Patricia FunegraPatricia Funegra is a member of the Future Fund, the giving circle for young professionals at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and the Founder and CEO of La Cocina VA, a grant recipient of the Community Investment Funds grant cycle.  We asked her a few questions about her personal philanthropy and commitment to supporting the local community.

What are your philanthropic goals and interests?

For the past three years I have dedicated my life to social entrepreneurship, civic engagement and advocacy through the work that I do as the Founder and CEO of La Cocina VA promoting and supporting workforce development among immigrant communities. It was a natural transition for me to add a philanthropic side to the meaningful contribution of my work and to start offering economic support to help solve and alleviate other issues that also affect our community. I believe that the learning process I have gone through as a social entrepreneur placed me in the intersection where preparation meets opportunity and I was ready to take my contribution for the social well-being of our community to a higher level. 

What does it mean to you to support local critical needs?

I was born and raised in Peru until I decided to move to the United States when I was 38 years old. Coming from a developing country helps me understand with more clarity how it is to live lives where not even the most basic needs are met. I always strive to see a more just and equitable world and I decided to start working towards that goal in our own back yard, Northern Virginia.

Our low-income communities face a wide variety of challenge; lack of access to affordable housing, healthy food, access to education and opportunities among other issues, but I strongly believe that when a community works together combining its resources to provide and facilitate access to those critical needs, our community thrives.

How did you first learn of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia?

La Cocina VA is a grantee of the Giving Circle of HOPE, who introduced me to the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia two years ago. Since then I have found different ways to get more involved, joining the Future Fund as a member and volunteer for the Grants Committee. I believe I have the responsibility to serve my community and the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia offers me that opportunity.

I consider that the leadership that Eileen Ellsworth has offered to the Community Foundation for the past 11 years represents a remarkable influence in the philanthropic community. She has been able to expand not just the amount of dollars raised, but has also expanded it to new groups that were not part of the traditional philanthropic community, creating awareness and increasing the opportunities to contribute. 

Why did you join the Future Fund and parter with the Community Foundation on your personal philanthropy?

I wanted to be part of something with an impact that superseded my own ability to contribute, to go beyond the walls of my organization. There is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that you are responsible for the success and growth of others, that my contribution could help provide people the opportunity to earn a living, to provide for their families, to obtain education and to fulfill their own dreams.

Community, collaboration, inclusiveness and integration are what the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia promotes and is what gives us the opportunity to help fill critical needs in our quest for sustainability and growth. 

You are also the recipient of a Community Investment Funds grant.  Can you speak to the impact that grant has had on your programs?

Obtaining a grant from the Community Investment Funds cycle has impacted La Cocina VA in many ways. The economic contribution has helped cover the cost of training for unemployed women, most of whom are survivors or victims of domestic abuse, transforming their lives in a very short period of time obtaining jobs, strengthening their self-confidence and building financial independence.

Obtaining this grant has also served as recognition to our work and how our approach of comprehensive support, implementation of partnerships across sectors, measuring impact and advocating for meaningful issues represents a robust model that works towards real transformational change.

The thorough evaluation that the Community Investment Fund performs in selecting its grantees has raised awareness among the philanthropic community about the importance of investing in programs such as La Cocina VA’s.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I am honored and grateful to be part of the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia at different levels and I encourage other members of the community to get involved and to participate in the creation of a more just community for all.