles area Gang Reduction and Youth Development, or GYRD, program. Originally developed by the mayor’s office in 2007, the GYRD program provides counseling and case management to young people 14 to 25 years old who are in a gang or gang-affiliated. In certain areas of South Los Angeles, that’s pretty much everyone, Gullette said.
Part of South Los Angeles’s GYRD Program is street response. Gullette and his team respond to gang incidents in the street. The biggest part of the job is to intervene between two gangs and try to keep the peace. That program has become such a vital resource that CBI receives the same community requests and notifications for gang intervention that go to the police department. Gullette said this is in the hope that CBI’s staff will be the first responders to volatile situations. There has been a measurable response to their gang intervention tactics. According to Gullette, in the areas where CBI operates the GYRD program, gang-associated crimes are the lowest since the program’s inception.
Of all the programs CBI provides for the community, Gullette said the food distribution is the one that has the most visible community response. Each week, CBI distributes bags of food in four different locations. In 2019, the program, sponsored by the Sam Simon Foundation, distributed over 41,000 bags of free groceries weighing 50 pounds each loaded with non-GMO fresh vegetables, fruits and other household staples.
For more information on Community Build, Inc.’s programs and services, visit communitybuildinc.org.