KYCC is doing a series of profiles on clients who utilize multiple programs and services across our agency. This “multitouch” approach addresses the complex, human needs of our clients, and maximizes our agency’s strength as a multiservice agency. Through integrated and coordinated care, KYCC is striving to improve the quality of life for the individuals, children and families that we serve.
It’s a Sunday afternoon and Adaly Ugalde is sweeping the streets outside of Accion Westlake, a grassroots effort by and for residents in the Westlake District of Los Angeles. Accion Westlake is located on Alvarado Street, home to many immigrants from Mexico and Central America, in a space owned by Clinica Romero, a healthcare clinic for the underserved communities in L.A.
“I do this to keep the community in better condition,” Ugalde explains. “Setting the example is better than a thousand words.”
Ugalde is a community leader, organizer, educator and promotora. She partnered with KYCC over 15 years ago when she helped organize tree plantings and meetings with our Environmental Services unit. Meeting at parks and people’s homes, she helped plant dozens of trees along Westlake Avenue and Bonnie Brae Street.
During one of the tree planting events, she noticed a flyer for KYCC’s Tax Time Savings, provided by our Community Economic Development unit, which helps families build emergency savings and assets by linking tax refunds with savings accounts that offer a generous match.
“I used the tax credits for education,” she says. “I have four kids and I used that money to buy books for them during their high school and college years.”
From there, Ugalde got more and more involved with KYCC’s programs and services. She was one of the first mothers to attend a meeting with Prevention Education’s Manos Unidas, learning leadership skills through parent-led workshops on preventing alcohol and other drug use among youth in Westlake, Pico-Union and Koreatown. She learned how to build committees or working groups, which has led her to focus on educating her community.
“What happens if there is gentrification?” she asks. “If our community doesn’t have money, we don’t have rights. Now I am focused on tenants rights and requesting more low-income apartments. We need to make changes in people.”
Most recently, Ugalde has participated in Community Economic Development’s Lending Circles program, which helps borrowers access zero-interest loans when bank loans are not an option. Six to twelve members meet in person and collectively decide on loan amounts and payment schedules. Ugalde has used her payments to pay bills for her everyday expenses, such as food and bills. “We are living day to day,” she says.
She appreciates KYCC for our open communication and commitment. Once, she needed canopies for an event, and KYCC’s Environmental Services delivered them. When KYCC needed a space to rent for a Prevention Education research project, she offered Accion Westlake’s headquarters, for which we provide her with much-needed funding for the venue.
“KYCC could have gone to other places, but they came to us,” she says, gratefully.
Mayra Jimenez, KYCC Prevention Education Lead Community Organizer, recalls one cleanup where Ugalde drove a team to an underpass under the 110 Freeway. There were dirty clothes, trash and feces left in the tunnel, as well as multiple promises from city leaders to clean up the mess.
“It was outside her area, but Adaly said she was taking the matter into her own hands,” Jimenez says. “She is committed. She does this on her own time and she got it done because she said it needed to get done.”
In her home country of Guatemala, Ugalde explains that the endemic violence prevented her from speaking out. She had “a different kind of involvement” as a singer for the Guatemala National Choir and played on a volleyball league.
“In Guatemala, I didn’t have freedom,” she says. “I could spend my time on personal things, but if I spoke out like this, I wouldn’t be telling this story.”
Her interest in civic affairs started 22 years ago. New to the United States, she was living with a friend when the Census came knocking at the door. Her friend told her if she counted her as a tenant, as a landlord, she would lose her citizenship. Ugalde was curious, researched the matter and found that it wasn’t true.
“It sparked my curiosity to understand political agendas and how I could benefit from this knowledge,” she revealed.
Now she is the one knocking on doors, educating members of her community on their rights. Many of them just want to be comfortable and remain complacent. On the board of Clinical Romero for the past five years, and promoting Accion Westlake’s workshops from art to tenants rights to financial literacy, Ugalde remains determined.
“Education is free,” she says with certainty. “We can empower the people with information.”