Community Service: A Chat with Kendra Puryear of Orangewood Foundation

Recently named the 2023 California Nonprofit of the Year, Orangewood Foundation exemplifies what we know to be undeniably true: supporting local has a big impact. But perhaps Orangewood Foundation’s Chief Development Officer Kendra Puryear puts it best, “connecting the community with ways to make a difference creates the kind of collective impact that transforms lives and informs systemic change.” 

To learn more, we caught up with Kendra, who chatted about Orangewood’s approach, community support, and – most importantly – the importance of community in affecting change.

TSG Newport Beach: Longtime locals are familiar with Orangewood and the work that the foundation does. What, specifically, drew you to working with youth and the Orangewood Foundation?
Kendra Puryear:
When I started my career in the nonprofit sector in 2005, I worked with CASA of OC, which, serendipitously, shared a building with Orangewood Foundation. I’ll never forget sitting at my desk in those early days at CASA crying as I wrote up the holiday wish list of a 16-year girl. She was asking for a vacuum cleaner so that her baby could safely play on the floor of her new foster home. That was her Christmas wish. I vowed to do everything I could to ensure the system didn’t let girls like her fall through the cracks. Even after leaving CASA to work with The Raise Foundation, Orange County United Way, and the international NGO Developments in Literacy, I hoped I’d end up at CASA or Orangewood Foundation.

TSG Newport Beach: How did you end up back at Orangewood Foundation? 
Kendra Puryear:
I was fortunate to maintain ties with Orangewood Foundation through volunteering with the Junior League of Orange County, which worked with Orangewood youth at Samueli Academy (the public charter school established by Orangewood Foundation. In late 2018 I got a call from Orangewood Foundation’s Chief Development Officer, Carlos Leija. He said to me, “I’m leaving Orangewood Foundation, but I want to leave it in good hands. Will you apply for the role?” I was so floored and flattered, as I’ve always looked up to Carlos. I officially started at Orangewood Foundation as Chief Development Officer on April 1, 2019. And it felt like coming home. 

TSG Newport Beach: How is Orangewood Foundation uniquely positioned to fulfill the vow you made in 2005?
Kendra Puryear:
Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with countless nonprofits. It was clear the difference that a consistent, caring relationship could make in the life of a young person who didn’t receive the support they deserved growing up. And that’s what Orangewood Foundation does – it meets youth where they’re at, providing the foundational support they need to build a successful future. 

TSG Newport Beach:
Let’s dive into the specifics, the Orangewood Way if you will… 
Kendra Puryear:
When Orangewood Foundation started 42 years ago, it exclusively served youth in foster care. Since then, Orangewood Foundation has evolved to meet the needs of teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24. Think: foster youth and young adults who experienced complex trauma early in life. Our goal is to help these youths reach their greatest potential through respect, trust, empathy, inclusion, and advocacy – values they most likely did not experience growing up.

TSG Newport Beach: Functionally, what does this look like?
Kendra Puryear:
It’s tough to dream of a future when you’re just trying to survive. So, while we don’t define success on behalf of the young adults we work with, we do believe the building blocks of a “successful” future include physical and mental wellness, housing, life skills, employment, and education. For example, when we meet with a young person, one of the first things we do is ensure their basic needs are met. Then, we assess which programs and services may be most useful to them. Support could include housing navigation, job placement, emergency rent assistance, an educational scholarship, or all of the above. And since support and “success” looks different for each person, we’ve developed a broad range of programs and services to help each individual find self-sufficiency. The unifying factor of all of these programs is trust and consistency. Developing personal relationships is the essential component to helping them navigate a successful path forward.


TSG Newport Beach: You’ve touched on the breadth and fluidity of Orangewood Foundation several times…
Kendra Puryear:
Orangewood’s mission necessitates innovation. And we’re constantly evolving to ensure that, no matter the challenge or goal, the kids we work with know they can come to us for support. I think that’s why, despite being well-known across Orange County as a credible nonprofit organization, I still meet longtime locals who aren’t quite sure what Orangewood does. I’ll admit, it’s hard to keep up with an organization like Orangewood Foundation. We’re constantly innovating to meet the most pressing needs of youth in our community. As their needs evolve, so do our services and programs.

TSG Newport Beach: What is the most meaningful way locals can support Orangewood Foundation’s work?
Kendra Puryear:
I’d be remiss not to mention the impact of financial contributions, but I’d rather encourage locals to visit the Orangewood Resource Center Kitchen to make and share a meal with our youth. It’s a special experience and the best place to understand what Orangewood Foundation does.

TSG Newport Beach: Can you elaborate?
Kendra Puryear:
The Orangewood Resource Center kitchen is usually the first place we meet with youth seeking support. It’s where we start to learn about them – their immediate needs and hopes for the future – and start building a relationship with them. There’s just something so powerful about showing up and sharing a warm meal.

TSG Newport Beach: And for those of us who are, well, challenged in the kitchen?
Kendra Puryear:
If you can’t cook, a frozen lasagna works, too! It’s really about connecting and nurturing. We also host annual events like the Orangewood Challenge, a multi-sport obstacle course around Newport Dunes. Teams of four complete a fundraising challenge to enter the physically and mentally inspiring course. Last year we raised $625,000 and we’re shooting for $1M by 2025. We also host a luncheon with our 44 Women for Orangewood Auxiliary every June to celebrate the achievements of the young adults who are working hard to pave their own way forward through education.

TSG Newport Beach: What a quintessentially Newport Beach/Orange County way to invite the community to get connected…
Kendra Puryear:
As Chief Development Officer, designing outreach and fundraising opportunities that reflect our community is rewarding, as is meeting people from all walks of life, industries, and backgrounds united in a common desire to make a difference in the community. I learn so much from the folks I spend time with, and I’m always so inspired by people actively looking to do good with their time and resources. Our community’s generosity is really moving.

TSG Newport Beach: Orangewood Foundation is one of the founding members of The Scout Guide Newport Beach. What is the support of scouted members – and local businesses at large – like?
Kendra Puryear:
We’ve been so fortunate to meet so many local business owners through The Scout Guide Newport Beach, and we have been so touched by their generosity and heart for giving back. For example, our fellow Volume 1 Members Katie Miller of Mama Bijoux and Victoria Kennedy of Kennedy Contemporary have leveraged their fabulous businesses and communities for Orangewood, hosting in-store events.

TSG Newport Beach: Let’s flip the script. How do you support Newport Beach’s local businesses?
Kendra Puryear:
A recent milestone birthday has inspired a self-care kick, so I’ve been a frequent flier at Bar Method and Nourish Nutrition. If I’m not at Orangewood or Bar Method you’ll find me at Lido Marina Village picking up a breakfast bowl at Zinque or a grab-and-go matcha latte from Herst Coffee Roasters, popping into Lido Village Books or Alchemy Works for (yet another) hat. I also try to look to local for everyday essentials and gifts. Candles from Backhouse Fragrances are both – I always have one burning at home and keep a stash for last-minute gifts!

Learn more about Orangewood Foundation and how to support their essential work at You can also follow along with the latest and greatest at Orangewood on Instagram. Don’t forget to tell them Scout sent you!

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