On September 24, about 240 members and guests of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara gathered at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort to hear presentations by their most recent grant recipients on the impacts of the $535,000 in grants bestowed last spring.
An all-volunteer, collective donor group with nearly 900 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 Chair Shelley Hurst welcomed the attendees and shared how the Women’s Fund combines donations so members can make a larger impact on the community than most could accomplish on their own. She noted that they strive “to be educated, strategic givers working to make a difference in the lives of women, children, and families in our community.” In brief but moving presentations, each of this year’s seven grantees explained the tremendous impact the grants have had.
One $50,000 grant was awarded to the S.B. Education Foundation to expand its Dyslexia Intervention Program, a pilot program to remediate the effects of dyslexia in K-3 students. S.B. Unified Literacy Specialist Claire Krock explained how without this program, many, if not all, of her students from last year would have been funneled into special education—most likely for the rest of their school years. However, because of the program, only a few of the 24 students needed special education. She related with excitement how by providing research-based, intensive intervention, all students, regardless of race or economic status, can become literate.
A $100,000 grant went to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s capital campaign for its major remodel, with funds specifically allocated to the women’s dorm and bathroom facility. Manager of Development Trinity Schwartz explained how the Rescue Mission is the only organization between Ventura and Santa Maria providing emergency shelter without any formal enrollment in a program. Prior to its remodel, the Rescue Mission regularly welcomed 24 to 30 women in need of shelter each night, with only a makeshift 13-bed shelter. The only shower facility had to be used in shifts by gender—and even then there could be as many as 120 guests with only six shower heads.
The new dorms will accommodate 32 women and the new gender-specific bathrooms will have private shower and toilet stalls. Schwartz explained that the average age of women in their shelter is 59 and that many have experienced trauma. A slide show featured some of the clients, including a 70-year-old woman, who needs a walker to walk, and her 40-year old daughter, who is blind from cancer and whose illness has depleted their financial resources. Schwartz related how the new dorms and bathrooms will provide homeless women not only with a place to sleep and bathe, but also with dignity and hope.
Attendees also got to hear uplifting presentations by United Boys & Girls Clubs of S.B. County CEO Michael Baker, Foodbank of S.B. County CEO Erik Talkin, Resource & Referral’s Program Director, Child Care Training Jacqui Banta, Goleta Education Foundation Director of Instructional Services Liz Barnitz, and CADA (Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse) Teen Court Program Manager Eduardo Cue.
After the presentations, attendees adjourned to the Rotunda for a lively social hour, where speakers and about 25 other grantee organization representatives were available to speak informally with members and guests. The Foodbank brought its new refrigerated truck for inspection and its youth volunteers served a healthy Thai-inspired cabbage salad. The recipe came from its Kids’ Farmers Market program, an after-school program in which K-6 children learn about, taste, and prepare recipes using fresh produce and then take home the food and recipes to share with their families.
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 $6.6 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.
The other grants made last spring were:
United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County. $100,000 to replace and rebuild sections of a leaking roof for its Carpinteria clubhouse that serves low-income youth.
Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. $95,000 to partially fund the purchase of a new refrigerated box truck that will collect, store and distribute fresh food, reduce food waste, and meet new emission requirements.
Children’s Resource & Referral of S.B. County. $65,000 to provide quality child care and business development training for in-home family child care providers.
Goleta Education Foundation. $50,000 for the Early Childhood Classroom Behavior Intervention Program, which responds to disruptive classroom behavior for 3-5 year olds in the Goleta Union School District.
CADA (Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse). $75,000 to provide mental health support to help prevent reoffending and incarceration of Teen Court youth.
The Women’s Fund is a field of interest fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation. For more information, go to womensfundsb.org.
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By Gail Arnold