Derek and Stephanie Richardson have a very simple philosophy–each one reach out and help one.

The husband and wife team believe it does not take a fancy office, an elaborate business plan or a huge pot of money to help your “neighbors.” All it takes is a little creativity and a little vision, and the Richardsons have that in abundance.

Since November 2005, the duo have reached out to help people with small grants that have ranged from about $150 up to $2,200 through their nonprofit organization called Why Can’t We Make A Difference?

A natural disaster initially prompted the Richardsons to take action.

“Our neighbor’s best friend had a sister-in-law who was caught in Katrina, and her family was being displaced. Her sister took in one kid in Los Angeles, a brother took a kid in Cincinnati, and she and the baby moved to Atlanta. And we’re like this isn’t right,” recalled Derek about he and his wife’s reaction to the family’s plight.

The boy who came to Los Angeles was a little younger than their son, who had just recently outgrown many of his clothes. So the Richardsons gave the Louisiana youngster nearly $600 worth of pants, shirts and other clothing.

Viewing the government’s lackluster response to the struggles many Katrina families were enduring, the Richardsons (who Derek described as just ordinary people), decided to take the 10% of the their respective salaries, (Derek is an NBA referee and Stephanie is a massage therapist), they had been tithing and use it to provide grants to people who were experiencing trials and tribulations that ranged from eviction and foreclosure to needing a light bill paid.

Derek said a sermon he heard Betty Price of Crenshaw Christian Center give in part helped him crystallize what they were doing. “She said her (family) complained that she gave away too much of her money. But she said ‘If God didn’t mean for me to do it, he wouldn’t keep providing.’ I will always remember that,” added the NBA ref, who had also been disturbed because he felt some churches he knew his friends paid tithes to did not seem to help people in need.

In order to get a grant from Why Cant We Make A Difference, individuals can go to the website (www.whycantwemakeadifference.org) and complete an application. They will be contacted by a member of the organization who will get additional details and request documentation.

Officials will then contact the involved creditor to see if they are able to help the applicant. If the answer is yes, and the organization has funds available, a payment will be sent out to the grantee’s creditor.

The foundation only asks two things of the recipient–that they send in a testimony of how they were helped, and to help someone else in need, if they are ever able.

Derek said twice a month, the foundation also provides grants to Latino families living around the Challenger’s Boys and Girls Club to help them participate in the activities at the center, which he credits with helping launch his career as a professional basketball referee.

In addition to helping individuals, Why Can’t We Make A Difference has partnered with a number of community organizations to provide them with funding for their activities.

The Windsor Hills-based nonprofit also conducts activities of their own that include taking inner city youngsters to places like Yucaipa to play paint ball and meet face to face with nature. These are all free activities.

The organizers are also in the process of setting up an online mentoring program that will enable wise men (Mustaphas) as Derek calls them, to talk in real time with younger and older men about what it means to be a man.

” . . . we’re trying to provide education and help men take their rightful places in the home so that our community is not taken advantage of. Our community has been raped for so long. People come into the community set up shop, take the money and leave.

“. . . We want to build awareness.”

Much of what the Richardsons do is financed from their own pockets, although over the years they have received assistance from the Brotherhood Crusade, Fernando Pullum, the Jenessee Center, former Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke and other individuals.

But Derek said they are not necessarily seeking money.

“We just want to change people’s mind set, and get them to help other individuals without passing judgment. If we can change the mindset, it would enhance our community and the world we live in.”