Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC) Education Fund scholarship recipients pose with GLAAACC Chairman Gene Hale (center) whose foundation donated $10,000.00. L – R: Kory La Flora, Tierra Davis, Elijah Conorique, Malia Williams, Nolan Robinson Alaysia Virgil and Ruth Akingbemi.(Photo Credit: Andreas Branch)

Businessman and philanthropist Gene Hale grew up in a two-room house in Birmingham with his parents and ten siblings and has never forgotten his humble beginnings.

“I had a lot of help growing up,” said Hale, founder and president of G & C Equipment Corporation, a multimillion-dollar construction equipment leasing and distribution company based in Gardena, California. Hale is also chairman and co-founder of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC).

“We were very poor, and people helped us.  I’ll never forget that.  Sometimes people just need a little help.”

At the 20thannual GLAAACC Education Fund and Foundation Scholarship Reception in June, Hale provided a little help to college-bound high school seniors when he presented a check in the amount of $10,000 from the Hale Foundation.

Since its inception in 2006, The Hale Foundation has donated tens of thousands of dollars to provide a helping hand to low-income families, children and young adults. In addition to providing money for educational scholarship donations, The Hale Foundation has donated to organizations that give assistance to children affected by homelessness and malnutrition.  Other beneficiaries of The Hale Foundation include: the United Negro College Fund, the L.A. Southwest College Education Foundation, Inner City Arts, Parents of Watts, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and L.A. Child Guidance Clinic.

Hale’s donation provides scholarships for minority students who exhibit entrepreneurial aspirations in addition to high academic achievement and significant community service contributions.  Over the past two decades, GLAAACC’s Ed Fund has awarded 131 students from Washington Preparatory, Crenshaw, Dorsey and Jordan High Schools over $500,000 in college scholarships.

Jeffery Wallace, president and chief executive officer of LeadersUp, a nonprofit organization that provides skills training and job placement for youth was the keynote speaker at the scholarship reception.  Wallace thanked GLAAACC for opening doors for the next generation and encouraged the students to take advantage of the opportunities provided by GLAAACC and other African American executives.  He urged the students to always strive to meet their full potential.  Established in 2013, LeadersUp has placed more than 5,000 young adults in jobs with advancement potential with a 60 percent retention rate.

“You may not always be the smartest person in the room, but you can be the hardest worker in the room,” said Wallace.

This year, ten high school seniors received scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $5,500 and plan to use the funds at colleges and universities in California, Georgia and Florida.  Scholarship recipients include Milani White (accepted at UCLA, Hampton University and Howard University),  Ruth Akingbemi (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona), Hassan Hughley (Mira Costa College), Alaysia Virgil (California State University, Sacramento), Tierra Davis (California State University, Los Angeles), Elijah Dobson (Florida A&M University), Kory La Flora (University of California, Los Angeles), Nolan Robinson (Morehouse College), Malia Williams (California State University, Dominguez Hills), and Elijah Conorquie (California State University, Dominguez Hills).

Hale envisions the scholarships funded by his foundation to ultimately benefit not only the students, but the entire community.

”I’m trying to make sure that some of the kids that we give this money to understand that everyone needs a helping hand,” Hale said.  “When you get to where you think you should be, reach back into your community and help out.”

He hopes his donation will spark a trend among African American businesses and foundations to support the next generation of entrepreneurs by making an investment in their future.

“Business people are looking for the best return on their investment,” said Hale.  “Helping kids get through college, that’s the best guaranteed return on investment.”