For Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, leaving her home in Washington Heights in 2015 to lead the California-based Latino Community Foundation as its CEO was a considerable leap of faith.
“I left a very comfortable job in New York to come lead an organization that barely had any money in the bank, had four staff members and had really struggled to keep the doors open,” Martinez Garcel says. “It was heartbreaking to know that California had 15 million Latino residents contributing to the state’s economy, all without a foundation to lean on.”
The opportunity to spearhead tangible action toward stimulating economic power for Latinos across California has yielded recognition in the form of Google’s Social Impact Award, which she will receive at Variety’s 2022 Power of Women event Sept. 28.
LCF is a fund, grant and awareness campaign that focuses on the building of civic, political, and economic power in California for Latinos. Martinez Garcel claims that her efforts have helped to raise over $70 million for Latino grassroots organizations since she joined the organization in 2015.
Martinez Garcel trace her work history back to her earliest memories growing up in New York City. It was there that she lost her older sibling.
It was then that she realized the power of community. Her neighbors wrapped their arms around her family and helped them find jobs and places they could stay in difficult times.
“I learned what it means to be a community resident, what it means to be a neighbor, what it means to extend your family to your entire neighborhood,” Martinez Garcel says.
“My mom worked with other moms in the same building to help take care of each other’s kids — they helped clean up parks and showed up in town hall meetings. That influenced me to choose a career where I could help others,”She continues.
Martinez Garcel recalls an instance where her work was actually affecting people’s lives.
She met Jacob Martinez, founder and CEO at Digital Nest in Watsonville (Calif.) in 2017 and they established a technology-workforce training hub.
The hub was included in LCF’s inaugural Latino Nonprofit Accelerator, a 16-month incubator that gives Latino-led companies a chance to meet donors and provides them with resources. “Less than 1.1% of all philanthropic dollars are invested into Latino-led organizations,”She said. “That’s what we’re trying to change.”
Digital Nest was established in Watsonville, California, and has since expanded to multiple locations in Stockton, Salinas, and plans to expand to San Jose. “Martinez showed that kids from Watsonville don’t have to go to Silicon Valley to get a good job,” Martinez Garcel says.
“Under Jacqueline’s leadership, LCF has risen to new heights, strengthening the Latino-led and Latino-serving nonprofit ecosystem across the state, and providing critical support to Latino entrepreneurs,”Hector Mujica, Google.org’s head of economic opportunity, said the following: “We’re proud to stand in solidarity with Jacqueline and honor her with this award.”
Martinez Garcel believes that a better outlook can be achieved by tapping into the collective power of communities in the future. “I want the United States to live up to the ideals for which it stands,”She said. “When we put ourselves in leadership positions that we are invested in, we can make those differences.”