The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Giving Big
Even over the phone, what strikes you first is the energy and passion in Wendy Garen’s voice. As CEO of The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, she is clear about what matters to her and to the organization’s thoughtful, engaged board of directors. Like the foundation she leads, she is generous with her resources—in this case, her time, commitment, and insights.
Los Angeles is fortunate to have The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation fighting for its causes because of the tremendous impact the foundation has been making since 1978. From the Downtown Women’s Center to LA’s Natural History Museum, from the space shuttle Endeavor to Homeboy Industries, Parsons has spread its philanthropy through broad areas of grant making: social impact; civic and cultural programs; health; and higher education. In each area, the distinguished nine-member board of directors makes decisions that matter—whether they’re about reaching more children in after school programs, or providing support for a new building need. Few philanthropic foundations have as broad a reach in LA’s nonprofit sector.
“Everyone was aware of the cascading crisis that closed the old hospital and the gap that it left in the access to care in that community.” —Wendy Garen
Wendy Garen assumed the titles of president and CEO in 2008 after working at successively higher levels of responsibility over her 20 years at the foundation. Earlier in her career, she was a founding staff member of the children’s nonprofit Crystal Stairs, and headed the Los Angeles Child Care and Development Council. When it came to healthcare access in South Los Angeles, Garen was among the leaders who took notice.
“Everyone was aware of the cascading crisis that closed the old hospital and the gap that it left in the access to care in that community,” Garen said. “That left many people concerned about the huge population without quality care—or hospital care at all. The standing up of a brand-new institution to replace the old is an enormous task to take on. Tasks of that scale are often private-public partnerships.”
Growing Support to Fill the Gap
Garen has high praise for the MLK Community Health Foundation for taking the lead in securing the funding for the hospital. She attended the highly successful, first annual Building the Dream luncheon, held in January 2014, to raise funds for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital. “For such a fledging institution, it was an amazingly successful event. It drew over 600 people who were united in their feeling of relief and happiness that this very great need was being addressed with such competency. All of that demonstrates the vitality of this brand-new institution in doing something big in a time of scarcity. We are really looking for one plus one to equal three.”