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Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Grants $565,000 to Local Nonprofits

Six organizations are selected to receive awards funded in part by a matching grant from philanthropist Betty Elings Wells

“If there is a theme to this day — and to this past year — it is growth,” Steering Committee chairwoman Sarah de Tagyos said in welcoming more than 300 members of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara to the Seventh Annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon on Monday.

This year, the fund awarded $565,000 to support the work of six local nonprofit organizations: the Carpinteria Children’s Project at Main, the Channel Islands YMCA, the Children’s Project Academy, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), Mobile Waterford and WillBridge of Santa Barbara.

Spurred in part by a matching grant from member and local philanthropist Betty Elings Wells, who committed $250,000 in a 2-for-1 match for every dollar the Women’s Fund raised above $350,000, the $565,000 grants pool for 2011 was $200,000 more than the Women’s Fund was able to give to nonprofits in 2010.

“In addition, every dollar members donated in 2010 is going to meet critical community needs today because generous members underwrote all Women’s Fund 2010 expenses in addition to their membership donations,” de Tagyos said.

The fund also receives financial and administrative support from the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Orfalea Foundations.

The $565,000 in donations brings the total amount given to the community by the Women’s Fund to $3,080,000 to 39 nonprofits in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria.

The grassroots group was founded by a small group of women — chairwoman Carol Palladini, 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 — 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. The organization’s membership has grown from 67 women in 2004 to more than 500 members.

The largest gift awarded by the Women’s Fund this year was $135,000 to the Carpinteria Children’s Project at Main for staff, computers, literacy software, books and learning materials to outfit the Early Childhood Literacy Lab. Executive Director Michelle Robertson said her organization targets the most at-risk children who are from families where English is not spoken.

“Often the children from these homes do not have the experience of books, libraries, computers and developed vocabulary and enter school behind, never catching up,” she said. “The Waterford computer program you are purchasing will bring their English language levels up so they will be at grade level when they enter kindergarten.”

This year's Women's Fund Annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort drew a record turnout.
This year’s Women’s Fund Annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort drew a record turnout. (Eric Foote photo)

Volunteer John Coie accepted a $95,000 gift on behalf of Mobile Waterford, a portable program that uses the same technology that Robertson will purchase for the Carpinteria Children’s Project at Main, working with preschool children on English-language and kindergarten readiness skills right in their own neighborhoods.

“The program has been successful in bringing effective English and pre-reading skills to Latino 4-year-olds to an extent that is beyond our fantasies for the project — 60 percent reduction in illiteracy this past year,” Coie said. “We should recognize that the benefits of the program extend to all of us in the community because allowing these children to start school on a more equal footing makes for more effective classrooms for all our children. It can also go a long way to reducing school dropout and other forms of delinquency that affect us all.”

Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) received $95,000 for a school readiness program that trains parents of at-risk children to become their children’s first teacher. Director Ron Zecher said the money will allow the group to help 85 more families, “disadvantaged families with at-risk children who would enter kindergarten unprepared without this program. … It is obvious that you are very aware of the critical state of education in our community. While educators have always known that early learning is important, recent research suggests that you cannot start teaching too soon, the earlier we can help these at-risk children the bigger impact we will have on their ability to be successful students.”

Lynn Karlson, executive director of the Youth & Family Services branch, accepted a $100,000 gift to the Channel Islands YMCA for support services for the Transitional-age Youth Housing Program at My Home (formerly called Artisan Court), serving young adults ages 18 to 21, many of whom have aged out of the foster care system.

Karlson reported that 14 people moved into their new apartments on March 31, and for them, “this grant literally means the difference between having a home and not having a home .… Some would have found temporary space on a friend’s couch; others would have given it one more try with the parent that lost them to foster care in the first place; others would have been living on our streets. Because of this grant, Youth & Family Services will be able to offer them a home and support services this year.

“That means that we believe our kids won’t be among the 40 percent of former foster youth who end up on public assistance or incarcerated within four years. We don’t think they will be among the 65 percent that don’t finish high school or the 90 percent that are unemployed within four years either. We believe your generosity gives them a chance to be successful.”

Also targeting youths in the foster care system was a $75,000 gift to the Children’s Project Academy for detailed architectural plans of a residential charter school for foster youth in grades 7-12.

“The significance of this gift is huge,” said Wendy Read, CEO of the Children’s Project Foundation. “Yes, to those of us working hard on the board of the Children’s Project, but more importantly, to our foster youth. Neglected or abused children who — through no fault of their own — are removed from their biological parents and enter the child welfare system. The Children’s Project was created to improve the lives of these children.”

The final gift of the day was $65,000 to WillBridge of Santa Barbara for permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless mentally ill adults and homeless women at risk of becoming victims of violent crime.

“WillBridge is committed to serving the most challenging homeless individuals in our community” Executive Director Lynelle Williams said. “This award will allow us to continue to expand our program, increase our bed capacity and continue to positively impact the lives of those we serve as they embrace their journey of turning their lives around.”

Founding chairwoman Carol Palladini brought the “celebration of caring and giving” to a conclusion by noting that “though our premise as a Women’s Fund is collective giving, there is more to it than that. Of course the main benefit is the impact we together have in our community. But never forget that we are individual women. Each one of you who participates at any level has shown true generosity, trust and vision. And every community resident who receives a much-needed service or participates in a life-enhancing program is also an individual. So, though our giving is indirect in a sense, each one of us is directly offering a hand up to a woman, a mother, a child or a family who has not been as fortunate as we in this room.”

Fund member Kathryn Calise underwrote the cost of the luncheon, which was held at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. In the past, luncheons were held at El Paseo Restaurant, hosted by Women’s Fund member Meredith Scott and her husband, John. But this year the fund attracted so many members that it outgrew that location.

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

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