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Women’s Fund Gives $485,000 in Grants to Eight Nonprofits

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara awarded $485,000 to eight local nonprofit organizations at its 13th annual Presentation of Grants reception on May 8.

A volunteer-led, collective donor group with 747 members, the Women’s Fund combines the donations of its members into significant grants focused on the critical needs of women, children and families in South Santa Barbara County.

Since its beginning in 2004, the Women’s Fund has made grants totaling $6.1 million to 86 programs.

Over the course of a year, its research committee conducts in-depth examinations of programs at local nonprofit organizations. The committee then submits a ballot of applicant finalists to the general membership for a vote to select the winning grantees.

“We hold no fundraisers, do all our own research, and vote each spring for the programs that will receive our combined funds. We give large grants, frequently for programs that wouldn’t be funded by others," said steering committee co-chair Nancy Harter.

"We are flexible — funding start-ups, established programs, and capital projects — and we look for ways to leverage our investments. Our grants allow agencies to dream big and to achieve those dreams,” she said.

In their acceptance speeches, several recipients shared stories about individual clients the grant will serve, and all spoke of the impact it will have on the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.

The grant recipients:

» Accelerated Reader Program: $25,000 to improve reading proficiency for elementary students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District by giving students in-classroom access to an extensive library of books.

The grant will pay for 6,250 books to be distributed among 140 classroom libraries for K-3 students.

» AHA! (Attitude. Harmony. Achievement): $70,000 to expand the Peace Builders program to prevent bullying at three additional junior high schools in the Santa Barbara area.

The grant will pay the salaries for a junior high coordinator and six professional facilitators.

Peace Builders was developed by AHA! to help students learn social-emotional skills including empathy, impulse control, collaboration, and conflict resolution.

It encourages young people to become leaders who can confront prejudice, defuse conflict and stand as allies against bullying. The result is a more positive school climate in which students are better able to learn.

» Casa Pacifica: $75,000 to expand rapid mobile crisis weekend response for children and youth experiencing a mental health emergency by funding an additional MFT position to cover three, 12-hour shifts, Friday-Sunday, in South Santa Barbara County.

Casa Pacifica provides professional, around-the-clock mobile response for children and youth who experience a psychiatric emergency.

Steven Elson, Casa Pacifica’s CEO, asked: “Have you ever wondered what could bring a child or teenager to the brink of killing themselves?

"It seems impossible to think anyone so young could be drowning in such horrible circumstances or feelings that they conclude that not living at all is their best option. But many more children than you’d care to imagine do reach that point.

"Even in Santa Barbara. Just last month SAFTY handled 65 crisis calls here alone,” he said.

» Channel Islands YMCA, Noah’s Anchorage: $65,000 to pay over half of the cost of facility improvements needed for accreditation.

That includes buying institutional-grade furnishings and fixtures, refurbishing two bathrooms, kitchen upgrade, installing an emergency signal system, and repairing or replacing windows and doors.

Bringing their facility up to the new standards allows Noah’s Anchorage to keep its accreditation and remain open, so it can continue offering services to vulnerable youth.

» Domestic Violence Solutions: $55,000 to replace old playground equipment with a safe, inviting play system for children fleeing domestic violence.

It pays for removal of old equipment, grading of the playground site, installing a rubber safety surface, and building a commercial-grade steel play system, with a 25-year life expectancy.

The 45-day emergency shelter provides safe, confidential refuge for all victims of domestic violence.

Executive Director Charles Anderson said: “DVS will be able to make a bigger impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable victims of domestic violence — the children — more than 60 percent of DVS’s clients are children.

"Many of them come to our shelters with only the clothes they are wearing, feeling scared, confused and traumatized. Our first priority is to help them feel safe and restore a sense of normalcy to their lives.”

» PEAC (Program for Effective Access to College): $75,000 to increase college readiness and acceptance rates for low-income students by expanding the program to all of the city’s secondary schools.

Santa Barbara Unified PEAC has successfully changed the trajectory of low-income, first-generation college students by helping them prepare for and be accepted to college.

By placing talented students in a stable, supportive community of peers, tutors and mentors, PEAC makes it more likely they will realize their academic potential.

» Peoples’ Self-Help Housing: $60,000 to establish onsite learning centers, which provide bilingual tutoring and coaching at two new low-income housing projects.

By bridging the gap between school and home, promoting multi-generational education, and encouraging cross-age tutoring, these programs provide residents with skills to succeed at school and work.

John Fowler, CEO and president, said: “We break the cycle of poverty by changing one student, one family at a time.

"We support residents in their educational and life goals by giving them opportunities to learn, to broaden their aspirations to include higher education in their life plan, and to lead a better, more fulfilling life.“

» St. Vincent’s: $60,000 to address legal problems and expand parenting education for single mothers transitioning to jobs and permanent housing.

The Family Strengthening Program at St. Vincent’s offers 27 months of transitional housing in an effort to help low-income, single mothers improve parenting skills and become financially independent.

By providing legal services and parenting education for mothers who might otherwise be homeless, the Family Strengthening Program helps single mothers rebuild their lives and create stability for their children.

For more information about the Women’s Fund, call 963-1873.

— Susan Roebuck for Women’s Fund.


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