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Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Follows Its Dollars to See the Change

Sixth annual tour gives members a closer look at the organizations benefiting from $365,000 in new grants

More than 100 women witnessed the power of pooling their resources for collective philanthropy on a recent tour of local nonprofit agencies that were recipients of $365,000 in Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara grants given in 2010. The five nonprofit agencies spotlighted — Casa Esperanza Homeless Center, Catholic Charities of Santa Barbara, Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County, Sarah House and St. Vincent’s — were the most recent of the 33 local nonprofits that have received $2,515,000 in grants since the Women’s Fund began in 2004.

The sixth annual site visit offered a unique opportunity for Women’s Fund members and their guests to observe firsthand how their donations are making a difference in the community. Traveling courtesy of Santa Barbara Airbus, the group took a tour of Casa Esperanza, 816 Cacique St. The center received $90,000 to fund a new volunteer coordinator position plus additional hours for Women’s and Family Services Coaches — designed to provide homeless individuals and families at Casa Esperanza’s shelter and day center access to services that lead to stable housing and employment.

Casa Esperanza uses “a relationship-building approach, a homeless coaching model,” explained executive director Mike Foley.

“Because we will never be able to hire enough professionals to solve the problems of homelessness, addiction and mental health, we need to harness the power of everyday people who care deeply about helping the less fortunate — backed by professionals,” Foley said. “Thanks to the Women’s Fund, this is a challenge we can now undertake.”

“Having the Women’s Fund set tour days really helps to see how the nonprofits are run and how effective they are in our community, despite the overwhelming responsibilities to care for the underserved,” said Women’s Fund member Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, who is also a board member of Sarah House, one of the grant recipients.

“Nonprofits have to be cost-effective, and consequently they learn how to leverage minimum resources for maximum results. They are essential partners for the well being of our community.”

The next visit was to Catholic Charities of Santa Barbara, 609 E. Haley St. The organization received an $85,000 grant to fund the installation of solar panels on the roof of its food pantry, which provides supplemental food for approximately 600 people per week.

“The solar panels will provide a yearly utility cost savings that will be leveraged into meeting an increasing demand for food for those in need — a demand estimated to rise by 35 percent in 2010,” said regional coordinator Brian Clark.

“After working so hard on the research process last year, I am impressed by seeing the real impact our grants have had,” said Tish Gainey. ”I love seeing our members become more connected to the great work of the nonprofit organizations we have supported. The site visit is always a rewarding experience for those of us on the Women’s Fund Research Committee.”

Lunch and a tour of St. Vincent’s, 4200 Calle Real, was the final stop for the group, which awarded $75,000 to the organization’s PATHS (Program of Affordable Transitional Housing and Services) to provide case-management services to low-income and homeless mothers and their children.

“Women accepted into PATHS are usually self-motivated although struggling with homelessness, poverty, abuse and past addiction,” explained Sister Margaret Keaveney, St. Vincent’s executive director. “With the help of the Women’s Fund, we will give them the tools they need — support, training therapy, child care and parenting classes — to create new lives for themselves and their children.”

“I was so impressed with the St. Vincent’s program and facility,” said new Fund member Heidi Stillwell. “Being a Santa Barbara native I couldn’t believe I was not familiar with this gem of an organization. They provide support and housing to the elderly and women in need of help — both emotionally and financially. They also offer day care to infants and toddlers — giving priority to children of their patrons.

“One of the things that stood out to me was their food program. They only prepare meals made from fresh foods, no prepackaged stuff.”

Stillwell was also impressed by how well the nonprofit organizations work together.

“As an example, Domestic Violence Solutions (which was given $75,000 to fund a new volunteer training and management program to help victims of domestic violence) comes in during the crisis mode, providing shelter and emotional support for women who need to break away from an abusive situation,” she said. “Once stabilized, St. Vincent’s takes over to provide the longer term support (on an average of two years) to help the families get back on track and become self-sufficient.”

“With the sharp rise in domestic violence coupled with the recession and our state budget crisis underscore that this grant could not have come at a more critical time,” said Richard Kravetz, executive director of Domestic Violence Solutions.

Sarah House executive director Randy Sunday also gave a progress report to the group, which gave Sarah House $40,000 to help provide 24-hour residential “person-centered” end-of-life care for low-income and homeless individuals and those with HIV/AIDS.

”Sixty percent of Sarah House residents are women who have an average annual income of just over $6,000,” Sunday said. “Our goal is to ensure our residents have food and shelter as well as dignity, peace and comfort. The generosity of the Women’s Fund will enable that possibility for the 50 residents of Sarah House, who will be grateful for the remainder of their days.”

“Hearing the stories shared by the agencies made me shed tears of admiration and appreciation for how the Women’s Fund supports the many amazing services of nonprofits in Santa Barbara,” said Fund member Katya Armistead.

“I always leave the Women’s Fund events feeling inspired, and this luncheon was no exception,” said Julie Sorenson, another member.

Luncheon attendees received big news from local philanthropist and Women’s Fund member Betty Elings Wells, who in May announced the Betty Elings Wells Matching Grant, in which she committed $250,000 in a 2-for-1 matching grant for every dollar the Women’s Fund raises above $350,000 by Dec. 31 (the prior year’s member donations). Wells joyfully announced that the $350,000 threshold has been surpassed, and every dollar donated to the fund between now and Dec. 31 will be matched 2-for-1, up to $250,000. The goal of her challenge is to inspire more women to join the Women’s Fund and to motivate members to increase the size of their donations to enlarge the pool of funds awarded to local nonprofit agencies.

“The Women’s Fund doesn’t have meetings or fundraisers — you just write your check and vote — so it was wonderful for me to see more than 100 Women’s Fund members come together to visit several of the agencies we made gifts to in 2009-2010,” said membership chairwoman Parm Williams.

“One of the highlights of the day was the luncheon at St. Vincent’s, where we heard from our benefactress, Betty Wells, who has made such a generous matching grant to the Women’s Fund this year. The site visit brought home the fact that by pooling my resources with other Fund members, I am able to make a much greater impact than I would be able to do on my own.”

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. Committed to “Changing Lives Together,” Women’s Fund members pool their charitable donations, research critical community needs and then determine by vote which agencies will receive the funds collected during the year. Click here for more information on the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg, a member of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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