You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade to the latest version for the best experience. Upgrade your browser now.
Skip Navigation

Blue Shield of California Foundation Changes Lives and Strengthens Communities

As the Foundation announces the first round of 2024 grantees, three nonprofits share stories about the impact achieved by these strategic community investments.

by Jilly Jefferson

Jenesse Center 5 carousel
Photo courtesy of the Jenesse Center, a Foundation grantee

Blue Shield of California Foundation is an independent nonprofit funded entirely by contributions from Blue Shield of California. The Foundation is achieving lasting change in the lives of Californians through advancing systems and policy change focused on three areas: strengthening economic security and mobility, breaking the cycle of domestic violence, and aligning systems with community priorities. Last year, the Foundation supported 70 organizations across California that are working to end domestic violence and achieve health equity through these key spheres of action.

Following the recent announcement of grantees, here are some highlights of what the Foundation's strategic investments are achieving in each focus area.

Breaking the cycle of domestic violence in Los Angeles County

For 44 years, Jenesse Center has endeavored to break the cycle of domestic violence through a culturally responsive, trauma-informed approach. The organization offers critical intervention services and an equally important myriad of prevention services, such as workforce training and mental health care. In addition to direct service, Jenesse Center raises awareness about solutions and advocates for public policy to help address domestic violence. Chief executive officer Karen Earl said, “Domestic violence is not a women’s issue. It is a family issue. It is a community issue. One of the most significant things I’ve learned is that what leaves the home enters the world.”

Jenesse Center 7
Jenesse Center staff at a workforce development and entrepreneurship program client graduation ceremony

With support from the Foundation, Jenesse Center has taken a leadership role in organizing cross-sector collaboration for domestic violence prevention in Los Angeles County. By involving people who work in fields like health care in the work to advance systems change and improve prevention services, domestic violence survivors and their families are ultimately better served. Jenesse Center has reached people like domestic violence survivor Tolisha, who said, “Jenesse helped me reach for a better life. I felt safe and positive and even went back to school … I will be grateful for the rest of my life.”

Aligning systems with community priorities

Public Health Advocates helps communities promote physical, social and emotional well-being by establishing policies and norms that prioritize health. The organization’s team of changemakers is devoted to advancing racial justice and health equity by amplifying the voices of communities who have been historically disinvested.

In recent years, support from Blue Shield of California Foundation helped the organization advocate for a more equitable government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which demonstrated how emergencies can disproportionately affect historically disenfranchised and marginalized populations. Often, natural disasters and public health emergencies cause the most harm to communities that are already suffering. Using lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, Public Health Advocates’ Emergency Resilience Project recently published a policy brief recommending policy changes at the state and local level that would foster more equitable emergency preparedness and response in California.

“The systems we create produce the outcomes that we see in our society,” said Abigail Hewins, program manager for Public Health Advocates. “As we approach emergencies and disasters that are increasingly common, from infectious diseases to extreme weather events, we must focus on repairing inequities so that our most disinvested communities do not bear the brunt of the harm.”

Strengthening economic security and mobility for parenting students

Project SPARC 1
Shannon Riley receiving her associate degree from Shasta College, May 2022

While a student at Shasta College, Shannon Riley was a leader with Project SPARC (Student Parents Are Reimagining CalWORKs), a program brought to life through funding from Blue Shield of California Foundation. Project SPARC leaders like Riley are parenting students who research and identify barriers within public assistance and higher education systems, and then develop practical solutions.

After losing her home in a fire, Riley juggled work and school while building a new life for her family. As a single mother of two, Riley found that public assistance programs intended to help frequently acted as barriers along her journey to earn a bachelor’s degree, an experience that inspired her to become a Project SPARC leader. As the Foundation has learned, when parents complete their degrees and build their earning power, they can better support their families and break generational cycles of poverty.

“I would really like to see a clearer path out of poverty for recipients of CalWORKs,” said Riley, who is now a college graduate with her associate degree, and finishing her bachelor's at Oregon State University. The hope is that her work as a Project SPARC leader will help students like her to complete their educations, as well. “I think we have potential to make a huge difference.”

“It is a privilege to help nonprofit organizations like these to continue and expand their critical work in California to achieve health equity and end domestic violence,” said Debbie Chang, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation. “It simply would not be possible without the continued generosity and support from Blue Shield of California. We are incredibly grateful for this partnership, which has already made such a huge impact in the lives of Californians.”

To learn more about Blue Shield of California Foundation, visit

Read more about Blue Shield of California’s citizenship efforts at