Coachella Valley Housing Coalition has discovered that partnering with "unlikely bedfellows" has multiple benefits for residents.
One of those is the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which has partnered with Coachella (Indio, California) to host a summer tennis camp for children age 6-17. Since its start in 2000, the program has introduced more than 765 children to the sport.
Julie Bornstein, Coachella's executive director, says the partnership began simply because the tennis facility was easily accessible; it's located just a few miles away from the organization's affordable housing communities. However, as the program progressed over the years, it became clear it also is an investment in children's futures.
"We recognized that tennis is taught in a lot of schools and could provide scholarship opportunities for the students," Bornstein explains. "But beyond that, tennis is a sport people play well into their senior years, so there is a practical aspect in terms of health."
At the world-renowned tennis garden, children are taught by retired tennis professionals who live in the Coachella Valley. Many participants describe the sport as a fun way to get exercise.
"It's fun and keeps me in shape. It also is exciting," said one participant on this year's post-camp survey.
The partnership has held strong for the past 16 years because the tennis garden and instructors were right at Cochella's doorway. On the surface, it may seem unconventional that the organization offers its residents an activity that is largely associated with higher-income communities. However, Coachella takes pride in this unlikely partnership.
"Just because one is lower income doesn't mean he or she wouldn't be interested in playing tennis or couldn't be great at it," she says. "So we moved past that stereotype and it turned into a wonderful thing."
Bornstein urges other nonprofits to take advantage of partnerships that make sense for residents—meaning they're accessible to the community and relevant to resident interests and needs. Beyond tennis, Coachella has partnered with a local school to offer ESL classes for adults and a nearby art project to host a poetry reading for retired farmworkers.
By keeping an open mind, organizations can create programs that merge housing with health, arts, athletics and more. For Coachella, it began with finding a local business and saying "why not?"