Help with the cost of an unexpected surgery keeps a senior in good financial shape  

Selfie taken by Kate, JB Brown Fund recipient

I was able to cut down the amount that I owe on my medical bill, which has helped me stay on top of my other bills and out of debt


A COVID pandemic-prompted job loss coupled with a health issue that required surgery had Kate worried about her finances – and future.

Just like many older adults living on a fixed income, Kate’s unexpected challenges caused her a lot of stress. After buying groceries and paying rent and utilities, she wondered how she could handle the medical bills from the surgery and still keep her home.

Until she reached out to Lauren, Director of Social Services for LifeSTEPS. Lauren helped Kate apply for emergency financial assistance, updated her resume and found the paralegal numerous employment opportunities.

The financial assistance helped with her medical bills – including the cost of the surgery – and eliminated the need for Kate to tap her credit cards.

“With Lauren and LifeSTEPS’ help, I was able to cut down the amount that I owe on my medical bill, which has helped me stay on top of my other bills and out of debt,” says Kate, who lives at Vintage Brook in Concord. “I’m truly grateful for LifeSTEPS’ assistance.”

Kate expresses her gratitude by volunteering at LifeSTEPS activities and events at Vintage Brook. She also helps fellow residents who need legal resources.

Kate appreciates LifeSTEPS and the JB Brown Fund, an organization that helps residents experiencing financial hardships in many of USA Properties Fund’s affordable apartment communities. Donations to the JB Brown Fund provide much-needed financial support.

“The financial assistance from LifeSTEPS helped keep Kate out of debt and relieved her anxiety about the surgery and the bills,” says Lauren. “The fact that we could make a difference in Kate’s life gives me great joy.”


JB Brown Fund sports scholarship helps teen to embrace his passion

Image of a putter about to hit a golf ball

We are thankful for LifeSTEPS and the JB Brown Fund for giving my son access to improve his talents.


The JB Brown Fund has been a stroke of good fortune for Caleb and his mother.

The 13-year-old attends an online charter school and when the COVID pandemic stopped many of his out-of-the-house extracurricular activities, the reserved and shy Caleb struggled with loneliness. Connecting with others, especially kids his age, was difficult.

Another challenge was that Caleb suffers from severe asthma, which greatly limits his participation in youth sports such as baseball and soccer.

But there was golf, one of Caleb’s passions that also allows him to exercise and socialize. There was just one problem: Money.

As any golfer knows, paying for the sport – from lessons to green fees – can be tougher than playing a ball that lands in a sand trap or in the rough. Caleb’s mother, Lena, looked at her budget and knew there was no room for the sport.

Lena was disappointed and frustrated. She reached out to Jada, a LifeSTEPS Director of Social Services who knew Caleb from the after-school program at the apartment community. Jada made Lena aware of the JB Brown Fund youth sports scholarship program, and helped her complete the application.

Soon after, the JB Brown Fund – funded by donations to the organization – approved Caleb for a scholarship that paid for one year of lessons and access to nearby Windsor Golf Course. 

“Thank you so much to LifeSTEPS and Jada for letting me know about The JB Brown Fund’s sports scholarship,” Caleb says. “There are no words to express how thankful I am.”

And Caleb’s mother says the scholarship and sport have already had a life-changing effect on her son.

“His instructor and coach are great role models and have made a large impact on my son’s life,” she says. “We are thankful for LifeSTEPS and the JB Brown Fund for giving my son access to improve his talents.”


LifeSTEPS, JB Brown Fund help a veteran with a challenging mission

Photo of Dave, JB Brown Fund recipient

This program is excellent. It helped me tremendously, especially with the payment for my new leg.


A former soldier had the fight of his life when his health started to decline.

Dave, who used to pack parachutes as a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne, had built a decades-long career in the restaurant industry. But he had to retire early when he started having trouble with his right foot.

Doctors determined the cause was bacteria in his foot and leg, and were forced to amputate his leg in order to prevent the spread throughout his body.

For the former solider and the always-on-the move restaurant industry employee, the emotional – and financial – impact was devastating. After several weeks, Dave contacted the USA Properties’ management team at his affordable apartment community and shared the news.

The managers contacted Egle, Director of Social Services for LifeSTEPS at the apartment community. Egle helped Dave find an affordable prosthetic leg and created a budget to help with his finances.  

Egle also connected Dave to Saint Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity, and Mel Church in Fair Oaks. Both have helped Dave in numerous ways.

And LifeSTEPS approved $1,000 to cover part of the cost of the new prosthetic leg. The funds come from the JB Brown Fund, an organization that assists low-income residents dealing with financial hardships who live in many of USA Properties affordable apartment communities.

“This program is excellent,” says Dave, who receives emotional support from friends in the community. “It helped me tremendously, especially with the payment for my new leg.”


Laura Gutierrez, 2020 Graduate

Laura Gutierrez has accomplished much in a little time.

She moved from Mexico to Silicon Valley in 2013, with a commitment to learn – and master – English. She enrolled in a community college, first with a focus on English classes and then later to pursue a profession.

A few years later, she began dating her soon-to-be husband. The couple’s son, Nathan, was born in October 2019 – when Laura was in her senior year at San Jose State University. Two weeks after delivering Nathan via C-section, Laura was back in the classroom.

It’s been a busy seven years. But Laura’s determination and hard work paid off with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on human resources. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, with a 3.9 grade-point average.

College scholarships from the JB Brown Fund allowed Laura to focus on her classes, completing college and later being a mother – and worry less about the cost of higher education. She received about $11,000 in college scholarships from the JB Brown Fund, a partnership between USA Properties Fund and social services provider LifeSTEPS.

“It helped out a lot,” says Laura, who learned about the JB Brown Fund college scholarship from her husband, who tapped into the program to complete his degree at San Jose State and become an elementary school teacher.

The couple live at Mayfair Court Apartments, a USA Properties-owned apartment community in San Jose.

“It paid for more than half of my tuition,” she says of the scholarships. “I really appreciate the help.”

Laura, who worked until a few weeks before the birth of Nathan, will soon begin her job search. She would like to join a company that embraces data analytics, especially when it comes to human resources.

“I fell in love with analytics,” says Laura, who enjoys math. “I like to look at the story behind the numbers. I want to help a company make the right decisions. But I also like the process of helping people.”

It’s a belief that is the cornerstone of the JB Brown Fund.

“When I came here, I didn’t even know English,” says Laura, who is grateful for the many donors that help others reach their goals. “It really helps people like me achieve their dreams.”


Sandra Roksic, 2020 Graduate

College graduate Sandra Roksic is focused on the road ahead, with a goal of developing self-driving vehicles trusted by their drivers – and pedestrians.

“It was my dream to come here and do this,” says Sandra, who graduated in the spring with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Cal Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.

Achieving her dream required commitment, focus and hard work – in the classroom and in the workforce. Along with her demanding full-load class schedule, Sandra often worked two jobs to help pay for school and, like 70% of students nationwide, she also relied on student loans.

But the burden has been made a bit easier, thanks to the J.B. Brown Fund. Sandra learned about the JB Brown Fund college scholarship from the community manager at Rancho Carrillo Apartments in Carlsbad, where her family has lived since she was in the sixth grade. The $2,800 scholarship helped Sandra earn her degree.

Now, she has started on her master’s degree in electrical engineering from Cal Poly-SLO. Sandra, who is busy with an internship this summer and will teach a class at the university this fall semester, expects to earn her master’s degree in June 2021.

Then, she would like to join an automaker like Volkswagen AG that is leading the way on autonomous vehicles. “There are so many exciting, interesting developments in the auto industry,” she says.

Her family – her parents and a teenage brother – encouraged Sandra to apply for college and pursue a degree in electrical engineering (she also earned a minor in math).

“My parents have made so many sacrifices for me,” says Sandra, who moved with her parents from Serbia to San Diego as a 4-year-old. Her parents looked for a good, safe community with excellent schools and found Carlsbad. The city and the apartment community “feel like home.”

And her “home” helped open the door to a college degree and new opportunities. The J.B. Brown Fund has awarded hundreds of college scholarships to residents living in USA Properties Fund apartment communities.

“I’m super grateful. I wouldn’t be here without the support and the belief of so many people,” she says. “They put their faith in me and what I can accomplish.”


Victoria Solis, 2020 Graduate

College is full of challenges, from choosing a major to getting the classes needed to graduate on time.

Fortunately, the high cost of higher education was not another issue for Victoria Solis, thanks to the J.B. Brown Fund.

The nonprofit organization awarded Victoria with four scholarships – a total of about $11,000 – during the past two years, paying for her tuition and books.

I’m very grateful of the opportunity that the scholarship gave me,” says Victoria, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Child and Adolescent Development from San Jose State University in spring 2020. “I don’t have to worry about any loans and have that financial burden.

Victoria, who lives with her parents at Mayfair Court Apartments in San Jose, learned about the college scholarship from the community manager. The scholarship allowed Victoria to focus on her classes during the week and work part-time on weekends.

Victoria, who was born with a neuromuscular disease and relies on a wheelchair, graduated in four years. Only 16% of students graduate on time from the California State University system.

“That was something that I really wanted to accomplish,” says Victoria, who carried at least 15 units every semester.

She will take some much-deserved time off during the next year, and plans to return to school and pursue a master’s degree with the career goal of being a licensed counselor. “I always like to help people,” she says.

Much like the hundreds of supporters of the J.B. Brown Fund.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to pursue higher education,” Victoria says to those who donate to the organization. “You’re not just supporting us financially, you’re helping us reach other goals, too. Thank you for helping us in so many ways.”