Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Celebrates Grants in Action

Annual site visit allows members to hear firsthand how their recent contributions totaling $550,000 are helping local nonprofits

Members of the Women's Fund board Santa Barbara Airbus on their way to visit nonprofit grant recipients. (Women's Fund of Santa Barbara photo)

Members of the Women’s Fund board Santa Barbara Airbus on their way to visit nonprofit grant recipients. (Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara photo)

The mood was particularly festive at the 10th annual Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara site visit on Wednesday as more than 200 members of the organization were greeted with the news that founder Carol Palladini had received the prestigious Woman of the Year Award from the Santa Barbara Foundation and Noozhawk the day before.

Guests were also uplifted to see and hear what their most recent $550,000 in grants was doing to help the community.

The Santa Barbara Public Library hosted the annual site visit gathering, which included tours of three nonprofit facilities — Peoples’ Self Help Housing, Youth Interactive Santa Barbara and the Single Parent Achievement Program at Santa Barbara City College — as well as presentations by representatives from Casa Esperanza, Domestic Violence Solutions, the Legal Aid Foundation, the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, Posse Program (Opening Doors to College) and Storyteller Children’s Center.

Together, these nine charities comprise the most recent recipients of 64 grants totaling $4.7 million to local nonprofits in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria since the fund began in 2004.

“Our annual site visit is the best way to understand the work the Women’s Fund does,” Steering Committee co-chair Nancy Harter said. “And it’s an opportunity to connect us to some of the things that matter most — friends, new and old, and to our collective efforts that impact community. For a decade our members have combined their charitable dollars to make large donations in the community — more than most of us could accomplish on our own.

“We’ll be able to visit some of these grantees and see how they deliver services. Other grantees will make presentations on the progress of their grant. We’ll be able to ask questions about the effectiveness of our giving. And we’ll be able draw connections between words on a ballot and real people — those delivering services and those receiving them. My hope is that this site visit affords all of us a rich opportunity to sharpen our skills as strategic philanthropists.”

Traveling via Santa Barbara Airbus, the day included a stop at Peoples’ Self Help Housing’s site in Carpinteria, which received a $50,000 grant to use for after-school/summer educational enhancement for children of low-income families.

Rochelle Rose, Peoples’ fund development director, explained that the money was used for a program called YEEP, which stands for Youth Education Enhancement Program. YEEP is open after school every day in seven centers.

“These hours are structured,” Rose explained, “one hour for homework completion, one hour for physical activity and recreation and healthy snack, and one hour for educational enhancement — with a special project in math, science, art, music, community service or social studies. Thanks to support like yours, we are able to provide this program to over 300 children a day.”

Rev. Mark Asman of Casa Esperanza, Women's Fund photo

Rev. Mark Asman of Casa Esperanza, Women’s Fund photo

The next stop was the Single Parent Achievement Program at Santa Barbara City College, which received a $90,000 grant for child-care support for low-income single mothers to allow them to attend college.

Chelsea Lancaster, EOPS/CARE/CalWORKs Student Program advisor and a former single-parent student, offered her thanks: “My mother said, ‘You can either struggle for a few years while you’re in school or struggle for the rest of your life without an education. The choice is yours.’ I’m glad I chose wisely!”

Youth Interactive Santa Barbara’s executive director and founder, Nathalie Gensac, gave an overview and tour of the nonprofit, to which the Women’s Fund granted $60,000 for entrepreneurial and job skills programs for underserved youth.

Calling the grant “transformational,” Gensac said, “It is literally because of your gift that I am proud to say that we are here today reaching unbelievable new heights. We followed your grant with a fundraiser concert hosted by Michael McDonald. He is now a huge supporter of Youth Interactive and personally donated $20,000 after the concert, other new grants have flowed in, too. We have now raised another $70,000 since May. All our students have access to the best artists and entrepreneurs in town, who teach them vocational skills, financial literacy and business skills.”

Back at the library were several additional presentations by grant recipients.

The Rev. Mark Asman, board president of Casa Esperanza, which received $50,000 for shelter and support to transition women out of homelessness, shared the story of Angela, who was born and raised in Santa Barbara.

“She had never experienced homelessness until her mother died and she began to fall on hard times,” he said. “Angela arrived at Casa Esperanza in June. She was 23 weeks pregnant. Because of her condition, Angela was given priority to stay at Casa and placed in one of our special-needs beds.”

Angela was matched with volunteers from the new “Navigator” program, paid for by the Women’s Fund grant.

“Over the months that Angela was with us, the volunteers helped to advocate on behalf of Angela for the courts … schedule prenatal visits along with attaining baby care items, etc.,” Asman said. “Angela recently gave birth to a healthy baby daughter and is now living with her and the baby’s father in affordable housing in Lompoc. I am confident that without the Navigator Program, Angela would not be where she is today. … Members of the Women’s Fund, thank you for your compassionate and strategic leadership.”

Bringing many in the audience to tears, Charles Anderson, executive director of Domestic Violence Solutions, began his presentation by playing a 9-1-1 call from a child witnessing violence.

“We know this is shocking,” he explained, “yet we work with children like this little girl and her family on a daily basis. Our DVS staff members are available to dispatch on 9-1-1 calls to assist law enforcement 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. During the previous 12 months, DVS staff has accompanied law enforcement officials on 655 of these domestic violence 9-1-1 emergency calls. We are the ‘first responders’ to many domestic violence situations. We responded to over 1,500 domestic violence crisis calls last year.”

The Women’s Fund gave DVS $50,000 to update the security system and the playground, which, as Anderson said, “Because of this most generous gift from the Women’s Fund, the children at DVS Santa Barbara have a safe, secure and inviting playground and security camera system where their mothers can take joy in watching their children thrive and grow.”

The Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara received a $75,000 grant for a domestic violence attorney for women and children, which, as family violence attorney Elizabeth Diaz explained, “was used to fund a second attorney … to assist victims of domestic violence, dependent adult abuse and elder abuse. Our services range from advice and counsel, to assistance with the preparation of legal documents, all the way up to representation in court proceedings.”

Speaking on behalf of the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center was Executive Director Elsa Granados: “Your generous grant ($50,000) supports in part a crisis intervention counselor and a long-term counselor … thus enabling the SBRCC to counsel an additional 98 victims of sexual assault per year.

“An important part of the healing process for survivors of sexual assault is to feel that they are believed and supported by their community. Many are reluctant to speak publicly about their experience out of fear that they will be judged and stigmatized. I thank you for creating a space where Liz Blackadar could speak about her experience.”

Blackadar shared a moving story of her more than 30-year journey to finally be able to call herself a “survivor of sexual abuse,” thanks in large part to the services from SBRCC.

Also speaking at the library was Jo Ann Caines, principal of La Cumbre Junior High — along with San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens and San Marcos senior Jose Campos — to share how the Women’s Fund grant of $75,000 to the Posse Program (Opening Doors to College) has impacted the more than 100 students in the group.

“One of the important components of the program is to provide mentors and tutors to the high school Posse students in the evening at La Cumbre,” Caines said. “Because of funding limitations, the tutorial, mentoring and collaboration aspects of the program used to begin in October for the students. They are enrolled in rigorous and accelerated academic classes, Honors and Advanced Placement classes, and they need support as soon as the school year begins.

“This year, the Women’s Fund grant enabled the Posse Program to begin the tutorial and mentoring opportunities and support to begin on Sept. 8 with full tutorials and mentors in place, as well as the textbooks needed for their respective classes that span four high school grade levels. The students attended in mass and expressed their appreciation for the early start. What a difference a month makes!”

On behalf of the Storyteller Children’s Center, which received $50,000 for a food program for low-income preschool children, Executive Director Terri Allison said: “Thank you so much for your support of our program. Storyteller Children’s Center serves 100 of the community’s most vulnerable children each year and serves close to 23,000 meals and snacks. Your support allows us to do our work every day … providing quality, tuition-free early childhood education for homeless and at-risk children, as well as comprehensive support services for their families.”

Sarah Stokes, Kate Winn-Rogers and Barbara Hauter Woodward were the event co-chairs, who offered special thanks to generous bus sponsors Santa Barbara Airbus, Ferguson Bath & Kitchen Gallery, Allen Construction and Montecito Treasures.

Click here for more information about the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara.

This story was originally published in Noozhawk on October 10, 2014.