The Gjelina Group Foundation
The Gjelina Group Foundation is a 501c3 registered nonprofit dedicated to uplifting communities through the support of programs committed to food, farming, arts, and environmental sustainability.
Born out of our experience and focusing on what we know best, food and art, the Gjelina Group Foundation focuses on providing students in Venice with high-quality hands-on learning opportunities centered around these two core tenets — with the aim to help keep kids in school, keep them engaged, and instill life lessons and skills.
We believe it is the responsibility of foundations, community leaders, and local voices to join together to take action in our communities — we’ve seen firsthand that when we step in to provide students with hands-on learning programs, something changes. Our goal is to serve every student in the Venice LAUSD.
Donate to the Gjelina Group Foundation
Your donation supports our ongoing efforts both locally in Venice, as well as to the organizations we support in New York and Oaxaca.
In 2009, Gjelina founder Fran Camaj started peeking into local public schools and was alarmed to find such an immense lack of resources at the schools in the Venice community. A former LAUSD school teacher himself, Fran began volunteering locally at Westminster Elementary School as a teaching assistant. Fran encouraged Gjelina staff to do the same, dubbing the efforts the Gjelina Volunteer Program (GVP). Since then, the Gjelina team has volunteered at over 75 events and has spent more than 2,500 hours with students at various public schools, as well as with farmers at many nonprofit organizations and businesses, to transform the way people think about food.
In 2015, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Venice, GVP began investing in and upgrading the Venice High School Learning Garden and established the Chef’s Club and the Gjelina Apprenticeship Program.
In 2017, Venice High School chose to begin self-funding our program and hired former Gjelina Group Foundation director Angela Hughes on a full-time basis to run the garden and the Culinary Arts Program.
In 2017, Gjelina Volunteer Program became an official 501(c)(3) and launched as Gjelina Group Foundation.
To date, the Gjelina Group Foundation has been exclusively funded by Gjelina Operations. Our goals in 2022 are to bring in external funding through private donations, grants, shared initiatives with other nonprofits and internal funding through restaurant initiatives within the Gjelina Group and public support of Gjournals.
Our Work in Venice:
We are working to develop a holistic and interconnected in-school food growing and culinary program spanning K through 12th grade and running continuously from year to year, fostering a value-driven nutritionally educational curriculum that will provide necessary skills and trade for students. The aim of the program is to provide students with viable skills for entering directly into a workplace with sound experience and a thought-out plan for their future goals.
Our high school curriculum will focus on furthering service and business skill development, including service training, financial controls, profit and loss training, labor law, and HR training — all culminating in a student-led presentation of a hospitality business plan that can be used as a future fundraising deck.
Additional after school training will include hands-on work with our farmers, ceramic production, basic electrical, refrigeration & plumbing skills, public relations training, and graphic design.
Our holistic aim is to create a model for a public school program that can be directly transferable across education systems and schools — collectively building a foundation for empowering students to both acquire viable trades and skill sets; to consciously pursue their passions with a tangible career path in mind; and to avoid unnecessary student debt by entering directly into a workplace with a path for longevity.
We Also Support:
70% of our team is from or has family based in Oaxaca. Supporting the direct families of our team members — as well as connecting with organizations within Oaxaca — is a core part of our Foundational support.
Innovando la Tradición is a non-profit organization that works hard to revitalize the pottery tradition in Oaxaca, the most culturally diverse state in Mexico, through social and participatory design, solidarity economy, and cultural development.
We will establish a Gjelina Group teaching kitchen and restaurant in Oaxaca that teaches transferable skills to be utilized both in our, and with any, restaurant group in the US. This will include hospitality training in all positions (including front and back of house), financial control and business management training, HR training, and ESL. Our aim is to allow for a faster track into better positions within hospitality, breaking some of the economic injustice experienced by people of color.
New York City
Continuing our relationship with the Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC), an organization connecting girls and young women to healthy and successful futures, we will work to directly collaborate on extending and cultivating their existing farming and culinary programs for middle and high school students.
The Gjelina Group’s former farm in Upstate NY provided and donated their gala and meals in 2016-2017, and assisted in supporting gardening-driven programming that could be sustained internally on an ongoing basis.
Stories from our community
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