JB Brown Fund celebrates 10-year anniversary, holds successful auction

Almost 1,000 low-income residents living in USA Properties Fund apartment communities have been helped by the one-of-a-kind program

The JB Brown Fund celebrated its 10-year anniversary Oct. 7 at USA Properties Fund’s headquarters in Roseville, honoring those who have made the organization such a success and sharing the stories of a few recipients helped by the social-services program.

The two-hour event featured speakers, a hosted food truck, and a silent in-person and online auction with proceeds benefiting the organization.

The auction, which raised $1,200, included a custom cake, original artwork to gift baskets with various themes, from Family Fun Night to Golf to Soccer, complete with Sacramento Republic FC items and tickets.

What is the JB Brown Fund?

Earning a college degree with the help of a much-needed scholarship.

Getting through a challenging emotional and financial period, such as a job loss or the sudden death of a loved one – or the far-reaching and hard-to-imagine impact of the Covid pandemic.

Being active and learning some of life’s most-valuable lessons, from camaraderie to sportsmanship, by participating in youth sports.

All have been made possible, and so much more, thanks to the JB Brown Fund, a partnership between USA Properties Fund and LifeSTEPS, a nonprofit that provides social services at many of USA Properties’ affordable family and senior apartment communities.

What started as an idea during a drive to the airport, has helped almost 1,000 low-income residents reach new heights – and recover from the most turbulent of times – since 2011.

The JB Brown Fund helps low-income residents – from hardworking single parents to seniors living on a fixed-income – achieve their dreams, like attending and completing college, to dealing with an unexpected financial emergency, including paying for a new pair of eyeglasses or hearing aids to vehicle repairs.

It helped out a lot. It paid for more than half of my tuition. I really appreciate the help.

— Laura Gutierrez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on human resources from San Jose State University in 2020. The $11,000 in college scholarships from the JB Brown Fund allowed her to focus on her classes and being a new mother – and worry less about paying for school. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.9 grade-point average.

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Almost $1.35 million awarded since 2011

The JB Brown Fund has awarded almost $1.35 million to residents since starting in 2011, including $900,000 for college scholarships to residents. Every dollar donated goes directly to helping residents.

“The JB Brown Fund truly changes lives, establishes a better foundation for residents and their families, and helps build stronger communities,” said USA Properties President Geoff Brown, whose father J.B. Brown founded the company in 1981. “The JB Brown Fund is an investment in our residents and their unlimited potential.”

The JB Brown Fund helps “move the needle and breaks the cycle of poverty,” said LifeSTEPS Executive Director Beth Southorn, who co-founded the JB Brown Fund with Geoff Brown. The fund, its donors and recipients are “carriers of transformation and positivity.”

Learn more about the JB Brown Fund and how you can help and join the life-changing effort at jbbrownfund.org.

JB Brown Fund, USA Properties congratulates 2020 graduate Laura Gutierrez

Laura Gutierrez has accomplished much in a little time.

She moved from Mexico to Silicon Valley in 2013, with a commitment to learn – and master – English. She enrolled in a community college, first with a focus on English classes and then later to pursue a profession.

A few years later, she began dating her soon-to-be husband. The couple’s son, Nathan, was born in October 2019 – when Laura was in her senior year at San Jose State University. Two weeks after delivering Nathan via C-section, Laura was back in the classroom.

It’s been a busy seven years. But Laura’s determination and hard work paid off with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on human resources. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, with a 3.9 grade-point average.

JB Brown Fund awards Gutierrez with $11,000 in scholarships

College scholarships from the JB Brown Fund allowed Laura to focus on her classes, completing college and later being a mother – and worry less about the cost of higher education. She received about $11,000 in college scholarships from the JB Brown Fund, a partnership between USA Properties Fund and social services provider LifeSTEPS.

“It helped out a lot,” says Laura, who learned about the JB Brown Fund college scholarship from her husband, who tapped into the program to complete his degree at San Jose State and become an elementary school teacher.

The couple live at Mayfair Court Apartments, a USA Properties-owned apartment community in San Jose.

“It paid for more than half of my tuition,” she says of the scholarships. “I really appreciate the help.”

‘It really helps people like me achieve their dreams’

Laura, who worked until a few weeks before the birth of Nathan, will soon begin her job search. She would like to join a company that embraces data analytics, especially when it comes to human resources.

“I fell in love with analytics,” says Laura, who enjoys math. “I like to look at the story behind the numbers. I want to help a company make the right decisions. But I also like the process of helping people.”

It’s a belief that is the cornerstone of the JB Brown Fund.

“When I came here, I didn’t even know English,” says Laura, who is grateful for the many donors that help others reach their goals. “It really helps people like me achieve their dreams.”

JB Brown Fund, USA Properties congratulate 2020 graduate Sandra Roksic

College graduate Sandra Roksic is focused on the road ahead, with a goal of developing self-driving vehicles trusted by their drivers – and pedestrians.

“It was my dream to come here and do this,” says Sandra, who graduated in the spring with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Cal Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.

Achieving her dream required commitment, focus and hard work – in the classroom and in the workforce. Along with her demanding full-load class schedule, Sandra often worked two jobs to help pay for school and, like 70% of students nationwide, she also relied on student loans.

Scholarship helps her earn an electrical engineering degree

But the burden has been made a bit easier, thanks to the J.B. Brown Fund. Sandra learned about the JB Brown Fund college scholarship from the community manager at Rancho Carrillo Apartments in Carlsbad, where her family has lived since she was in the sixth grade. The $2,800 scholarship helped Sandra earn her degree.

Now, she has started on her master’s degree in electrical engineering from Cal Poly-SLO. Sandra, who is busy with an internship this summer and will teach a class at the university this fall semester, expects to earn her master’s degree in June 2021.

Then, she would like to join an automaker like Volkswagen AG that is leading the way on autonomous vehicles. “There are so many exciting, interesting developments in the auto industry,” she says.

‘I wouldn’t be here without the support and the belief of so many people’

Her family – her parents and a teenage brother – encouraged Sandra to apply for college and pursue a degree in electrical engineering (she also earned a minor in math).

“My parents have made so many sacrifices for me,” says Sandra, who moved with her parents from Serbia to San Diego as a 4-year-old. Her parents looked for a good, safe community with excellent schools and found Carlsbad. The city and the apartment community “feel like home.”

And her “home” helped open the door to a college degree and new opportunities. The J.B. Brown Fund has awarded hundreds of college scholarships to residents living in USA Properties Fund apartment communities.

“I’m super grateful. I wouldn’t be here without the support and the belief of so many people,” she says. “They put their faith in me and what I can accomplish.”

USA Properties and LifeSTEPS’ RN Coaching PILOT Program earns national award from HUD

Program offers free health care that helps seniors to age in place, improves health and saves money

A pilot program that allows low-income seniors to remain living at affordable senior apartment communities in the Sacramento region and receive much of the medical attention they need just steps from their home for free has earned a national award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

LifeSTEPS and USA Properties Fund’s RN Coaching PILOT Program has received the 2020 HUD Secretary’s Awards for Healthy Homes, an annual award that recognizes programs that promote healthier housing through partnering, outreach and innovative practices. HUD and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has recognized only 22 programs since the national award started in 2015, including five programs this year.

“It is heartwarming to receive this award, as in the past we have watched our seniors be prematurely placed in skilled-nursing facilities and this program clearly saves money and returns the dignity to our seniors as they successfully age in place,” said Beth Southorn, Executive Director of LifeSTEPS. “I am so very thankful for our team’s hard work, and I have loved watching early heath intervention help our seniors live longer and happier lives.”

Many residents can ‘age in place’ thanks to program

The RN Coaching PILOT Program is one of the first of its kind in California and helps seniors, many who have health issues and can’t easily get to a doctor, to “age in place,” thanks to an on-site registered nurse who visits their senior communities every week.

“Access to health care is a huge issue for low-income seniors, and having an RN available for residents improves their health, reduces costs, saves time and helps them stay out of the hospital and in their homes longer,” said Geoff Brown, President of USA Properties. “Health is a primary reason why seniors are forced to leave their homes for assisted-living facilities, nursing homes or move in with family members.”

With the RN Coaching PILOT Program, low-income seniors dealing with allergies, a nagging cold or cough, or even chronic conditions – such as arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol or high-blood pressure – are able to get the health care they need at their apartment communities, said Meredith Chillemi, Director of Aging and Education Services for LifeSTEPS. The registered nurse also assists residents with managing their medications, preventing falls in their apartments and navigating the often-complex world of health care, from choosing a new provider to completing confusing insurance forms.

The goal is to keep residents healthy and out of hospital emergency rooms, and help develop a plan for those who are in the hospital to safely return home as soon as possible, Chillemi said. The program helps about three residents return home from the hospital every week.

More than 900 seniors helped, saving Medi-Cal almost $1.2 million

More than 900 seniors have accessed the RN Coaching PILOT Program since it started in spring 2016, saving government health insurance programs like Medi-Cal almost $1.2 million. And the percentage of residents moving out of the apartment communities for health issues has dropped 70% during the past four years.

Aging in place has numerous benefits beyond better health for seniors, from cost savings to keeping them mentally and physically active. Seniors often develop close friendships and social support systems in senior apartment communities, and moving them to an assisted-living facility or skilled-nursing home can cause depression and isolation. Assisted-living facilities can also have a financial hardship on residents, their families, government programs and society overall, according to a Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

“The program offers seniors free health care and the opportunity to remain in their apartment communities, where they are close to their friends and often have lived for many years,” USA Properties’ Brown said. “Our residents are happier and healthier, and the program saves money.”

Hands-on training for UC Davis nursing students

Roseville-based USA Properties, one of the largest affordable apartment community developer-builder-managers in the West, and LifeSTEPS, which provides social services at many USA Properties-owned communities, share the cost for the RN Coaching PILOT Program.

The program is available to residents at Sierra Sunrise in Carmichael and Vintage Oaks Senior Apartments in Citrus Heights. USA Properties recently sold Creekside Village Apartments in Sacramento, which had also participated in the pilot program.

The RN Coaching PILOT Program also provides hands-on health care training for nursing students from the Betty Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis. Several nursing students and their nurse adviser have been meeting with patients every week this summer.

USA Properties and LifeSTEPS have been working on finding funding for the program, meeting with elected representatives and health officials during the past few years. A state senator introduced a bill (SB 1292) in February that would have expanded the program to five counties and receive state funding as part of a pilot program. But the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the state’s budget challenges shelved the effort.

“The program has been such a success, in so many ways,” Brown said. “Now, we just need to find the financial support to continue and expand the program to more affordable apartment communities and help more low-income seniors.”

JB Brown Fund, USA Properties congratulate 2020 graduate Victoria Solis

Four scholarships totaling about $11,000 help San Jose resident achieve her dream

College is full of challenges, from choosing a major to getting the classes needed to graduate on time.

Fortunately, the high cost of higher education was not another issue for Victoria Solis, thanks to the JB Brown Fund.

The nonprofit organization awarded Victoria with four scholarships – a total of about $11,000 – during the past two years, paying for her tuition and books.

“I’m very grateful of the opportunity that the scholarship gave me,” says Victoria, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Child and Adolescent Development from San Jose State University in spring 2020. I don’t have to worry about any loans and have that financial burden.”

Victoria, who lives with her parents at Mayfair Court Apartments in San Jose, learned about the college scholarship from the community manager. The scholarship allowed Victoria to focus on her classes during the week and work part-time on weekends.

‘You’re not just supporting us financially, you’re helping us reach other goals, too.’

Victoria, who was born with a neuromuscular disease and relies on a wheelchair, graduated in four years. Only 16% of students graduate on time from the California State University system.

“That was something that I really wanted to accomplish,” says Victoria, who carried at least 15 units every semester.

She will take some much-deserved time off during the next year, and plans to return to school and pursue a master’s degree with the career goal of being a licensed counselor. “I always like to help people,” she says.

Much like the hundreds of supporters of the J.B. Brown Fund.

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to pursue higher education,” Victoria says to those who donate to the organization. “You’re not just supporting us financially, you’re helping us reach other goals, too. Thank you for helping us in so many ways.”