Written by The Business Journal Staff
The Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) is donating $15,000 to Catholic Charities in memory of two of the nonprofit’s clients who were victims of Tuesday’s tragic shooting rampage in Downtown Fresno.
Former mayor Ashley Swearengin, now president and CEO of CVCF, announced the grant Thursday on the steps outside Catholic Charities, just a few feet away from a candlelit memorial created by neighbors and friends mourning the loss of the four Fresnans — Carl Allen Williams III, David Jackson, Mark Gassett, and Zackary David Randalls — who were killed.
The grant, Swearengin said, has “no strings attached” to it and is meant to support the continued work of Catholic Charities, which provides food and clothing to families in need, as well as programs that assist families with everything from energy bills to career and job placement support. Each year, Swearengin said, the nonprofit provides support for 140,000 clients.
While Tuesday’s incident was a tragic, Swearengin said the CVCF doesn’t want people to forget the important work of Catholic Charities.
“It has been said that Mr. Gassett and Mr. Jackson were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and that is true, but the truth of that sentiment is particularly disturbing considering that they were here at Catholic Charities,” Swearengin said. “This is a place that turns no one away regardless of race or religion. It is a place of relief and support and service to our community, which is why we at the Central Valley Community Foundation believe it is so important to rally around Catholic Charities.
Kelly Lilles, the executive director of Catholic Charities, said the nonprofit is grateful for the support it has received since the incident Tuesday.
“The community’s support is the one thing that has gotten us through this tragic time,” Lilles said.
The team at Catholic Charities, Lilles said, is committed to serving the community and knowing that so many families rely on their services and consider Catholic Charities a “safe harbor,” staff members returned to work the day after the shooting.
“We are here to serve those who need us and we aren’t going to let this deter us from giving back to the people who need us the most,” Lilles said. “When we came back yesterday, we had a line around the door. We had wondered if people would feel okay about coming back here and they do. They know that we are safe and this is an anomaly.”
Lilles said the foundation’s donation is a blessing that will allow the nonprofit, which relies heavily on private funding, to continue providing food, clothing and services to those in need. Lilles said the organization also plans to continue reaching out to the victims’ families to find out their needs and provide any emergency assistance.