The All Good Living Foundation Helps the Community Pull Together for the Homeless
Businessman Chris Tam started the AGL foundation to inspire other businesses to help those in need.
Chris Tam and team members of his All Good Living Foundation are doing good for Alameda.
Photo by Lance Yamamoto
The phrase “it’s all good” encapsulates a carefree attitude. It’s the response you give to communicate that life is going well, or there are no hard feelings, or that you are willing to let the little things go. But for Alameda resident and business owner Chris Tam, “all good” entails much more. It’s about caring and helping others. It’s about not just being good, but doing good.
Tam credits his father, the late Niel Tam, with influencing his mission to help others. Niel Tam was a special education teacher with the Alameda Unified School District for 28 years, an AUSD principal for over 11 years, and a volunteer with nonprofit boards throughout the island, including Alameda Family Services, Girls Inc. of the Island City, Boys & Girls Club of Alameda, and the Alameda Point Collaborative.
“He worked tirelessly for immigrants, diversity, and low-income families and children,” Tam said of his father. “He helped to found a number of nonprofits dedicated to families in need. His core principles to provide support to children influences the drive I have to continue his passion.”
With these values in tow, in the spring of 2018, Tam founded the All Good Living Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to help homeless and underprivileged children in the Bay Area, starting right in his hometown. “All Good Living Foundation focuses on helping kids and families in need by uniting everyone to do good,” Tam said.
The foundation is essentially a bridge linking members of the community in this mission. A growing list of businesses regularly donates much-needed clothing and supplies to the foundation, which distributes them to foster children and homeless families through a free online store or through the AUSD, which protects the privacy of those who are struggling by keeping them anonymous.
“[The district] continues to let us know when more kids are in need,” Tam said. “They don’t give out any information except for school, gender, and age. They service the kids directly; we just provide the necessities.”
Lizeth Martinez is the liaison for homeless students and the foster coordinator for the school district. In this role, she helps protect every district student’s right to learn, identifying homeless and foster families at enrollment and through local shelters and supporting them with everything from transportation and food assistance to counseling referrals and filling out a Medi-Cal application.
According to Martinez, the AGL Foundation has made an immense difference in a short amount of time, especially in terms of enabling her to service a broader population. This often includes children in transition, families that can no longer afford Alameda’s increasing rent prices but who are not yet enrolled in the district’s homeless intake program that currently includes 136 kids from 13 Alameda schools.
“Before, a family would come in and say, ‘I’m not homeless, but I need support,’ and I would say, ‘Let me refer you over here,’” Martinez explained. “Now, I can say, ‘This is what I have for you. What else do you need?’”
For example, Martinez recently assisted in a situation in which a family was staying in its car, and through the AGL Foundation, she was able to provide a gift certificate to a Park Street restaurant, blankets, and new clothes, all in the same day. In another situation, a family staying temporarily with another family did not want to overextend its welcome by doing laundry, so their kids risked going to school without proper hygiene. AGL Foundation quickly provided new attire for the week and detergent for washing clothes at the city of Alameda’s Homeless Outreach Team laundry. For the families that did not have the luxury of doing back-to-school shopping at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, AGL Foundation donated clothes and shoes from partners like District and FabKids, so the children could return to school with positivity and confidence.
Martinez explained that in difficult circumstances, moms are usually the last ones to think of themselves, so she recently worked with Tam to supply moms in need with goodie bags filled with toiletries such as shampoo, toothbrushes, and deodorant gathered through an AGL Foundation-sponsored toiletry drive. Through AGL Foundation’s partnership with Tot Tank, new moms enrolled at Island High School have also been supplied with necessities like onesies, a bassinette, and nursing equipment.
“Our counselor at Island High has a humongous bin of hygiene products, gift bags for students who really need it that day, or supplies for a student who hasn’t been able to wash clothes in a week,” Martinez said. “Before AGL Foundation’s partnership, we weren’t able to provide that.”
None of this critical assistance would be possible without the individuals and local business entities that have stepped up to donate to the foundation’s cause, including Alameda Bicycle, Aphrodite’s Closet, ADAPT Clothing, SAVS Brand, Alameda Pediatric Dentistry, Honour Brand, Dragon Rouge, Supercuts on Park Street, 77 Salon, and many more.
Mirabelle Tolentino, senior designer at kids’ clothing and shoe store FabKids, says, “We were recently looking for a local partner to help us donate our surplus clothes and shoes to kids in need and were thrilled to learn about the All Good Living Foundation. At FabKids we believe that clothing is about more than fashion ... We believe that what kids wear can help them to express their individuality and build confidence. We are so excited to be a part of this joint venture focused on giving back and helping kids feel as amazing as they look.”
With ongoing charity drives and Do Good Days, when foundation staff and volunteers deliver donated goods, the foundation facilitates a shared effort to empower homeless families. Without the worry of feeding and clothing their children, families can focus on changing their situation to get out of homelessness.
Gail Kahele, who works on marketing for the foundation, said, “Other than being a mother, this is the most rewarding job … Knowing we help kids stay in school and off the streets or help families transition, work isn’t work.”
While Tam donates to the foundation from his business, All Good Living Store, a wholesale and retail brand, the foundation is a separate entity. As Martinez described it, the foundation is like “the grandmother bringing everyone together.”
“I’m really glad they’re in the spotlight right now because they deserve it. They’re the ones behind the scenes and usually those are the ones that get overlooked.”