Monday, June 18 , 2018, 10:32 pm | Fair 62º


Social Venture Partners Invests in Three Local Nonprofits

Grants are presented to the Mental Health Association, YMCA Youth and Family Services and the Goleta Valley Housing Committee

Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara, whose members propel change by donating not only their money but their time and expertise, on Wednesday morning presented grants to three local nonprofits: $25,000 to the Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara, $25,000 to YMCA Youth and Family Services and $15,000 to the Goleta Valley Housing Committee.

Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara is a field interest fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation. The organization is made up of 55 individuals who bring a spirit of giving combined with powerhouse professional skills and experience, some of which include finance, marketing, public relations and law. With their involvement, research shows that each dollar in cash equals $7 in value for the recipient organization.

Paul Gertman, an SVPSB partner, described the grants as an “extremely productive, multiyear relationship.” With the recent financial downturn, members of the community are in crisis, he said. Consequently, Social Venture Partners targeted “safety net issues” such as food and medical care. The focus of the past two years has been on chronic homelessness and mental health issues.

Last year, the group provided $56,000 in cash accompanied by thousands of hours of work to the nonprofit organizations Casa Esperanza and WillBridge of Santa Barbara Inc.

Maybe it was Gertman’s declaration that “we’re a lot about results,” or Wednesday’s delectable assortment of cookies — a product of last year’s investment in the Good Cookie project for Casa Esperanza — but one could almost smell the potential.

Each nonprofit given a grant this year provides support to struggling people in the community.

The Goleta Valley Housing Committee works to provide housing for low- and moderate-income families in South Santa Barbara County, with a 74-unit low-income rental housing project in Goleta. It will increase capacity and assist in the evaluation of alternatives once initial mortgage payments are complete.

SVPSB partner Jason Yardi, left, presents a check for $15,000 to John Peyton of the Goleta Valley Housing Committee
SVPSB partner Jason Yardi, left, presents a check for $15,000 to John Peyton of the Goleta Valley Housing Committee. (Jessica Tade photo / Santa Barbara Foundation)

Longtime board members John and Cindy Peyton and Frank Renda accepted the check on behalf of the GVHC and shared the excitement about future growth. They said the GVHC was founded by a group of churches wanting to build low-incoming housing. They had a vision but needed leverage.

“It’s really all about the expertise they bring to the table. Eight years later comes SVPSB, and in about two months they do more work then we did in eight years,” John Peyton said with a mix of humility and admiration.

About 500 properties in Southern California alone have expiring loans. The GVHC wants to maintain low-income housing in Santa Barbara by working with the SVPSB to provide support for those in jeopardy of losing low-income housing. It hopes to be a model process for other faith-based or value-based organizations to work with the SVPSB.

Annmarie Cameron, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara, praised the “talented and devoted group of volunteers,” and said she was thankful for the “money from pockets and from hearts.”

The MHA provides and manages low-income housing at three Santa Barbara locations, and offers support through mental health programs for more than 200 clients, 25 percent of whom are homeless. Its mission is to improve the lives of adults living with mental illness — and their families — by providing crucial services, education and support, along with low-income housing and rental deposit loans for those otherwise unable to transition into housing.

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SVPSB partners Pam Strickfaden and Laurie Tumbler present a check for $25,000 to Mark Watson and Marilyn Gutsche of YMCA Youth and Family Services. (Jessica Tade photo / Santa Barbara Foundation)

“We are thrilled and grateful to be accepted,” Cameron said. “We opened our beautiful building on garden in ’08,” followed by the “perfect storm” of the economic downturn, budget cuts and a building problem that forced the association to have 14,000 square feet of underutilized community space.

With the help of SVPSB, the organization plans to make significant strides in growth.

“I think this is the single most fun thing we do,” said Laurie Ashton, one of the four original partners who founded the Santa Barbara chapter of Social Venture Partners. “I’d like to present your check. We cannot wait to dive in.”

The third nonprofit organization aided by the SVPSB was YMCA Youth and Family Services, which provides quality social services to at-risk youths and their families in the Santa Barbara area. For individuals who are emancipated or do not have active parents for whatever reason, they often lack a support system to help guide them to a successful, independent adulthood.

“As soon as they turn 18, they are cut off. We’re offering that bridge,” said Mark Watson, director of Shelter Services. Youth and Family Services hopes to work on providing 15 studio apartments for former foster youth, “instead of the streets.”

Youth and Family Services provides a bed and educational support services. It also works to help individuals feel welcome, accepted and supported, and strive to see them reach their goals. The agency is aiming to increase capacity and create a sustainable model for the prevention of homelessness among youths ages 18 to 24 at Artisan Court, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara’s new Transitional Age Youth Housing program.

Artisan Court is expected to open in December, and officials have already started outreach, working with resources through the county and all the other agencies. About 60 youths are emancipated each year, and the goal is to get 15 of them right off the bat.

“We know the best way to end chronic homelessness is to prevent it, said Laurie Tumbler of Youth and Family Services. “The key issue is if we can prevent [homelessness] we can turn them into contributing members of society instead of draining.”

The youths are given the opportunity to enroll in SBCC or complete their GED, and learn basic life skills such as grocery shopping and identifying job opportunities — “things parents typically teach their kids as they grow up,” Tumbler said.

YFS already provides sleeping bags, meal vouchers and educational opportunities, in addition to the Isla Vista Teen Center.

“It was always a passion of mine to work with youth,” said Watson, who has been with YFS for nearly seven years. He said he feels like the small group of staff is “like a family,” and describes the work as super rewarding.

“It’s the little goals that make the big difference,” he said.

Noozhawk intern Lindsey Weintraub will be a sophomore at the University of San Diego in the fall. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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