Q&A with Bruce Andelson, Aviva Family and Children's Services Board Member
When we first started In Good Company in 2020, it was a way for us to focus on the positive stories in our community amid the lows of the pandemic. As the conversation around re-opening California continues, we're proud to evolve our blog and newsletter to feature clients and friends of the firm on our blog to showcase the impressive ways in which individuals and companies are giving back or impacting our community.
In this Q&A, Corporate Partner Bruce Andelson is interviewed by Gail Russo-Larsson, Grants Manager at Aviva Family and Children's Services, regarding his involvement in the organization and what they are doing at the Wallis House.
Gail: Can you introduce yourself and share what your role is at Aviva Family and Children’s Services?
Bruce: I am a corporate partner at Greenberg Glusker and have been involved with Aviva as a member of its Board of Directors, for more than 10 years. I have served as the Board Chair, Finance Committee Chair, and Audit Committee Chair. Currently, in addition to being a Board member, I also sit on the Finance Committee. I contribute my expertise to assisting Aviva to be vigilant in managing their resources so the organization can continue to do its best work now and into the future. In 2015, I was recognized by CSQ magazine (C-Suite Quarterly) in their list of Leaders in Philanthropy in Los Angeles for my role at Aviva. CSQ also named Aviva Family and Children's Services, a Top 100 Regional Philanthropies You Should Know in 2016 and 2018.
Gail: What prompted you to get involved with nonprofits?
Bruce: I have always felt that it is important to give back. It is not enough to be thankful for what I have – it is important to share with, and help others. Doing so not only makes for a more just society, but a better world in which to live.
My parents were long-time financial supporters and board members for more than 25 years at Aviva before I became involved. I saw the sizable impact that Aviva has on youth by helping empower them to turn around their lives. I continue to witness how the organization’s work transforms the lives of thousands of young people and their families across Los Angeles.
My parents inspired me, and in turn, my own children, to carry on the tradition of philanthropy and a commitment to Aviva. My daughter, Sari Megan Kern founded and chairs The Associate Board of Professionals at Aviva where she is committed to engaging young leaders in Aviva’s mission.
Gail: Can you share more about Aviva and their mission?
Bruce: Aviva believes every child and every family in our Los Angeles community deserves the chance for a brighter future. Aviva provides compassionate support, therapeutic services, and guidance to at-risk children and families. Aviva is are a nonprofit, non-sectarian 501(c)(3) organization working within four main program focus areas:
- MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES - Aviva nurtures and supports at-risk families and children. Through compassionate care, Aviva helps create resilient children and families. Through schools, youth and family courts, and programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Aviva strengthens families as they transition out of the social welfare system. With culturally sensitive, trauma-informed services, families transform their lives.
- CRISIS INTERVENTION - When families and children are in crisis, Aviva encourages and empowers them to heal. Through mental health services and support, together Aviva identifies a path to preserve family unity. Aviva provides team-based, multidisciplinary services and individualized family plans that are collaborative, community-based and family-centered.
- FOSTER AND ADOPTION - Aviva stabilizes and protects every child’s sense of belonging. Through Aviva’s foster and adoption services, the organization supports and creates stronger families for LA’s most vulnerable children.
- SUPPORTIVE HOUSING FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN - Aviva houses and heals young women so they can lift themselves out of homelessness. Wallis House offers shelter, clothing, meals, therapeutic services, job readiness skills, and mental health services. It is a place that lifts up young women and their families. With the help of the City and County of Los Angeles, as well as community partners, Wallis House is a key partner in addressing the homelessness crisis across the Los Angeles region.
The communities Aviva serves both at Wallis House and across all program areas are growing as the impact of the pandemic is wide and deep. The reality is that children and families all across LA continue to contend with a public health crisis that has exacerbated an already tenuous economic situation and given rise to a new urgency to address the grave inequities that perpetuate cycles of suffering. Housing and food insecurity are on the rise at a time that can already be described as dire in many Los Angeles communities. The negative impacts poverty has on the physical, emotional, mental, and social health for children is well documented. Effective therapeutic interventions that prevent, reduce, and heal these traumas are also understood and at the core of Aviva’s programs.
The last year and a half were marked by extraordinary challenges to which Aviva has stepped up. For vulnerable children and families, Aviva is an unwavering beacon of hope.
Gail: Recently, the LA City Council approved funding for the Wallis House to expand housing to an additional 21 women and their children, totaling 36 families. Can you share a little about the impact of the Wallis House and what it means to receive the additional funding?
Bruce: At Wallis House, Aviva's transitional housing program where an interim home and comprehensive care is provided to mothers and their children, the additional funding granted by the City of Los Angeles covers the housing costs to increase the number of adult residents to 36. The opportunity to open Wallis House doors to more women in our community who are living without the security of shelter and basic necessities is one we embrace. With the increase in adult residents, Wallis House also welcomes their children into the safety and care at Wallis House.
The public funding does not cover the expense for the extensive care provided beyond secure shelter to the mothers at Wallis House such as food, clothing, and a host of support services. Nor does this funding cover the cost of children who reside with their mothers at Wallis House. So while Aviva’s has expanded its capacity to lift ever more women and their children from chaotic situations, support their healing, and assist them in cultivating more healthy and resilient foundations, the need to fund programming grows.
Aviva looks to a range of donors for critical support to bridge the funding gap on these essential services. In addition to general programmatic support for Wallis House, Aviva also seeks monetary and in-kind contributions to our agency-wide Family Resource Center from which they provide access to a Food Pantry, Resource Closet (clothing, baby supplies, personal hygiene products, school and art supplies), and virtual programming. During a period of elevated stress and isolation, Aviva has offered virtual programming opportunities for both adults and children. Virtual offerings included education and mentorship for adults, soft skill development, empowerment workshops, and extra-curricular activities for children.
Gail: Aviva’s goals are ambitious. We strive to improve and extend the continuum of care we provide in each of our four program areas. We are committed to transforming every life we touch, to lifting up every child and family we serve. Our bold vision requires many resources and a strong network of supporters. We are grateful for the dedication and leadership of people like Bruce.