REDF has led the honorable effort to create jobs and employment opportunities, since 1997. They work at the crossroads where market forces meet social impact. It’s a concept popularized by George R. Roberts, one of the founders of KKR (a leading private equity firm). Roberts started REDF to put his own money to work to end incessant joblessness and launched what we know today as, “Venture Philanthropy.” For 17 years (and counting), it’s supported more than 50 social enterprises in California that have employed thousands of individuals who’ve faced compelling obstacles—such as: young people who’ve dropped out of school, people who’ve been in prison or homeless and those who live with mental health disabilities. Mr. Roberts firmly believes, “If you don’t have a job, you don’t have hope. If you don’t have hope, what do you really have?”

This year’s benefit was held at fabled Warfield Theatre, in San Francisco. It conjured generous supporters and key stakeholders to proclaim the impact of social enterprise with members of the REDF Board of Directors, including: actor Chris O’Donnell, Facebook’s Dan Rose and Google’s Adam Smith. To ensure a spirit-raising evening, the benefit host committee (which  includes actor and recording artist LL Cool J and former 49er Ronnie Lott), treated guests to a cocktail hour, seated dinner and an exclusive performance from psychedelic Soul and R&B singer, Janelle Monáe (which almost brought the theater down).

Before addressing the crowd of enthusiastic supporters, Chris O’Donnell, was asked what the event and organization meant to him:

“The yearly event is a wonderful highlight for the cause, but the work continues for the rest of the year. It gives a genuine opportunity to people who are dying to work, but are seen as tainted by society because of their past mistakes or hardships. A job is much more than a paycheck.”

This year’s benefit also recognized Moldaw award winner, Juan Tello. After serving a seven-year prison term for crimes related to gang involvement, Mr. Tello found a second chance through Taller San Jose (a REDF-backed organization) and is now a full-time employee of its social enterprise, Hope Builders.

The 2014 benefit raised $1million dollars in donations. It pays to invest in people who are determined.


Emillio Mesa
Author: Emillio Mesa

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