Latino family fund raises money for charities

A few years ago 16-year-old Lizeth Villarreal would have never given a speech like the one she gave Jan. 25.

She admitted to a room filled with community leaders that as a middle school student she had suffered from stage fright and was a quiet student who rarely raised her hand in class.

Villareal is in her second year as a high schooler at Gavilan College as a part of the Gilroy Early College Academy program, already completing her associate’s degree in Spanish. Part of her success, she told the Latino Family Fund fundraiser at Fortino Winery, was when she was selected by her school advisers to participate in the fund’s Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) program.

The Latino Family Fund was founded in 2006, with the YIP program beginning in 2012 under the fund’s umbrella. YIP works with middle school-age children and gives them the chance to interview local non-profits, eventually selecting what group will be awarded grants from the fund. According to Family Fund chairman Enrique Diaz, the fund has an endowment close to $200,000, which does not account for the money already awarded to Gilroy philanthropies. Diaz said the organization is still collecting that data.

The Gilroy Foundation is the fund’s parent organization. “It’s a great relationship, and they provide great mentorship and leadership.” Diaz told the Dispatch in an email. “They routinely use our fund as a model fund for other donor advised groups.”

The Jan. 25 event began with a question-and-answer session with Ken Christopher of Christopher Ranch, a major financial supporter of the Latino Family Fund, and he announced that Christopher Ranch would be donating $10,000 to the organization.

According to Diaz, the Latino Family Fund has given to more than 50 charities since its inception. YIP chairman Ernesto Olivares said that allowing the students to pick the non-profits that are awarded funding gives them a chance to get interested in philanthropic work.

“Typically, these students get so inspired they decide to have fundraisers because they want to give more than one grant,” Olivares said.

YIP has nine mentors, and is looking for more volunteers to help expand the program to other Gilroy schools. The program also takes students on two field trips, one to a college site and another to a company; last month it was Ebay.

The fund hopes to continue to grow the YIP program to more Gilroy middle schools within the coming year. Donations can be made to the Latino Family fund at