America began as a nation that is symbolic of the kind of freedom that every citizen in the world did not just dream of, but deeply yearned for. More than two hundred years later, this dream is kept alive and right at the heart of it was a promise that as long you work hard and take pride in what you do, yours is your kind of life, liberty, and individual version of happiness.
America remains to be the undisputed military and economic superpower on the face of the earth, buttressed by a strong middle class who inarguably still overwhelms the world with innovation, fierce competitiveness, and the unquenchable thirst for ways and means to win.
This is nowhere more evident than in our beloved community of Temecula where opportunities for growth founded on its proud traditions of hard work, perseverance, and enterprise have long characterized the people who came and settled here. But as history has also proven when we inevitably ushered in the worst economic recession in 2008 since the Great Depression, challenges come unexpectedly and resiliency is normally characterized by the right tools, planning, and intestinal fortitude.
Over the course of almost six years, the Inland Valley Business Community Foundation or IVBCF has been focusing on American resiliency more than anything it has done in successfully contributing to further strengthen this side of America—Temecula, Murrieta, and the Inland Valley at large. The mission is simple yet powerful: “Bringing businesses and community together.”
The focal point is Marie Waite who founded IVBCF in the spring of 2008; at a time when the housing market went down that led to a chain of events and threatened American economic supremacy; and a time when such crises called for something to be done, something that will spur us back again to collective growth and success.
She began organizing business expos in response to the American call for resiliency, beginning with a staff of nine people and putting together One hundred seven vendors and their businesses in an unassuming high school parking lot. This first success, albeit a small one, was followed by several more, all the while giving the majority of the expos’ proceeds back to the community through charities.
As in all endeavors, however, she was confronted by challenges and it did not take long before she found herself dealing with “no shows” and late cancellations, one of the persistent indications of that time when Washington and the rest of the United States were still trying to figure out how to rise above the recession, and that Temecula, too, was also trying to make sense of a situation that ran contrary to the promise that America made to its people: prosperity and boundless opportunities.
Marie then put her creativity to work, hosting a fashion show that would later on become one of the biggest, most elegant and anticipated events of the year in Inland Empire: the IVBCF Spring Fashion Show. People came and more attended with each succeeding event. The business expo, it seemed, no longer made sense. By this time, Marie has consistently given back to the community through promoting Project T.O.U.C.H., dedicated in overcoming homelessness and its prevention, and S.A.F.E. (safe alternatives for everyone), serving southwest Riverside County for children, youth, and families who have experienced or are at risk of abuse and violence.
But Marie still believed in what made America great and that it is businesses that drive communities forward; it is businesses that reaffirms the sum of the enterprising spirit of the American people: yes we can!
And so in 2010, envisioning a much deeper and more expanded role for IVBCF in the community, she turned the foundation into a non-profit. She then met Steve Matley a year later, in 2011, who would later prove to be instrumental in restructuring the foundation, revitalizing it and making it successful as it is today. Marie worked with Steve for the foundation to remain true to its mission through mixer meetings such as Table for Six and Speed Networking, providing consultations and business education programs that, in some instances, are offered pro bono.
The IVBCF maintains its distinction in a way that helps one business at a time go down to the root cause of their problems, addressing them, and working with the business owners towards their success. And while they do not intend to become a political lobbying group of some sort, they expect their influence to extend beyond Temecula, allowing the foundation’s experience and expertise cascade down to affiliated organizations in building communities through strong local businesses that, in turn, lets the money you spend stay where you live.
Resiliency, after all, is accomplished in this way and in order for America to keep its promise, it must not be left to fend for itself. We do something to fulfill that promise by working together. Helping each other. Simply because we can.
And through this spirit of American enterprise and resiliency, we are more free.