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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 2:39 am | Fair 48º


Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Grants $520,000 to Eight Local Nonprofits

Philanthropist Betty Elings Wells surprises the group with a $250,000 matching grant pledge for the next giving cycle

The power of collective giving was out in full force Monday when more than 300 members of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara gathered for the Eighth Annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon, doling out $520,000 to support the work of eight local nonprofits. The new grants bring the total contributions by the Women’s Fund to the community to $3.6 million.

“Our membership growth has been equally amazing,” Steering Committee chair Sarah de Tagyos said. “Our founders launched the Women’s Fund in 2004 with just 68 members. At the end of 2011, we had grown to nearly 600 members — almost 10 times the size of our first year.”

Addressing the “big picture,” founder Carol Palladini said, “You continue to believe in the value of collective giving to advance the work of local nonprofits … that change the lives of women, children, and entire families in Santa Barbara. And although what we each give through our fund is officially called charity or ‘charitable donations’ for tax purposes, what we do together is not charity. To me that word denotes responding to emergencies, putting fingers in dikes.

“The hundreds of thousands of dollars that we so carefully grant each year is far more than that. We are contributing to solutions and to helping people make their own way. It is not charity when we help children get a healthy start in life, when we help teens make better choices, when we help seniors live safely and with dignity. Together we are giving access and providing opportunities for something better — and that enriches us all.”

Spurred in part by a matching grant from member and local philanthropist Betty Elings Wells, who again upped the ante with a last-minute $250,000 challenge grant for the next giving cycle, the fund was able to provide funds to eight local nonprofit organizations: 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 the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

As in prior years, every dollar members donated goes to meet critical community needs because generous members underwrote all Women’s Fund 2011-12 expenses in addition to their membership donations.

Kathryn Calise underwrote the entire cost of the luncheon, held at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. The Women’s Fund also receives administrative support from the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Orfalea Foundations.

Nancy Harter, who co-chaired the research committee with Carla Whitacre, said the focus areas chosen by fund members this year were children, youth and family services, housing, hunger and poverty, and senior and aging issues. Nearly three dozen agencies were researched in depth and then narrowed down to 12 agencies, which the membership then voted on, winnowing the number of award recipients to eight.

The largest gift awarded was $100,000 to the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics to be used to help fund the implementation of electronic health records, mandated by the federal government.

“It will improve the quality of care patients receive from us,” SBNC Executive Director Cynder Sinclair said. “It will provide complete and accurate information to the doctors about each patient’s health history … will enable better coordination of care … will empower patients to take a more active role in their health and the health of their families … and it will manage patient care more efficiently, thus saving time and reducing the cost of care.”

The Family Service Agency received $80,000 for its Senior Case Management Program. Executive Director Scott Whiteley explained that the unique program serves a growing and all too often overlooked population.

“There is no cost to the senior and no-income threshold to participate. The only eligibility test is need,” he said. “However, most of our clients are very low income and often emotionally and/or physically frail and need help with navigating the basic tasks of their lives. They truly need this connection and this help. … The case manager is a personal advocate who monitors ongoing needs and helps the senior find the needed services and resources.”

Accepting a $65,000 gift on behalf of Easy Lift Transportation, Executive Director Ernesto Paredes said, “Changing lives together is your tag line. It is precisely in this spirit the Children’s Accessible Transportation (or CAT) program was conceived: Transit for all. The CAT program seeks to offer transportation to any and all children. Serving kids living with a disability and those without. Easy Lift sees itself as a community resource and partner, doing what we do best, while remaining nimble to respond to the growing and newly developed unmet transit needs.”

Friends of the Santa Barbara Public Library received $65,000 to expand the number of AWE touch-screen early literacy computers stations available in the library system from two to 15.

“Children will have access to engaging and research-proven technology that promotes early literacy and school readiness,” library director Irene Macias said. “Kids really love these literacy stations, and it’s incredible to watch them explore science, art, math and stories without needing special training or instruction. … When a mother who comes in to the library for adult literacy tutoring for basic English reading looks over and smiles at her young children, who are focusing and learning on the AWE stations next to her, we know that something great is happening.”

Something great is also happening at CASA, where a $60,000 donation will fund a case supervisor to work with trained volunteers who act as court-appointed advocates for foster children.

“When a child’s life has been torn apart due to abuse or neglect, and the court assigns one of our CASA volunteers to advocate for that child, we know that this child will have someone who will make sure their needs don’t go unnoticed,” Executive Director Kim Colby Davis said. “We know that it works. Children who have a CASA volunteer don’t fall through the cracks of the system. For most of the abused and neglected children we serve, the CASA volunteer is the only reliable adult presence in their lives. And that single volunteer can often be enough to break the cycle of violence and neglect — not just for one child, but for the generation to come.”

J.P. Herrada, executive director of Palabra, accepted $50,000 on behalf of the organization, which works with young people who are at great risk of becoming gang members, dropping out of school or of becoming involved in negative activities that could lead to serious problems down the line.

“Most of the youth are boys but some are young women; many are poor and Latino; and many have difficulties in school,” Herrada said. “These kids should be studying, playing sports and having positive life experiences, but many of them worry each day that they are wearing the wrong kind of clothes or are walking in the wrong neighborhood. Your grant will enable us to work one on one and in groups with these young people to help them grow and develop into healthy, productive adults.”

Also awarded $50,000 was The Parent Project, which provides parent education and mentoring classes using a research-based curriculum in ten Santa Barbara area schools.

“The Women’s Fund has invested in a precious commodity — creating healthy family relationships,” said Linda Guerena, lead facilitator and coordinator. “Parents and their children will learn to break the vicious cycle of negative habits and make positive changes in their lives. That means successful children who will become productive and successful adults. Thank you for providing the support that will give many parents the tools to strengthen their relationships with their children and that will ultimately make our community a better place for all of us.”

The St. Cecilia Society also received $50,000 to be used to help low-income and indigent residents of Santa Barbara County pay critical medical and dental expenses. Ladeen Miller, board secretary, said the gift had a special resonance since the St. Cecilia Society is also an all-volunteer organization founded by women.

“This grant comes at a very important time for us,” she said. “Our state government has had to drop all dental coverage for adults and medical and dental expenses are rising and fewer of our residents have any kind of insurance. ... For 120 years, with little to no overhead and no fancy fundraisers, the St. Cecilia Society has been able to maintain the original simple idea of directly helping those in need. We hope that your history will be as long as ours — we know that with committed women who care about their community your legacy of philanthropy will be passed on for generations.”

Stina Hans, incoming chair of the Women’s Fund Steering Committee, gently reminded the group that while “today is a celebration of our latest grantees and the end of our grants cycle, it is also the launch of our new year — where we raise the funds for our grants pool so we can celebrate another group of worthy recipients next spring.”

The Women’s Fund has grown from a small, grassroots founding group of women — chairwomen Carol Palladini and Perri Harcourt, Shirley Ann Hurley, Jean Kaplan, Dale Kern, Joanne Rapp, Elna Scheinfeld, Meredith Scott, Kay Stern, Anne Smith Towbes, Marsha Wayne and Fritzie Yamin — who were interested in contributing to the community without having to sell tickets, make decorations, solicit auction items or spend valuable resources to bring in funding for nonprofits to more than 600 members.

For more information about the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, click here, call 805.963.1873 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Noozhawk contributing writer Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieDinaberg.

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