Our History

From a Folding Table to a Village of Services

The History of Access California Services

Founded in 1998, Access California Services (AccessCal), formerly CareRUs, was established by Founder & Executive Director Nahla Kayali, who envisioned a culturally and linguistically sensitive non-profit community-based organization to provide health and human services for her community, the Arab-American and Muslim-American population in Southern California.

The vision began from a personal need of Nahla Kayali (Click Here to Read Full Story of Nahla Kayali), an immigrant single mom from Palestine, when she was in search of a culturally and linguistically competent therapist. She struggled to find a therapist who understood her culture and because of this gap in service, she embarked on a journey of establishing an organization that could respond to the needs of her community and help ensure they would have equitable access to resources and services to help them lead dignified and enriched lives. Through a great deal of hard work, dedication and commitment, Nahla single handedly established this non-profit and was awarded $2,000 in seed money from Community Action Partnership of Orange County to begin delivering services as the first volunteer behind a folding table, chair, and phone from home. Nahla became eager to learn more to build her knowledge and run her non-profit so she became a regular visitor at the Volunteer Center of Orange County, (now OneOC), and learned grant writing, board development, non profit operations and finance, and program development and implementation.

AccessCal’s first initiative was to work on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which was a new program in the State of California. Nahla worked on ensuring that children from the Arab and Muslim communities were enrolled in health coverage. The need for services naturally unraveled as community members were waiting in line to receive assistance through this process. AccessCal’s excellent track record with CHIP led to a grant award from the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) for outreach, enrollment, and retention for the Healthy Families and Medical Program. AccessCal’s excellent work with the underserved Arab & Muslim communities opened up opportunities for more funding awards, including a contract from the Children & Families Commission of Orange County to administer a needs assessment/survey for the population that would assess what services are most needed within the Arab & Muslim communities. Based on these surveyed responses, Nahla began the search for different funding opportunities that would help develop and expand programs for the community.

Since 1998, AccessCal has grown to phenomenal heights from one staff member in 1998 to over forty staff members and eleven board members in 2024. Tens of thousands of unduplicated clients are served annually with close to hundreds of thousands of services. As a result of the needs assessment that was conducted, the programs listed below came to life. Over the years, AccessCal expanded to include programs such as but not limited to: case management, advocacy, health access, housing navigation, mental health support, employment services, immigration and citizenship assistance, financial aid, transportation support, senior services, youth mentoring, refugee services, tax preparation assistance, and educational classes including English as a Second Language, Computer, Parenting, and much more. Our services have reached such diverse populations with twenty-three languages on-site. AccessCal’s partnerships include funders at the Federal, State, County, City and foundation and corporation levels in addition to partnerships with colleges, universities, faith-based institutions, schools, media outlets, service providers, small businesses, and much more.

With the support of our AccessCal team, we have reached such important milestones throughout our history. We went from a folding table and chair borrowed from home to now operating out of a stand-alone 15,000 square foot building awarded by the City of Anaheim in which we have been able to expand our vision and become a village of services.

Over the years, AccessCal has accomplished incredible milestones including but not limited to:

2004 – Becoming the first agency in Southern California to establish a culturally and linguistically competent mental health services department for primarily the Arab & Muslim communities free of charge services
2007 – Becoming an accredited Department of Justice (DOJ) organization with four partially accredited DOJ accredited representatives
2011 – Becoming the only awarded agency to provide Refugee Employment Services (RES) in Orange County, CA
2012 – Becoming the only agency in California to host a State AmeriCorps Program that focuses on delivering health and human services

How did we get to this point? Please see below for our timeline of events that have helped make this vision a reality.