Shelley Hoss sits at the helm of the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF), which works with individuals and businesses to match their charitable interests with community needs. Since its inception, the group has granted $225 million to provide assistance in the region and around the world.
The OCCF partnered with global consultant McKinsey & Company to publish a study that focused on three critical issues in Orange County: the “safety net” (shelter, food and employment); the health and wellness of children and families; and youth education.
Hoss says the magnitude of need revealed in the study surprised her, even though she has been working with nonprofits for decades.
“On one hand, Orange County is a place where people live in the lap of luxury, with access to top hospitals and private-school educations,” says Hoss. “But many residents are struggling when it comes to the most basic necessities: food, shelter and safety. This is the reality, and it’s happening in our backyard.
“Because there isn’t a city center, we don’t really encounter our homeless population face to face as frequently as people in other metropolitan areas do,” she says. “In Orange County, 70 percent of the homeless are families with children.”
Hoss says she hopes the OCCF/McKinsey & Company report informs and inspires more people to step up and help. Toward that end, the OCCF is building the ConnectOC Nonprofit Center. This will be a database, the first of its kind in Orange County, where potential donors can learn more about nonprofits in the area and the areas of need they address.
“I truly believe there are tens of thousands of people in Orange County who really do want to help,” Hoss says. “But how do you know where to start? When we all lived in small towns, there wasn’t the need for this infrastructure. The community knew who was hurting. People helped their neighbors.”
Hoss envisions ConnectOC as a tool to help us find our neighbors and determine whom we can help.
“This is a critical moment for us,” she says. “If we can wrap our arms around some of these issues, we can have a better quality of life for everyone in Orange County.”
The alternative is to go the way of developing countries, where there are pockets of great wealth surrounded by masses of poverty, she says.
“Orange County is really vibrant, and we’ve got incredible energy, talent and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s our moment.”
For a growing number of companies, giving back is integral to their corporate culture. Five local firms are leading the way.