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PERRIS: Charity doing remodel with zero dollars

10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

When it comes to community projects, money is not typically a consideration for the Southwest Veterans Business Resource Center.

The nonprofit organization is powered mainly by volunteers and in-kind donations of materials and professional labor. Its latest "zero-dollar" endeavor is repainting the Perris city building that the center and other charities lease for $1 a year.

The face-lift of the building, on North D Street north of City Hall, is under way with the help of 10 teenagers, 60 gallons of free paint and three volunteer professional painters, said Albert Renteria, the center's volunteer chief executive officer.

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Frank Bellino / The Press-Enterprise
Lauren Taylor, of Moreno Valley, gets a painting lesson from John Alvarez, of Glidden Professional, at the Southwest Veterans Business Resource Center.

The veterans center's strategy is rare but one that Renteria believes could help other nonprofits weather the economic downturn. For more than two years, cash donations to charities have steadily declined as competition for grants has intensified, said Rita Rogers, a Perris councilwoman who has worked for the March of Dimes' Inland Empire division since 1998.

The economy is just one reason Renteria said he does not ask for cash.

"I can appreciate, particularly for a community like Perris, it's not the time to raise dollars. I believe that if we're all prudent with our bottom line, we can afford to do projects like this," said Renteria, a retired 26-year Marine Corps veteran who runs four such resource centers that share the same website:

"I tell businesses, 'If you really want to promote your product, give to a good cause and engage the youth.' "

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Justin Corbett, of Moreno Valley, is among the Perris Community Partnership Youth Council volunteers.

Five months ago, Renteria inherited the furniture for the center from a company that was moving to Virginia.

Renteria said the painting project's real value is giving youth hands-on experience in project planning.

Benjamin Watkins, 21, rounded up 10 of his peers from the Perris Community Partnership Youth Council and planned the group's tasks in sync with Glidden Professional Paint, which donated the paint, and Americal Construction, which provided free labor.

"One day there's going to be a lot of businesses running here," Watkins said, referring to the organizations that will set up shop at the center, such as the Employment Development Department and SCORE, a small business training organization. "We want to help them present themselves in the best way possible."

Lauren Taylor, 18, of Moreno Valley, said she planned to continue with the painting project even though she recently finished court-ordered community service -- her original reason for volunteering.

"I get to feel good about helping the community," she said. "And my grandpa's a veteran. He served in Vietnam."

Reach Julissa McKinnon at 951-375-3730 or

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Welcoming home our men and women doesn't end after the crowd disperses, it MUST continue on for the life of the Veteran! They've served us, now we will serve them with programs that work so they reintegrate into society.

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The Internal Revenue Service has determined that Southwest Veterans' Business Resource Center, Inc. is an organization exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A donation to SWVBRC, Inc. is deductible to the extent permitted under law.

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