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Roger Presgrove Of Help The Children Named A Santa Clarita Unsung Hero

Mercedes-Benz of Valencia

Help the Children logo

Roger Presgrove has worked in the Christian humanitarian aid field for more than 20 years, and since 2005 the Santa Clarita resident has served as president of Help the Children, one of the nation’s Top 10 charities according to independent watchdog organizations.

Over the past two decades, Help the Children and other nonprofit organizations Presgrove has helmed have shipped more than $900 million in relief aid to people in 12 states and 52 countries around the world — and that includes aid to kids and families here in the Santa Clarita Valley via Help the Children’s food pantry in the Valencia Industrial Center.

Presgrove's proven leadership in mobilizing people to help others is just part of why he is KHTS’s latest Santa Clarita Unsung Hero, brought to you by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia.

The Southern California native attended Baptist College and graduated from UCLA in 1979 with a degree in Christian education, intending to get involved with some form of ministry. But he found the politics of organized churches unattractive, so he went into the private sector instead and worked for General Motors until he took a voluntary buyout in 1990, the same year he moved to Santa Clarita.

“I was in quality control, loved what I did, made real good money,” Presgrove told AM 1220’s Jason Endicott in an on-the-air interview Monday, March 25. “I had a good time, but felt that there was something I could do to help people, and that wasn't doing it. At that time they were offering a buyout, I thought, ‘You know what, I'm going to go ahead and do that, and go do a nonprofit job.’”


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As he entered into his second career, Presgrove was ordained in the Ministry of Jesus Christ in May 1993. In the years that followed, he served as a Youth Pastor, College Pastor and Singles Pastor at the Church at Rocky Peak in Chatsworth on a volunteer basis.

Presgrove had heard positive things about World Operations International/Help the Children, a Los Angeles-based Christian nonprofit charitable organization, so he made contact.

“I went over there and met with their president at the time and showed that I had an interest,” he said. “I had a business background, and she said, ‘It just so happens we're looking for a director of operations. Why don't you come on board, learn what we do and how to run a nonprofit?’ Did that for seven years.”

Help the Children chief Roger Presgrove thanks volunteers.At that point, Presgrove branched out on his own, forming a new Christian nonprofit aid organization called Children’s Network International to provide food, personal hygiene items and medical assistance to needy children and families in the States and around the world, and share the teachings of Jesus Christ.

When World Opportunities International/Help the Children ceased operations in 2005, and offered its programs to Children’s Network International, Presgrove then merged the organizations under the “Help the Children” banner. In 2011, the most recent year for which total figures are available, the organization distributed more than $75 million in relief supplies around the world.

Roger Presgrove thanks Help the Children volunteers who assembled 1,000 boxes of food for families in need.

According to the Help the Children website, 99 percent of every dollar goes directly to its programs, with the other one percent divided between administrative costs and fundraising activities. (The independent Charity Navigator evaluation organization confirms this, also noting that Presgrove’s annual compensation is just $30,000; “As the executive director of a nonprofit, I also receive a $40,000 pre-tax housing allowance,” he said.) 

The MainStreet.com charity watchdog site also lists Help the Children at No. 7 and Yahoo Financial rated it No. 7 among the Top 20 charitable organizations in the United States. Forbes.com also rated Help the Children the nation’s No. 7 charity in terms of efficiency, Presgrove said.

He detailed Help the Children’s key programs.

“Right now, we have a large food program,” he said. “Our headquarters are in Los Angeles, where we do about three million pounds of food a month. We have about 600 food agencies, churches, senior homes, that pick up food from us on a weekly basis. And of course, we started one out here in Santa Clarita, as well, in 2002.

“We also respond to national disasters,” he said. “Whenever there's a disaster — that's what these 12 states are — (whether it's) a flood, fires, earthquakes, we do everything we can to send our trucks out there to send relief aid. The things that we send are usually food, clothing and personal hygiene items.”

Most recently, Help the Children sent aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast.

When Help the Children set up its food pantry in the Valencia Industrial Center 11 years ago, Presgrove said they wanted to take a different approach from other pantries in downtown L.A. or in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“We wanted to have people come in, take an empty box, and shop like a supermarket, so they go down the aisles and pick out the things that are for their dietary needs,” he said. “We wanted to set it up so anybody can come in that is in need. Now, we have an application, but it's not one of those things where you can only make a certain amount of money. What we want to (do) is help.

“What happens if a loved one or a spouse, what have you, is struggling?” Presgrove asked. “I think everybody in Santa Clarita might have a neighbor or a friend that's kind of hurting. So we want them to know they can come down and pick up from our pantry. And we're open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and they can come every Tuesday, or every Thursday or every Saturday. One day a week they can come.”

Volunteers conduct a food drive for the Help the Children food pantry in Santa Clarita.Help the Children’s Santa Clarita Valley food pantry is located at 25030 Avenue Tibbitts, Suite L, Valencia 91355. Phone 661-702-8852. Its distribution hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday mornings from 8:30 to noon. Donation drop-off times are Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Santa Clarita Valley volunteers conduct a food drive to keep Help the Children's Santa Clarita food pantry well-stocked.

The assumption that the Santa Clarita Valley is an upper-middle-class, semi-affluent community with little or no poverty is inaccurate, Endicott said, and Presgrove confirmed that there’s a sizable invisible, underground homeless community.

“A lot of people really don't see what's going on,” Presgrove said. “We have people that live down in the wash, basically just below your station. They come and pick up food from us. We have people that have been removed from their homes. They have no place to go, so they're in their cars.”

Local kids are living in cars, too, he said. “I talked to a high school teacher, and he was talking about, there's like 300 kids in this valley right now either living in an RV or a car because they've lost their homes. Think about the economy the last years – it's been a tough time. Some people that lose their houses — where do you go? So, yeah, there is a tremendous need, and it is a wonderful city. I've been here since 1990 — I love Santa Clarita. But there are people that are in the shadows. You just don't know that they're there.”

Help the Children hospital in Guatemala.Presgrove and Endicott talked about Help the Children’s international efforts, as well. Help the Children has three main missions abroad. “We have a hospital we built in Guatemala, a 12-bed, three surgical room hospital that saves lives, in northern Guatemala,” Presgrove said. “We have what is called the Love and Life Center in Honduras. It's kind of like the Ronald McDonald house. We have 62 children with cancer (who) stay at our center while they receive chemotherapy at the hospital next door, so they don't have to try to go back home or find a place to get a ride, to get a bus to go to the hospital.

The Help the Children-sponsored hospital in Guatemala, shown under construction here, is now completed.

“The third thing we have is called the Oasis Girls School, and that's in Nairobi, Kenya,” he said. “We have 122 girls there whose parents have died of AIDS, so they have no place to go. So we basically made it a school, an orphanage/school, so we educate them. We worked out a deal with the government, so when they graduate from high school, they become teachers for their country of Kenya.”

When Endicott asked what other nonprofit organizations were special to him, Presgrove instead shifted the focus to how the better-off among us should feel compelled to help others in need, especially veterans, who he sees as the true heroes among us.

“There's a lot (of organizations), sorry,” Presgrove said. “I think the biggest thing is, if you can help with the physical needs. I think it's very important that when you have two arms, two legs and everything's working perfectly, you don't think about it when you get out of bed, throw the blanket off. You don't think, ‘How am I going to go to work?’ There's a lot of people that don't have that luxury anymore. There's a lot of people, especially in our veterans' programs, people who have lost a limb, (made) that sacrifice for their country. I think when it comes to military, my eyes go up, my heart goes out to them. I say, ‘You know what? You are a hero in my eyes.’”

Roger Presgrove, president of Help the Children, based in Los Angeles.Presgrove welcomes volunteers to help out at the Help the Children pantry. “We're always looking for volunteers,” he said. “Obviously we're open those three days, but we're also open during the day as well to help stock shelves. Sometimes we're looking for drivers, somebody who would be willing to go pick up at the local supermarket or a school that did a food drive or so forth. It's just a couple of hours or an hour a day, one day a week or one day every two weeks, but there's always a way that we can plug you in. We have a lot of kids who do community service time with us — we love having high school students. It's a plus, but there's always a need for volunteers — always.”

To find out more about Help the Children, its mission, its work, and how to volunteer time or donate funds, visit www.helpthechildren.org. Find Help the Children on Facebook here. The toll-free number is 888-818-4483.

Watch Roger Presgrove’s complete interview with AM-1220 KHTS afternoon drive air personality Jason Endicott on Monday, March 25, 2013, and learn more about this Santa Clarita Unsung Hero’s good deeds. You can also download the audio podcast.

Read more of KHTS's Santa Clarita Unsung Heroes features brought to you by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia.

Mercedes-Benz of Valencia is proud to be part of the Santa Clarita Valley, not only giving you the superior customer service you deserve, but also giving back to our community by supporting our schools, sports teams, Sheriff's Station and nonprofit organizations. Now, Mercedes-Benz of Valencia and KHTS have teamed up to present "Santa Clarita's Unsung Heroes," a special feature spotlighting local residents who make a difference in our valley. With new contributions also comes a new Mercedes management team. Visit Mercedes-Benz of Valencia today.

Article: Roger Presgrove Of Help The Children Named A Santa Clarita Unsung Hero
Article Source: Mercedes-Benz of Valencia — Santa Clarita Unsung Hero
Author: Stephen K. Peeples

Photos: Courtesy Roger Presgove and Help the Children.