Living in Purpose with Lauren Ruiz
Updated: Mar 14
Lauren Ruiz and I met years ago when I was on the Board of OneOC. I was so taken by her energy and passion for making a difference. She was also on a fast track for an expanded role and responsibilities. We can see she has continued to grow and is now Director of Grants and Corporate Relations at South County Outreach.
We also had the wonderful opportunity for her to participate in our inaugural 2020 REACH peer learning group with nine other future leaders from premier LA and OC companies. She brought her curious, engaging and thoughtful perspective to the group and I wanted to catch up and see what she was up to now.
Sherry: Tell me about your career journey since we last saw you at the REACH program in 2020?
Lauren: I participated in REACH during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – so needless to say, a lot has changed since then. Professionally, REACH helped me to align my personal passions to my day-to-day work. I started reading more, focusing on what brought me joy, and ultimately, I joined the team at South County Outreach in July of 2021. Each day I get to do what I love the most, which is engaging companies and writing grants. It’s a great balance of the introvert and extrovert in me.
Sherry: What attracted you to the world of non-profit originally?
Lauren: I was lucky to be exposed to charitable runs, walks, and other events, at a young age. And somehow, those experiences at age 12 of checking people in to an event, or handing out t-shirts, evolved into knowing I wanted to work in the non-profit space in some way. There is clearly the human element in non-profit. Non-profits are about helping make change, one at a time in a meaningful way. And like all jobs, some days are hard, and sometimes not glamorous. But when a client is pushing their full grocery cart to their parked car, just like you and I would at the grocery store - it is a gratifying, grounding and a humbling visual reminder.
Sherry: I love your comment on linked in that you create ideas that have wings. Tell me more about that.
Lauren: I learned early on in my fundraising career, that the sky is the limit to creating purposeful change, no matter what the cause. Sometimes the biggest and craziest ideas, create the greatest impact. That happens when you can move the needle or break the mold and here at South County Outreach, I am able to do that. For example, when it comes to feeding people, our mantra is to feed others what we would feed our own families. This is a different mindset from historical models of food banks/pantries, which replaces a scarcity mindset to one of abundance and generosity.
Sherry: How does someone get involved in fundraising?
Lauren: Some of the best fundraisers I know, are also the best storytellers. Let’s be honest, passion is contagious and everyone loves a good story. Most people just fall into it, their passion for a cause becomes a career, one way or another.
Sherry: What is unique about South County Outreach? Obviously, it captured your heart and mind. How can our colleagues support you?
Lauren: South County Outreach is a hunger and homeless prevention organization, that really focuses on helping people help themselves in the most dignified-way possible. Unlike many other hunger-relief organizations, while full bellies are critical to our work, South County Outreach prioritizes high-quality, nutritional food options over quantity.
In order to support us, please join us April 7th for our first in-person event since 2019! We call it, “Empty Bowls” and this is our signature fundraising event. It is designed to raise awareness of hunger in Orange County and to raise critical funds for South County Outreach programs that feed and house thousands in need.
In partnership with local chefs and restaurants, the evening is a fun night of tasting and doing good for the community. Support us by joining us that night, April 7th at 6 pm at the Segerstrom Shelby Event Center – learn more here Empty Bowls Registration - South County Outreach Orange County (sco-oc.org)