Raqui headshot
Samaritan House was recently the recipient of a $30,000 grant from Bank of America. This investment, which supports our Food and Nutrition Program, will go a long way toward helping us provide more than 900,000 meals per year to our neighbors living in poverty. Samaritan House Associate Director of Development and Communications, Jessica Mitchell, recently spoke with Bank of America Silicon Valley Market President, Raquel González, about the impact Bank of America is hoping to have on the local community and how Samaritan House, a longtime partner, is helping them realize their goals.
Jessica Mitchell: Bank of America is a major player in San Mateo County’s philanthropic landscape. What are the critical needs that you’re trying to address?
Raquel González: The critical needs that we’re trying to address are economic mobility, focused on the needs of individuals and families. The way that we do that is we look to invest in workforce development, education and basic needs. Secondly, we also are trying to address economic mobility for community needs, by focusing on affordable housing, the arts, community revitalization and the environment.
JM: You’ve long been a supporter of Samaritan House’s programs. This year you also sponsored our annual fundraiser, the Main Event. Can you talk a little bit about how our partnership is helping Bank of America make its intended impact in the community?
RG: First, it was a great event. I was fortunate enough to be there and I truly enjoyed it. Samaritan House is a very important partner to us. Number one, as a former Neighborhood Builder grantee, we believe in the impact that you are making on those that you serve. Also, as we think about making better impact in the community, we look to organizations that are doing good, world class work. When we look to Samaritan House, it’s an organization that truly does represent that. Again, for our Neighborhood Builder grantees, we really highlight organizations that were recipients as role models for others to follow.

We truly believe in Samaritan House, its overall mission, and we believe in the leadership. Also we’re inspired by the work that’s done and just the innovative, out of the box approach that the organization is taking to address critical needs that are so important, and yet, so complicated at the same time.

We like the approach that you take, which is the holistic view of the client. Not just focused on maybe a piece of what the challenges are, but really looking for a solution that cuts across multiple challenges. Housing issues and hunger issues and really getting someone back on to self-sufficiency, on that path of, as I said earlier, that economic mobility. For a family, for individuals, etc.

JM: Where is Bank of America looking for the community to really engage and partner with you, around your priorities and the ways that you’re looking to make an impact?
RG: When you think of Silicon Valley, given the wealth that can be created overnight, it really is a region of the extremes. We can have the wealth on one end and then the severe need on the other.

So we’re really looking to the public sector, the private sector, and the non-profits, to really come together and help tackle, through some creative solutions, all of these significant challenges that we face in Silicon Valley. To name one: affordable housing.

It’s fantastic that we have job creation continuing to boom. But when you think about the fact that we’re creating something along the lines of one housing solution for every seven jobs, that doesn’t go very far.

We really need community partners like you. You do what you do extremely well. You live it every day, and we need your expertise and your insight to be able to make a difference. When we combine your expertise and your insight, then we can be smarter about where we then bring the power of a company, or in this case, the power of Bank of America, to the community to really again, make an impact.

JM: So shifting the focus a little bit to you, what drew you to this work and what inspires you about it?
RG: I could probably talk about it for hours. Because I’m very passionate about what I do in general, but certainly this aspect of my job. Let me start by saying, I’m extremely fortunate and I do realize that, to work for a company that is very engaged in supporting our communities, but also encourages me to do the same.

For Bank of America, it is part of what we call responsible growth, and our strategy on that growth. It’s about bringing all the resources of our company to make a difference in the local community.  Personally, I feel that if I have the ability to make an impact, then I have to leverage that opportunity to go and do it. There are so many great organizations that are doing outstanding work. I am always inspired just by their commitment, their tireless work, to find solutions to very complicated issues, and just to go at it day in and day out. I know it’s not easy.

When we support organizations like Samaritan House, what I really believe is that we’re multiplying our impact, which makes sense, but when you think about the scale, the leverage that you have, we’re really trusting you with our investment. To say, “You are the expert, you really know where the need is and you know how to turn $2 into $5.”

When you combine it all, it just makes significant collective impact, and that’s what we think about. That’s what I think about, personally as well, is how can we multiply our impact? And I think that’s definitely one of the ways that we can continue to do it.

JM: What would you say to the next generation coming up the ranks at Bank of America and other companies, about corporate social responsibility?
RG: I think first, think of it in terms of environmental, social, and governance. That includes corporate social responsibility, but is much broader. So when I talk about it internally or externally, I talk about it comprehensively. For us at Bank of America, it really is the way that we run the company, is with that much more comprehensive lens. Running the company that way is not only the right thing to do, but it really also makes business sense.

What I would say to other companies or their corporate peers, I would say think beyond corporate social responsibility. Think about the broader picture. I think the governance piece is important because really that’s the piece that says we are accountable for our conduct, and how we run the company, how we hold ourselves accountable. I think when you combine the three pieces, it takes that more comprehensive view, but it really keeps us on balanced footing.

The next generation will probably be even more encouraged to get involved, to volunteer their time. I think some of the programs that we offer today, as an example, we offer the paid volunteer program. What that is, is our employees can get involved in say, their kids’ school and they get two hours of paid time per week, to volunteer at their schools. So how great is that? You can get paid and you can be engaged and you can give back and you can make a difference.

JM: Raquel, do you have anything else that you’d like to add before we wrap up?
RG: Thank you for the opportunity to talk a little bit about obviously what drives us as a company or what drives me personally, in terms of just engaging with organizations like Samaritan House. But thank you for the work that you do, and for the difference that you make for so many people and so many families and individuals. At the end of the day, it truly is one family or one individual at a time. But you are providing that economic mobility that everyone strives for, and it’s a pleasure being a partner with you, and supporting the work that you’re doing.