On September 26, members and guests of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara gathered at the Fess Parker Doubletree hotel to hear presentations by their most recent grant recipients on the impacts of the $485,000 in grants bestowed last spring.
An all-volunteer, collective donor group with about 750 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. Over the course of nearly a year, its Research Committee conducts in-depth research on nonprofit programs and projects and submits a ballot of finalists to the general membership for a vote on the ultimate grantees.
Steering Committee Co-chair Laurie Tumbler welcomed the attendees and shared how the Women’s Fund is “based on a simple, creative model—women combining our charitable donations so we can make a larger impact on the community than most of us would be able to accomplish on our own.”
The event’s facilitator, Women’s Fund member Leisa Cosentino, explained that for this event, the Women’s Fund “encouraged the grantees to bring us down into the trenches and educate us as to their challenges and successes.”
One of the grantees was the Santa Barbara Unified School District for its Program for Effective Access to College (PEAC). A $75,000 grant was given to expand Summer Bridge Programs to La Colina and Goleta Junior High Schools and Dos Pueblos High School and to partially fund tutors and mentors at the Dos Pueblos PEAC Tutoring Center. Community of Schools Coordinator Patricia Madrigal shared that the grant allowed the expansion of the program to an additional 400 students, bringing the total number of students served to 1,300. Madrigal explained how the wrap-around services it provides lead to increased college enrollment. Often, the students’ home environment is overwhelming and the tutoring centers serve as a welcome second home, where students are surrounded by caring college students who provide tutoring and mentoring. Students also receive a hot meal and bond with other students. In concluding, Madrigal spoke from the heart, “thank you for your support, you are definitely changing lives.”
“Changing Lives Together” is the Women’s Fund slogan.
Another grantee was Youth and Family Services, part of the Channel Islands YMCA, for its Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter. This is a group home and runaway homeless shelter for youth ages 10 to17. A $65,000 grant was given for upgrades to facilities and furnishings to meet new state accreditation requirements. Associate Shelter Director Meghan Rourke shared how from 1972 to 2016, Noah’s Anchorage provided a safe haven for approximately 9,000 youth in our community. Rourke emphasized that “as the only 24-hour youth crisis center between Los Angeles and Monterey, it is crucial that we continue to be a safe haven for young people.” She explained that recent legislation imposed strict deadlines for renovations and that the Women’s Fund grant has been vital in allowing the organization to continue its operations in the face of these new requirements.
The Women’s Fund, by pooling its members donations and engaging in rigorous research of the community’s needs, is able to identify and fund critical projects such as these.
After the presentations, attendees adjourned to the Rotunda for a lively social hour, where speakers, other organization leaders and clients were available to speak informally with members and guests.
In the next couple of months, members will have the opportunity to visit the grantees in small groups to gain a deeper knowledge of the work of the organizations and how the grant funds are being used.
Since its founding in 2004, the Women’s Fund has made grants totaling more than $6 million. Membership in the organization is open to any woman; women can join as individuals or as a group. Most women’s involvement is limited to making a financial contribution, but some assume volunteer positions within the organization as well. The organization holds no fundraisers, all funds come from member contributions.
In addition to the grants for the PEAC Program and Noah’s Anchorage, the Women’s Fund made the following six grants this year:
Santa Barbara Unified School District - $25,000 for its Accelerated Reader Program to improve reading proficiency by expanding libraries in K-3 classrooms in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
AHA! (Attitude, Harmony, Achievement) - $70,000 to expand the Peace Builders program to prevent bullying at three additional junior high schools.
Casa Pacifica - $75,000 to expand rapid mobile crisis weekend response for children and youth experiencing a mental health emergency.
Domestic Violence Solutions - $55,000 to replace old playground equipment with a safe, inviting play system for children fleeing domestic violence.
Peoples’ Self-Help Housing - $60,000 to establish onsite learning centers, providing bilingual tutoring and coaching at two new low-income housing projects.
St. Vincent’s - $60,000 to address legal problems and expand parenting education for single mothers transitioning to jobs and permanent housing.
The Women’s Fund is a field of interest fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation. For more information, go to womensfundsb.org
By Gail Arnold