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Meet April Laster of Open Heart Leaders

Today we’d like to introduce you to April Laster.

April, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started Open Heart Leaders formally Open Heart Educators in 2003 while I attended college at (HBCU) Alabama A&M University. The nonprofit started as a resource for underprivileged communities by providing tutoring and educational forums on many different topics plaguing the communities. This is still an aid implemented in certain areas in Huntsville, AL. After moving back home to California in 2013 I decided I wanted to continue helping people all over so after relocating from Los Angeles back to San Diego at the end of 2014 I started the paperwork to change the organization to Open Heart Leaders and applied for 501(c)3 status in 2015 and became an active nonprofit in San Diego.

Today Open Heart Leaders has 4 strong active programs currently operating as a service provider for the District Attorneys office through the county of San Diego, while able to still provide others resources, programs and workshops for the community. I plan to take Open Heart Leaders to the next level of one day obtaining a building to operate more programs effectively and also launch other programs in the pipeline.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Fortunately for me, I have been blessed to have a smooth process through this whole journey on the business side. Unfortunately, on the support side, my organization has suffered based on being a new resource in San Diego and people are just catching on to who I am and what I can do.

Most of it I chalk it up to people are unaware of what we can offer as an organization and not realize I came back home to help. When it comes to events we have still yet to hold an event that we charge for. All of the programs, workshops and forums we have held required nothing but attendance. This year in 2018 will be the first year we start to incorporate fundraising for more support.

Please tell us about Open Heart Leaders.
Open Heart Leaders is a resource and network provider for underprivileged and urban communities, however, we service anyone from anywhere. With our motto “Approaching Every Situation With An Open Heart” we strive to cater and provide to an expressed need by creating and executing programs that meet the needs of the people. We specialize in creative tactics by offering mediation, counseling, support groups, interactive discussions, team building, life coaching and motivational tools.

Among other things, we offer educational forums that focus on issues plaguing many communities that are free. I am most proud of my organization because as we get more exposure we are slowly developing a council and team that will be able to do more for our communities. For years OHL has been running solely by me alone with wise counsel from my amazing board and other business mentors. What sets us apart from others is we never rush to produce anything and we try to operate more from a factual standpoint rather than feelings.

My organization has a genuine concern for the people and that doesn’t always mean a negative thing but more a positive. Our vision implemented is “We specialize in the category of people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and no matter where they are in life we can meet them there”. Our aim is “We strive to help align your head and heart on one accord to provide a healthy happy relationship with your physical, spiritual and emotional self”.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have created a better support system regarding bodies needed to execute or do more. I would have learned how to write grants and create better sponsorship options regarding certain programs. I also would have quit my 9-5 sooner to invest 100% all my time into the organization that not only aids in changing lives but ultimately has changed my life for the better forever.

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San Diego Voice and Viewpoint

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