Editor’s note: This is one of several articles in a series of profiles on Westchester/Playa Del Rey Neighborhood Council candidates that Patch will be running leading up to the election.
What would you prioritize if you were voted in?
If I were voted in, my immediate priority would be to illicit feedback from various nonprofits in the community and help them to establish a stronger collective voice within the community. While there are many great organizations in the Westchester/Playa area that are very active with the Council and other civic groups, there are several smaller agencies with limited capacity to ensure that their voices are heard and their views represented.
It would be great to reach out to the various agencies and assist them in becoming more actively involved presenting issues that are critical to the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits should be active players in shaping and defining policy so that they not only serve, but also represent, their clientele. I think that this focus would bring much more strength and depth to the Community Organization Director seat.
Who are your primary supporters?
My primary supporters are the students and families who have benefited from our agency since we moved to Westchester in 2003. Since that time, we have provided hundreds of students and even more individuals with academic, career, wellness, and family services. I have also developed a strong network of supporters and stakeholders who have supported and contributed to our agency over the years.
What issue do you feel most strongly about and what’s your position?
My goal is to utilize this platform in a way that strengthens the voice of the community-based agencies within the Westchester/Play a neighborhood Council. As such, I am very much concerned with voter education and engagement. Our agency is a co-sponsor of the California Association of Nonprofits' Vote with Your Mission Campaign.
Along with a host of organizations throughout the state, we are taking the lead in ensuring that the nonprofit sector does it's part to educate our stakeholders about voter registration and to help them access nonpartisan information about ballot measures that would have a significant impact on their lives and communities.
What's one thing most constituents don't know about you?
One thing that most people wouldn't know about me is that I am a caregiver for a Stroke survivor and am very active in promoting Stroke awareness, advocacy, and prevention. Our agency recently established the Southern California Stroke Coalition, a project dedicated to identifying and distributing resources to various Stroke related groups and facilities. We are currently developing an interactive website where survivors and caregivers can locate free and low-cost resources based upon their zip code.
Why did you decide to run?
I decided to run because I strongly believe that nonprofits should have a much louder and consistent voice when it comes to local governance and issues impacting the people they serve. Many community-based agencies are intimidated by the legal restrictions and remain silent on governance issues for fear of losing their exempt status. Rather than remaining silent on the issues, these agencies should utilize the resources and opportunities that are readily available for them to maximize their impact in the community. We have attempted to address this issue by becoming more active in our local chamber and our state nonprofit association, but we must do more!
Sharma Henderson is running for Community Organization Director, a four-year term. To read more candidate profiles, click here.