Seeing — and hearing — about how Women’s Fund gifts are changing lives was a wonderful gift in itself for more than 150 members of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, who toured local nonprofit agencies Tuesday to see what their most recent $520,000 in grants for the 2011-12 giving cycle were doing to help the community.
The eight nonprofit agencies spotlighted — Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Easy Lift Transportation, the Family Service Agency, Friends of the Santa Barbara Public Library, Palabra, The Parent Project, the St. Cecilia Society and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics — were the most recent of the 47 local nonprofits that have received $3.6 million in grants since the Women’s Fund began in 2004.
Always a favorite tradition, the eighth annual site visits offered an opportunity for Women’s Fund members to observe firsthand the power of collective philanthropy and how their donations are making a crucial difference in Santa Barbara.
Traveling via Santa Barbara Airbus, the site visits included tours of the Family Service Agency, which received $80,000 for case management supervision to support vulnerable seniors with a comprehensive care system that provides independence and dignity.
“My guess is that many of you may not be that familiar with FSA, despite our being the county’s oldest non-sectarian human services nonprofit,” Executive Director Scott Whiteley said in his welcoming remarks. “We support a number of different types of programs and services, ranging for services to the youngest in our community (birth to age 5) to the oldest (age 90 or older).
“FSA has long been regarded as one of Santa Barbara County’s most reliable and effective human services organizations, with demonstrated, positive results in improving the quality of our clients’ lives. At FSA, all services are provided for free or on a sliding-fee/donation scale, and no one is ever denied assistance because of an inability to pay.”
Cynthia McNulty, Marco Quintanar, Elizabeth Rogers, Christine Beasley and Tricia Hanna of FSA’s Senior Services Program provided an overview of what the agency provides for seniors, and Bonnie Back spoke about the FSA’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
The next stop was Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, which received $100,000 for a lead gift to implement an electronic health record system to improve the quality and coordination of health care for low-income patients.
“For over 40 years we have been providing health care to our community and are on the brink of completing an historic conversion from paper to electronic records, and we have the Women’s Fund to thank for your lead gift toward this effort,” Executive Director Cynder Sinclair said. “Our patients are immediately benefiting from having all their health-care history available in one place. Their prescriptions are always verified not to interact negatively with any other prescribed medications and sent instantly to the pharmacy of their choice. Their doctor can see all their labs, their hospitalizations and any other doctor visits they may have had. You can see how this feature alone will improve the quality of their visit. Every aspect of our organization is touched by EHR, and every patient who walks through our doors will benefit by it.”
Eastside Neighborhood Clinic managers Paola Santiago and Cindy Bautista explained how EHR has improved the agency’s efficiency, while chief medical officer Dr. Charles Fenzi and dental director Dr. Quynh Nguyen each spoke of the electronic medical records’ positive impacts on their areas of responsibility.
The third site was the Santa Barbara Public Library, whose fundraising arm, the Friends of the Santa Barbara Public Library, received $65,000 for the purchase of literacy learning stations serving young children in all south Santa Barbara County libraries.
“The funds were used primarily to support purchase of A-W-E or AWE Stations at the flagship Central Library and our Eastside, Goleta, Carpinteria and Montecito branch libraries,” Director Irene Macas said. “The library is a key, free resource for families who want to encourage their children to read and learn. Every year more than a million visitors come to our libraries, seeking entertainment, education, programs and services.
“Even as availability of resources expands in commercial and virtual worlds, library use continues to grow and grow. We check out over one and a half million items every year … well over 63,000 people attended library programs in our buildings, in addition to thousands who came to public programs, concerts and films sponsored by community groups who use library space.”
A luncheon was held downstairs in the library, which will be the future site of a new Children’s Library, “providing more space and improved services for the many families who rely upon our resources,” Macias said.
Site visit chair Barbara Hauter Woodward welcomed the group and provided a recap.
“Earlier this year, we all looked at the most recent Women’s Fund ballot and cast our votes to determine where the $520,000 we raised in 2011 would be given. … Based on our votes, the agencies in this room were selected. Now, six months later, we have the opportunity to see firsthand the effective use of our collective funds,” she said. “The Women’s Fund site visit is part of the rigorous research process that ensures we have effective, creative programs and agencies from which to select when we vote. We then follow the progress of our grantees to confirm the money we’ve donated is being well spent. Midyear and end-of-year written reports and this site visit are part of our due diligence in ensuring our Women’s Fund process is sound and worthy of your confidence and continued support.”
On behalf of Easy Lift Transportation, Executive Director Ernesto Paredes thanked the Women’s Fund for a $65,000 grant for the purchase of a van and associated expenses to expand transportation services for low-income children participating in youth-serving programs.
“Changing lives together is your tag line,” he said. “It is precisely in this spirit that the Children’s Accessible Transportation was conceived. Transit for all. The Children’s Accessible Transportation program has become the conduit that allows hundreds of local children to access over 20 programs. This includes kids living with a disability and those kids without.
“Over the past 33 years, Easy Lift has become recognized as both the leader and innovator of community transportation options. Whether it is taking foster children to Hearts Riding Academy, or taking a disabled child using a wheelchair to play in his first baseball game with the Challengers baseball league. Easy Lift is there. And we are constantly seeking to improve our services to better address the needs of the community. We appreciate being held accountable, and we consistently strive to better educate our staff, and communicate, communicate, communicate.”
Palabra Executive Director J.P. Herrada said: “Palabra is extremely grateful for the $50,000 grant awarded to us by the Santa Barbara Women’s Fund in 2012. Your grant truly helped our organization at a time when it was in dire need of support and resources to carry out its mission of significantly minimizing youth violence in the Santa Barbara area by helping all young men and women who participate in Palabra’s youth programs to develop the values, attitudes, skills and behaviors that will enable them to lead healthy and productive lives. I would like to note that receiving your grant helped to increase the recognition and credibility of Palabra in the community. Such recognition, in turn, has helped us to successfully pursue other avenues of support.
“Wanting you to get a good understanding of how the resources you provided have helped Palabra carry out its mission … we have been able to get our targeted communities to step up to the plate and take ownership and responsibility for what happens in their neighborhoods, their city and their county. Because of your generosity, we have been able to bring to the table those individuals who have been left out of the decision-making process on issues that impact them on a daily basis. You have validated to our community that we can address and ultimately put a stop to the issue of violence with our youth.”
Coordinator and lead facilitator Linda Guerena spoke on behalf of The Parent Project, which received a $50,000 Women’s Fund grant for additional parent education and mentoring classes using a research-based curriculum in 10 Santa Barbara Unified School District schools.
“Parent involvement is the key to changing adolescent behavior,” she said. “The Parent Project is a nationally recognized program that helps parents reduce family conflict, improve school performance and attendance, identify and intervene with drug and alcohol abuse, intercede in negative peer associations (including reduced gang involvement) and set more effective limits. The goal for this program is to educate parents in the most effective means of impacting their children for positive change. The 10-week Parent Project curriculum has a proven track record of success locally.
“The Women’s Fund has invested in a precious commodity — creating healthy family relationships. Parents and their children will learn to break the vicious cycle of negative habits and make positive changes in their lives. That translates into successful children who will become productive and successful adults. The Women’s Fund grant will enable me to offer eight more classes for Spanish-speaking parents, and will enable me to reach at least 240 more parents. Currently, I am about to start leading three classes this fall totaling 90 parents. These classes will take place at Adelante Charter School, Dos Pueblos High School and Goleta Valley Junior High School.”
St. Cecilia Society case investigator Nikki Rickard, who incidentally is a member of the Women’s Fund and baked 500 cookies just for the luncheon, explained that the St. Cecilia Society used its $50,000 grant to meet the critical dental needs of low-income, uninsured residents of South Santa Barbara County.
“For 120 years, the St. Cecilia Society has helped those in need pay critical medical and dental expenses, but your generous grant focuses on South Santa Barbara County residents who need dental care,” Rickard said. “What we do at the St. Cecilia Society often flies under the radar, but it is important work that in a sometimes subtle way changes a person’s life.
“Like the young mother pulling herself together in a program at St. Vincent’s who has added to her stress and worry an incredible toothache, resulting in a dental emergency. But there is no emergency room for dental care. With the help of the St. Cecilia Society, she finds out that she needs a root canal, eight fillings and two crowns. Because of our Women’s Fund grant we were able to get care for this young woman, allowing her to continue with the program at St. Vincent’s, her schooling and a part-time job. What could have been a big detour in her life is now only a painful memory.
“We have also been able to help a wonderful middle-aged man who is the single father of a terminally ill child. Because he is the sole caregiver for his child, he can only work odd jobs and has little income. He, too, had a dental emergency with no money or credit to afford a trip to the dentist. Your grant paid for this father’s dental procedure so that he could be without pain and infection and could continue to care for his ill child.
“So many people like these are victims of circumstances beyond their control, and a little help is all they need to get over a rough patch. With the grant you gave to the St. Cecilia Society, you have given these people and many others like them a helping hand.”
Steering Committee chair Stina Hans wrapped up the luncheon.
“I’m pleased to report that we have raised $320,000 so far this year, and we hope to reach at least half a million dollars by the end of the year,” Hans said. “And I know we will. Because our members continue to generously support our community.”
The final stop of the day was the courthouse’s Mural Room, where Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), recipient of a $60,000 grant for a case supervisor to work with trained volunteers who act as court-appointed advocates for foster children, gave a moving presentation, starting with CASA and Women’s Fund member Pat Aptaker talking about her experiences as an advocate for a young girl and ending with founding CASA board member Judge Denise de Bellefeuille talking about the importance of CASA to the justice system.
The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara is a collective group of volunteer donors focused on the needs of women, children and families in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria. Members pool their charitable donations, research critical community needs and then determine by vote which agencies will receive the funds collected during the year.
The group has grown from 68 members in 2004 to nearly 600 individual and group members in 2011. Expenses never exceed 3 percent of donations; in fact, in 2011, generous underwriters paid all expenses out of pocket, so that every dollar donated to the Women’s Fund was applied directly to community needs.
Click here for more information about the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, or call 805.963.1873.