Eight local nonprofits received a total of $525,000 in grants from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara on Monday, bringing the organization’s total contributions to the community, since it began in 2004, to $4,125,000.

As Women’s Fund chairwoman Stina Hans told the crowd of almost 300 gathered for the seventh annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, “That bears repeating: 4 million, 125,000 dollars!”

“Our founders launched the Women’s Fund in 2004 with just 68 members,” she continued. “At the end of 2012, we had grown to nearly 600 members — almost 10 times the size of our first year. I think the Women’s Fund is so successful because it is such a creative model — women combining our charitable donations so we can make a bigger difference in our community than most of us would be able to do on our own. It’s a model centered on the idea of simplicity and keeping our costs low so we can deliver maximum dollars into the community.”

The local nonprofit organizations receiving awards were Catholic Charities of Santa Barbara County, Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine, Future Leaders of America, Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, Isla Vista Youth Projects, Westside Boys & Girls Club, Women’s Economic Ventures and Youth Violence Prevention Program.

One of the Women’s Fund’s most generous members is Betty Elings Wells, who donated $250,000 in a two-for-one match for every dollar the Women’s Fund raised above $350,000. The Women’s Fund stretched that matching gift across two years, stimulating increases in the number of members and the size of the grant pools. The organization’s membership has grown from 68 women in 2004 to nearly 600 members.

Every dollar members donate goes directly to meet critical community needs because generous members underwrote all of the Women’s Fund expenses in addition to their memberships. For example, Kathryn Calise underwrote the entire cost of the luncheon. In addition, the Santa Barbara Foundation has been a partner and fiscal home for the Women’s Fund since 2004.

Accepting the first grant of the day was Frank Bognar, regional director for Catholic Charities of Santa Barbara, which received $50,000 to provide emergency supplemental food and case management support to low-income families in crisis. Bognar said the funds would “be matched dollar-for-dollar in our 2013 Silent Angel campaign — in effect doubling the impact of your gift.”

Marguerite Sanchez, treasurer of Doctors Without Walls, accepted a donation of $50,000 designated to provide operational funding for two years for the Women’s Free Homeless Clinic to provide medical care and essential services to unsheltered and marginally sheltered women in a safe, female-only environment.

“These women have access to doctors, nurses, showers, laundry and a hot lunch,” she said. “There is fellowship amongst the women, both volunteer and client. This fellowship fosters communication, problem solving and empowerment.”

Gabriela Rodriguez, program director of Future Leaders of America, accepted an award of $65,000. She shared her own story (in the third person) about her experience as a client of the organization when she was a freshman in high school.

“Coming from a low-income family, in which she shared a three-bedroom home and garage with 17 other people living together, there was never really a quiet learning environment to study, nor much time for her parents to think about issues outside of working hard and providing for the family,” Rodriguez said. “At first, attending this week-long summer camp was really an excuse to have a vacation away from home; but in reality, having this opportunity opened her eyes to endless possibilities. … More importantly, she was validated as a person who had important things to share with others.

“Today, feeling embraced by the community, this young woman is standing before you to thank you and the entire team at the Women’s Fund for believing in our ability to change the world — together.”

Victoria Juarez, executive director of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, accepted a $50,000 grant for Eureka!, a dropout prevention and college readiness program designed to encourage young girls to attend college and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Juarez explained that the program, which took place last summer at UCSB, “puts girls on a college campus for four weeks, immersing them deeply in university culture, expectations and opportunities. This was a new world for many of them — it was as if they were learning a new language or visiting a foreign country. Our girls not only adapted, they THRIVED and the program exceeded our expectations. They arrived as strangers and by the end of the summer they owned that campus.”

Accepting a $50,000 grant to improve the interior and exterior areas and the playground of the Isla Vista Family Resource Center was LuAnn Miller, executive director of Isla Vista Youth Projects. Miller, who has been executive director for 28 years, spoke eloquently about her organization.

“We cannot possibly effect change on our own; we must engage and work with other agencies, businesses, churches and service clubs,” she said. “We feel a sense of urgency to partner with parents to love and nurture babies, send children off to kindergarten ready to succeed, and ensure academic excellence through elementary school. We know that parents and children cannot possibly be successful in these areas if they are hungry. Or lack adequate clothing. Or can’t find a job. Or are experiencing abuse, neglect or violence in the home. … Youth Projects has evolved over the years into a multi-site, multi-faceted agency providing evidence-based services with proven outcomes. The agency is like the energizer bunny — it just stubbornly and persistently keeps on going and going.”

Magda Arroyo, director of the Westside Boys & Girls Club, accepted a $75,000 grant to create an educational resource center at the clubhouse. The funds, which will be matched by other donations, “will not only increase our capacity but will allow children to be separated into more effective age groupings,” Arroyo said. “The increased space will help us provide a quiet environment for doing homework, for reading or for offering seminars run by collaborating agencies such as Domestic Violence Solutions, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics or CALM.”

The largest grant of the day was $100,000, which went to Women’s Economic Ventures.

“At WEV, our job is not only to help women learn how to write a business plan, read a balance sheet and get a loan,” founder and CEO Marsha Bailey said. “It’s to help them learn that they can do anything and be anything. WEV has helped transform women’s dreams into more than 2,000 businesses. But our work is not done. … Thank you for banking on women.”

The final grant of the day was $85,000 to the Youth Violence Prevention Program to provide funding for a female outreach worker to help at-risk girls in Santa Barbara secondary schools. Dave Cash, superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, accepted the award, saying, “Thank you so much for this incredible opportunity to directly impact the lives of some of our must underserved students. This grant will enable our district to double the impact we currently have with students that we, as a community, have let be silent for too long.”

Founding chairwoman Carol Palladini brought the celebration to a conclusion by noting, “It’s hard to believe this is the ninth time I’ve stood before you to close out one year of our fund and launch another. And, on hearing about the wonderful work our grantees will be doing in the coming year, it feels just as thrilling and new as it was that first year. … Today, as we embark on our 10th year, we are so thrilled to have now surpassed $4 million in contributions to our community.”

For more information about the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, call 805.963.1873, email info@womensfundsb.org or click here.

Noozhawk contributing writer Leslie Dinaberg, a Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara member, can be reached at leslie@lesliedinaberg.com. Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieDinaberg.