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Community Resilience as the Path to Preparedness: Lessons Learned from California’s Recent Wildfires

Thursday, December 12, 2019
1:00pm - 2:30pm PST
LA84 Foundation Olympian Lounge
2141 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018
Members: $0.00
Non-Members: $100.00
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When a wildfire or other extreme natural event affects a community, it exposes and exacerbates existing gaps in the social safety net in areas such as housing, homelessness, and health, and for vulnerable populations such as immigrants, children, and seniors. For this reason, grantmakers working to strengthen the social safety net are often, intentionally or not, also investing in community resilience and disaster preparedness. Join us to discuss ways to make these connections more explicit within grantmaking. We will hear from community leaders from Ventura and Butte Counties, both recently affected by severe wildfires, regarding investments they wish had been in place pre-disaster, and ways in which they are thinking about long-term recovery and resilience.


John E. Kobara

Chief Operating Officer, California Community Foundation

John E. Kobara is a respected figure nationally in the philanthropic and nonprofit communities. As chief operating officer of CCF, he is responsible for all of the development, marketing, administrative, grantmaking, civic engagement and donor relations functions of the foundation. He joined the foundation in 2008 to head the external and donor relations department. From 2003-2008, he was on the foundation’s board of directors while serving as head of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles.

For 35 years, Kobara has been leading and managing innovative nonprofit organizations, companies and technology startups, and actively involved in advancing social justice by increasing access to educational opportunities in Los Angeles. In 2007, Kobara received the City of Angels Award for his service on behalf of children and families. He was a Coro Fellow in Los Angeles and earned a bachelor’s from UCLA, a master’s in business administration from USC and a master’s from Occidental College.


Vanessa Bechtel

President and CEO, Ventura County Community Foundation

Vanessa Bechtel serves as president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF), an organization committed to safeguarding the long-term legacies of thousands of generous donors through the careful management of the charitable capital entrusted to them. Prior to her work with VCCF, Bechtel served as executive director of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation. Bechtel was recognized as Nonprofit Leader of the Year by the Ventura County Leadership Academy in 2019 and Humanitarian of the Year by the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation with her spouse, Jim. Bechtel graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Law and Society. In 2016, she received her master’s degree from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

Alexa Benson-Valavanis 

President and CEO, North Valley Community Foundation (NVCF)

Alexa Benson-Valavanis is the president and CEO of the North Valley Community Foundation (NVCF), an organization she was hired to reimagine and rebuild 14 years ago. Benson-Valavanis is a longtime resident of Butte County. She was recruited to play basketball at Chico State University and graduated with a degree in journalism. During her tenure, NVCF has raised more than $166  million to address the most pressing challenges in our world, by engaging thousands of individuals, families, businesses, nonprofits, agencies and private foundations. The day of the Camp Fire in 2018, NVCF transformed into a disaster relief and long term recovery operation and has raised to date $72 million for those efforts.

Brett Willis

Captain II, Los Angeles Fire Department

For the past 18 years, Brett Willis has risen up through the ranks of the Los Angeles Fire Department. He currently serves a Captain II with Fire Station #60, which serves the North Hollywood area. Over the past couple of months, Captain Willis has worked on the Getty, Palisades, Saddleridge and the Maria Fires. His primary role for these fires was to manage structural defense, which means he and his team were responsible for saving the homes nearest the fires. Willis knew from a young age that he wanted to be a firefighter. He participated in the Explorer program and then worked at various fire agencies before landing at the LAFD. Captain Willis lives in Thousand Oaks with his wife and two children.



Current SCG Members: $0
Eligible Non-members: $100 

Who May Attend
Current SCG and eligible non-members

SCG members: Register online (you must log in to your SCG account to register).
Non-members: Register online. If you do not have an SCG account, contact us.
If you have additional questions regarding these sessions, please contact us at [email protected]

Accommodations for People with Disabilities
If you have a disability and require accommodation in order to fully participate in this activity, please contact our programs team at [email protected] or (213) 680-8866. You will be contacted by someone from our staff to discuss your specific needs.

Funding Issue Area & Geographic Regions