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Five Elk Grove Non-Profits To Watch

Five Elk Grove Non-Profits To Watch

Greased Lightening shot of the musical Grease by Musical Mayhem Productions

Every year, Elk Grove non-profits apply for federal grants  from the city to help fund their services and events.

This year, 28 groups submitted requests totaling more than $1.2 million. However,  the Elk Grove City Council only approved 23 awards last month at the March 28 meeting.  A final decision on the allocation of funds will be made in May, and the money will be disbursed in July.

The Elk Grove Tribune takes a look at five of the non-profit groups which went through the grant application process.

Three of the groups will be participating in the Big Day of Giving Elk Grove Nonprofit Roundup on May 3. Rize All  and Musical Mayhem Productions will be raising funds through their own fundraising links. We encourage all of you to support local Elk Grove non-profits in the upcoming Big Day of Giving and also to donate to Rize All and Musical Mayhem Productions.

Young moms in Chicks in Crisis parenting class at The Ranch.

Chicks In Crisis

Funding request: $25,000
Award: $25,000
Fundraising link:

Inez Whitlow founded Chicks In Crisis more than 20 years ago for one main reason: “I despise foster care,” said the former single mom.

“If we can help you be a really great mom and keep your child, then learn from me.”

To that end, the non-profit helps teen moms  get medical attention and counseling services. They also learn parenting and basic life skills.

“We want to support them, so that they stay in school, graduate and maintain the family,” she said.
“They’re in a group where everyone is putting them down. When they come to us, we don’t do that.”

Most of Chicks In Crisis referrals come from  schools, social workers and hospitals.  Some of the women  are victims of sex trafficking.
“We see a lot of abuse, sexual and emotional, and we have to break that cycle,” she said.

Five staff members work at “The Ranch” – formerly a working farm – which serves as both classroom and resource center. The nonprofit maintains a clothes closet, and provides diapers, baby wipes, and formula for teen parents if they stay in school. Free car seats are also available to those who complete a car seat class.

Chicks In Crisis currently serves about 258 to 350 people a month, including 166 children. The group tracks their progress until they reach the age of 25. About half of the households served are in Elk Grove, with the rest in Sacramento.

Whitlow estimates that in the past 20 years, the non-profit has helped more than a million youths. The ages of her clients range from 11 to 44. “All the kids know me as ‘Aunt Inez,’” she said.

For those teens who don’t want to be parents, they can take advantage of the open adoption services that Whitlow provides. In the past 20 years, she has facilitated 450 adoptions, with five this year.

Chicks In Crisis has applied for grant money from Elk Grove the past three years to help pay part of the mortgage on The Ranch.

“It helps to keep the lights on and our doors open,” said Whitlow, who worked two jobs in order to buy the property.

Three years ago, the group received $16,500 from the city, then $25,000 each year in the past two years. The grant money accounts for about 35 percent of the nonprofit’s annual budget.

“I’m grateful to get any money,”  Whitlow said.

“We have a lot of non-profits in Elk Grove, and there are other nonprofits that are very worthy. We’re constantly fundraising, but we want to make a difference in a lot of lives, and celebrate having a child.”

Contact information:
Chicks In Crisis
9455 E. Stockton Blvd
Elk Grove, CA 95624
(916) 441-1243


The youth cast of White Christmas by Musical Mayhem Productions

Musical Mayhem Productions

Funding request: $58,000
Awarded: $12,224
Fundraising link:

Six years ago, Anne-Marie Pringle, an Elk Grove performer,  looked around her hometown to see if she and her kids could take classes in the theater arts, but couldn’t find anything.

So, she teamed up with Bryce McDill to create Musical Mayhem Productions.

“We  wanted to make sure we are supportive of our young people,” said McDill, operations manager for the group.

“If they want to do a show, we want people in Elk Grove to know that there are options.”

Musical Mayhem offers workshops in musical theater for different age groups, ranging from 4 to 21. For each workshop, which runs for 8-10 weeks, students take classes in acting, dance, and music.

“It’s awesome to build confidence,” he said of the performing lessons. “ Even if they don’t become performers, it builds excellent social skills. They aren’t afraid to get in front of crowds and speak. It’s a great thing – all the kids benefit from it.”

At the end of each workshop, the performers put on a production of a Broadway style musical, usually held at a local Elk Grove school theater. About 22 productions are staged each year.

Although the kids learn about costumes, hair and make-up, set design and props, it’s usually adults who make the costumes and create the sets.

“We don’t want to have kids use power tools just yet,” McDill quipped.

The non-profit also has to pay for the rights to stage a particular musical.

While many workshops take place t at the Musical Mayhem studio, instructors also  hold workshops at Elk Grove schools.

“We use their multi-purpose room, so the kids don’t have to leave school,” said McDill. “ We do the program for them.”  That means having the rehearsals and the performances at the school as well.

At any given time, about 200 students are enrolled in workshops,  with three to 12 instructors involved in each production.

Currently, there are 90 kids, ages 6-12, who are in a production of “Peter Pan, Junior” and 40 students, ages 8-19, who are involved in the musical “Once on This Island.”

For youths who are serious about being performers, they can attend the Masters Academy. The program runs for 11 months, and students meet twice a week for extra training with industry professionals. Currently, 70 students participate in the academy.

“We bring in instructors from tours that come into the area,” said McDill. “We had one from Broadway Sacramento come teach a master class. The students also get to ask questions and get real life answers (about being a performer).”

Musical Mayhem also holds a summer camp each year, where kids spend six hours a day for two weeks to learn and put up a show. “They can add that to their repertoire, add ( the experience) to their resume,” he said.

The non-profit also buys tickets to Broadway Sacramento productions and other touring musicals and offer them at discounted rates to students. Last month, students were able to see “Finding Neverland” at the Community Center Theater in Sacramento, and next month, kids will be catching “The Color Purple” at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco.

Musical Mayhem requested  $58,000 from the city this year to help cover the cost of facility rentals – a  huge increase from the $14,000 the group received last year.

McDill noted that the non-profit had recently moved, and the rent had doubled. In addition, the group has to pay t $40,000 to rent theaters at Elk Grove schools for performances this year.

“We had worked hard to balance the rent in the budget and put as much as we could into the productions,” he said. ” We also wanted to hire instructors to teach master classes. It was important to us that parents knew that their money was going into their kids’ education.”

However, the staff of the City of Elk Grove had recommended that Musical Mayhem not get any funding this year.

“We showed them that there was a need for the money, so we were a little shocked when they turned us down this year,”  McDill said. “When some of my families saw that we were awarded zero (money), they went to the City Council Meeting and were vocal.”

The Elk Grove City Council decided at the meeting last month to override the staff recommendation, and award the group $12,224 by reducing the amounts of grant money to several other non-profit organizations.

“It’s a great thing what the city is doing, even if it’s significantly less than what we requested,” said McDill. “We’re happy that they were able to find something for us.”

Musical Mayhem will have to make up the shortfall by cutting back on production costs (costumes, set design props). But it will not  raise fees for the workshops or ticket prices to their shows. Currently, tickets are $8 per person.

“It’s extremely important to have a family of four spend less than $40 to go out,” he said. “The best thing for people, even if they don’t have the drive to get up and perform, is to at least come and see a show. It’s a great investment in our youth.”

Musical Mayhem has two shows coming up in June: “Peter Pan, Junior” which will be performed June 8 and 9 at Cosumnes Oaks High School Performing Arts Center, and “Once on This Island” which will be staged June 22-30 at the Cosumnes Oaks High School Black Box Theater.

Contact information:
Musical Mayhem Productions
9733 Kent Street, Suite 120
Elk Grove, CA 95624
(916) 525-2995


A young girl is joyful after riding a horse through Project R.I.D.E.

Project R.I.D.E. Inc.

Funding request: $8,000
Awarded: $8,000
Fundraising link:

There’s a quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill among others, that goes: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man” that horse lovers like to describe the health benefits of horseback riding.

That saying is never more apt in the case of Project R.I.D.E. which offers therapeutic and recreational horseback riding for people with special needs.

“It benefits the entire family,” said Marisa DeSalle, community outreach manager for the non-profit. “The moms can watch their kids be kids, and they’re sitting with other moms. It’s not just a pony ride for disabled kids.”

Project R.I.D.E. was founded in 1979 by Chris McParland, an adaptive physical education instructor at Jessie Baker School, which caters to children with severe disabilities. R.I.D.E. stands for Riding Instruction Designed for Education. Since then, it has expanded from a few students, borrowed horses and a temporary corral to its own arena, with ten paid staff members.

The non-profit currently has over 493 active clients with a waiting list. About 95 percent of the riders are children, with most between the ages of 11 and 18, although there are riders as young as 3 years old. There are also a few adults older than 30 who participate.

A horseback riding therapy session consists of half-hour lessons once a week for eight weeks. For those who are physically disabled, the sessions help riders work on strength, balance, and coordination. For riders who have autism or other intellectual challenges, the riding helps them with self -confidence and social skills.

“Everyone gets something,” said DeSalle. “I’ve seen some who are nonverbal who can’t stop talking once they come to a session. We have seen people who go from a wheelchair to walking with a cane.”

Each rider is assisted by three volunteers – one to lead the horse, and two to offer physical support. About ten to fifteen horses are used for the therapy sessions, with six stabled in Elk Grove, and the rest on a ranch in Herald. “They stay in town during the week and go home on the weekend,” said DeSalle of the horses.

All the horses are trained and transported by volunteers. DeSalle estimate about 1,200 people volunteer with Project R.I.D.E., putting in 400-600 hours annually. All the instructors are certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) and are credentialed to work with horses and with 200 types of disabilities.

“We have the highest accreditation of 900 centers all over the country,” said DeSalle.

All the money from the grant goes toward tuition assistance for the therapeutic riding program, which runs about $240 a session.

“There are many in foster care who can’t afford the sessions,” she said.

Even though kids and adults benefit from horseback riding as therapy, medical insurance doesn’t cover the cost. “It’s considered recreational, not medical,” said DeSalle.

Still, DeSalle, who decided to join the staff of Project R.I.D.E. after being a volunteer for more than 10 years, said watching the sessions has been inspiring.

“You can watch the magic,” she said.

Project R.I.D.E. will be hosting the Big Day of Giving Elk Grove Nonprofit Roundup at its riding arena next month.

Contact information:
Project R.I.D.E.
8840 Southside Avenue
Elk Grove, CA 95624
(916) 685-7433


Students participate in a Rize All dance class.

Rize All Arts Center

Funding request: $61,163
Awarded: $0
Fundraising link:

The name says it all.

“’Rise is ascending and improving, even by 1 percent every day,” said Dane San Pedro, founder of Rize All Arts Center. “Rise all is all of us rising together.”

San Pedro started a nonprofit afterschool dance program in 2014, offering free dance lessons to at risk kids in Elk Grove.

“We’re going to the schools to teach the classes,” he said. “We go to them because the students are already at the school. They dance with us and use their skills.”

Each dance class has two teachers, and students from kindergarten through high school learn different dance styles, ranging from ballet to hip hop.

“If they have to stand up in front of someone and dance, they learn self- confidence and to work with other people,” he said. “We’re helping students in the arts.”

Currently, the group offers classes to 200 students at three schools: James Mckee Elementary School in Elk Grove, and two high schools in Sacramento – John F. Kennedy and C. K. McClatchy. Last year, it also had classes at Stone Lake and Joseph Sims elementary schools in Elk Grove.

San Pedro said he had applied for the grant money to expand the afterschool dance program.

He had hoped to reach 1,000 students at four schools, with two teachers per class of 20-25 students.

The money would go toward hiring and training new instructors, as well as researching and compiling effective dance plans.

“We wanted to create a better afterschool program for the community, but we couldn’t afford it because we have limited capacity,” he said.

The grant money would have also funded scholarships for dance classes held at the Rize All Arts Center, which opened a little more than a year ago.

San Pedro said he wasn’t surprised that Elk Grove denied the group’s funding request.

“We’re still fairly new, with only three years of experience,” he said. “We’ve been doing everything by the bootstrap but we’ve been highly functioning for two years.”

RIze All will continue offering the free afterschool dance program but limiting it to the three schools it is already in, and paying the costs from the proceeds of Rize All Arts Center, which offers affordable dance lessons.

“It’s synergistic,” he said. “For the people who can pay, we take the money so we can reach more students,” he said.

Currently, Rize All has 600 students between the dance studio and the afterschool dance program, and nine teachers. The studio holds two dance recitals a year- one in the fall, and one in the winter. About 150-200 students participated in the last show.

“We do believe in a more knowledgeable dance community, training and team work, and the understanding of the arts,” said San Pedro. “We have seen it, and felt it ourselves, and gained something in life.”

Contact information:
Rize All Arts Center
2745 Elk Grove Blvd., Ste. 270
Elk Grove, CA 95758


Elk Grove Teens gather at Teen Center USA.

Teen Center USA

Funding request: $40,000
Award: $40,000
Fundraising link:

Despite the organization’s 30 year history in the city, Teen Center USA has been somewhat a secret hangout for kids  in Elk Grove.

But that is starting to change as more and more teens learn about the drop-in center through social media and word of mouth.

“Daily attendance has skyrocketed,” said Goldeen Smith, executive director of Teen Center USA.  “We know there is a need.”

Last year, the non-profit served 600 teens, but so far this year, over 550 have used the center’s services. An average of 110-120 teens come through each day.

Teen Center is open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, filling a time gap between when school lets out and parents get home.

“We want to get teens into an encouraging situation ( during that time interval) and not into trouble.”said Ashley Curtis, administrative assistant and mentor for Teen Center USA.

Teen Center USA became a non-profit organization in 2010, but has been at its current location for 15 years. The drop-in center has pool tables, foosball, air hockey, video games, and computers for use. Student volunteers also run a small snack bar onsite.

Teens can also get free tutoring from college students, and local service organizations and businesses occasionally conduct workshops.
“We give them opportunities to learn,”’ said Curtis.

Teens can also sign up for the centers’ volunteer program, which provides student volunteers at different city and church events.

“We give them lots of opportunities, but we do not just accept everyone – they have to be willing to do the work,” she said.

So far, the center has 20 student volunteers in its program, and many have worked at activities sponsored by the Laguna Sunrise Rotary Club.

The center also provides free breakfast every Wednesday during the school year, and free lunches during the summer, thanks to the generosity of local businesses, such as Taco Bell and Chick-Fil-A.

“I don’t think we have too many other programs during the summer that cater lunches,” said Curtis.

But most of all, the center provides a safe haven for teens who are enrolled in middle or high school in Elk Grove. Students have to register to be a member of the center, which is open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the week.

Last year, the center served 563 kids, and this year, over 550 teens, with about 100 to 120 students visiting the site every day. Five adults are on staff every day, serving as mentors to the teens.

“When they walk through our door, they know they are loved, they are encouraged and uplifted, ” said Smith.  “They’re getting food, getting homework help, and talking to other people. We want to instill positive relationships with our teens.”

Smith says that on any given day, there would be four to five teenagers in her office, wanting to talk about their day.

“It is awesome to speak love to their world, which is very negative out there,” she said. “Sometimes, their home life isn’t the best, not very consistent and we come alongside and we help them with their self-esteem.”

Two years ago, the non-profit got a donation of a used RV, which the group converted into a mobile teen center. It houses computers, printers and wif-fi, and Elk Grove Club donated thousands of dollars’ worth of sports equipment for the new addition. Currently one person staffs it, and it is taken out to special events around the city about once a month.

Curtis said some of the grant money from Elk Grove would go toward expanding the service of the mobile teen center, with one staff member and three or four volunteers to go with it

“The idea is to get it out every day, from 3p.m. to 6 p.m. and have it on a consistent schedule, like every Monday at Franklin library,” she said. “

Right now, the RV is parked at the drop in site, and open to accommodate any overflow from the Teen Center.

Some of the grant money would also go toward paying the staff. Teen Center has 56 staff members, with all but the director working part-time.

“We run on a shoe-string budget,” said Smith, adding that the grant money accounts for one-third of the nonprofit’s budget. “We are very conservative – we make sure that everything that we do for our teens is free.”

Contact information:

Teen Center USA
8978 Elk Grove Blvd
Elk Grove, CA 95624
(916) 686 6942

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About The Author

Tillie Fong

Tillie is a recovering news junkie and real life Lady Bird. She is a former staff writer for Rocky Mountain News in Colorado, and former on-call reporter for The Sacramento Bee.

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