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.

Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Marks Decade of Changing Lives Together

The organization distributes $550,000 in grants to nine local nonprofits, with members’ contributions to date totaling $4.7 million

From left, Melissa Gough, Nancy Harter, Sallie Coughlin and Sarah Stokes at the Women's Fund's 10th annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon on Monday. Gough and Stokes chaired the luncheon, and Harter and Coughlin will co-chair the organization for 2014. (Peter de Tagyos photo)

From left, Melissa Gough, Nancy Harter, Sallie Coughlin and Sarah Stokes at the Women’s Fund’s 10th annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon on Monday. Gough and Stokes chaired the luncheon, and Harter and Coughlin will co-chair the organization for 2014. (Peter de Tagyos photo)

By Leslie Dinaberg, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara marked a decade of “changing lives together” at its 10th annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon on Monday, doling out $550,000 to support the work of nine local nonprofits. These new grants bring the total contributions by the Women’s Fund to the community to $4.7 million. “The Women’s Fund is proud to mark it first decade — 10 years of commitment to improving the lives of women, children and families in our community,” said Sallie Coughlin, Women’s Fund chairwoman. “The grants our members selected this year focus on two broad categories: programs that protect and nurture women and families in crisis, and programs that enrich and educate young children.”

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf were among the more than 300 people who gathered at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort for the event.

“The Women’s Fund is based on a simple, creative model — women combining our charitable donations so we can make a larger impact in the community than most of us would be able to do on our own,” Coughlin said. “Our grants are focused on programs that address the critical needs of women, children and families in southern Santa Barbara County.”

The organizations receiving funds include Casa Esperanza, Domestic Violence Solutions, the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, Posse Program: Opening Doors to College, SBCC’s Single Parent Achievement Program, the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, Storyteller Children’s Center and Youth Interactive Santa Barbara.

“You can’t imagine the joy and satisfaction in assisting the most vulnerable of our population achieve a new level of self-sufficiency,” said Interim Executive Director Bob Bogle, accepting a $50,000 grant on behalf of Casa Esperanza. “(With this money), we will be able to provide funding for six beds for a year, dedicated to supporting the women of Santa Barbara County as they transition from homelessness to housing.”

A $50,000 grant also went to Domestic Violence Solutions to provide a security system upgrade and a safe playground surface for families who’ve faced domestic violence.

“The research suggests that the younger the child the greater the impact of trauma, which is why a safe playground and toys for children that have few words to express their fear can be therapeutic and even life changing,” Associate Executive Director Marsha Marcoe said.

Womens Fund

Women’s Fund founder Carol Palladini addresses Monday’s luncheon. (Peter de Tagyos photo)

Accepting a $75,000 grant to provide a domestic violence attorney for women and children was Saji Gunawardane, acting executive director for the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County.

He spoke eloquently, stating, “Know that when we say thank you for your support, we are saying much more. We are speaking for many of the most vulnerable and voiceless women, children and families in our community who, until they arrive at our door for help, have been completely voiceless. It is through your support that we can finally give these once-silent victims not only safety and zealous protection, but one of the most empowering gifts of all: A voice.”

John Fowler, the new president and CEO of Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, accepted a $50,000 grant from the Women’s Fund, which will provide after-school and summer educational enhancement programs for children of low-income families onsite at their affordable apartment complexes, where they will serve 120 kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

The Posse Program, an innovative collaboration between La Cumbre Junior High School and San Marcos High School, received an award for $75,000 for what La Cumbre Principal JoAnn Caines described as “a model program developed to support high achieving low income Latinos into high level classes in high school and through college. … The results from the first three years are beyond impressive: 100 percent passage of the high school exit exam in 10th grade by all of the Posse students, success in Honors and Advanced Placement classes where La Cumbre Latino students had been severely underrepresented, and successful students and future college graduates.”

San Marcos junior Jessica Zamora — a straight-A student with an impressive load of AP classes — shared her experiences as part of the first Posse group of 25 students who will apply to colleges next year: “You’re guaranteed to know someone in all of the hard AP classes, but we also all go together to La Cumbre after school every day and just work on our school work together, with City College students available and other mentors who are there to support us.”

“I think the main thing that is unique is having this set of students have their friends (their Posse) be in the same upper level classes with them,” San Marcos Principal Ed Behrens said. “One of the things that we heard before from the students is that they didn’t feel comfortable in the classes because they didn’t know anyone. So I think that it’s really making a big difference.”

An award of $90,000 went to SBCC’s Single Parent Achievement Program to provide child-care support for low-income single mothers allowing them to attend college. Vanessa Patterson, executive director of the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College, said, “On behalf of the single moms and their children whose lives are forever going to be changed because of your support, thank you!  You are their champions and are providing a gateway to higher education that will be the catalyst for lifting them and their children out of poverty and into a future of possibilities and opportunities most never even dreamed of.”

Elsa Granados, Executive Director of Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, accepted a $50,000 grant that will be used to provide crisis intervention and long-term counseling services to victims of sexual assault, telling a very moving story about how the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center provides survivors with avenues to transform their lives after a traumatic experience.

Also receiving a $50,000 grant was Storyteller Children’s Center. Executive Director Terri Allison said the funds would be used to continue the nutrition program for 100 of the community’s most vulnerable children each year.

The final grant of the day was for $60,000 and went to Youth Interactive Santa Barbara to provide entrepreneurial and job skills programs for underserved youth.

President Nathalie Gensac explained, “We have started several micro businesses, which are great vehicles for our youth to learn how to be productive, understand the value of teamwork and the connection between hard work, the classroom and the rewards of business enterprise. We have now developed a successful formula, which empowers disengaged youth by allowing them to keep their profits. …It’s a formula that is starting to pay great dividends. We have helped high school dropouts return to school, we have transformed graffiti artists into responsible commissioned artists who have painted murals funded by the city and much more.  Before today we were at a crossroads with excellent results but still struggling for funds. Your grant is truly transformational.”

Incoming Women’s Fund co-chairwoman Nancy Harter ended the program with a vivid description of collective giving efforts from Ana Oliviera, President of the New York Women’s Foundation: “You are one grain of rice. You come together with other grains, and it becomes a bowl of rice, and that is how we feed.”

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

Originally published in Noozhawk on April 28, 2014.

Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Awards $550,000 to Nine Local Nonprofits

Women's Fund of Santa Barbara included, from left to right: Bob Bogle, Executive Director, Casa Esperanza; Elizabeth Diaz, Domestic Violence Attorney, Legal Aid Foundation of SB; Elsa Granados, Executive Director, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center; Jo Ann Caines, Principal, La Cumbre JHS, Posse Program: Opening Doors to College; Vanessa Patterson, Executive Director, Foundation for SBCC: Single Parent Achievement Program; Terri Allison, Executive Director, Storyteller Children's Center; Marsha Marcoe, Associate Executive Director, Domestic Violence Solutions; Nathalie Gensac, President, Youth Interactive Santa Barbara; and John Fowler, President/CEO, Peoples' Self-Help Housing.

Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara included, from left to right: Bob Bogle, Executive Director, Casa Esperanza; Elizabeth Diaz, Domestic Violence Attorney, Legal Aid Foundation of SB; Elsa Granados, Executive Director, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center; Jo Ann Caines, Principal, La Cumbre JHS, Posse Program: Opening Doors to College; Vanessa Patterson, Executive Director, Foundation for SBCC: Single Parent Achievement Program; Terri Allison, Executive Director, Storyteller Children’s Center; Marsha Marcoe, Associate Executive Director, Domestic Violence Solutions; Nathalie Gensac, President, Youth Interactive Santa Barbara; and John Fowler, President/CEO, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing. Courtesy photo.

Last week the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara awarded grants totaling $550,000 to nine local nonprofit agencies at its 10th Annual Presentation of Funds Luncheon.  This luncheon celebrates the end of the annual Women’s Fund grant cycle, and recognizes and honors its newest grantees, voted on by the membership of nearly 600 women.

Since it began in 2004, the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara has awarded grants now totaling $4.7 million to 64 local nonprofit programs impacting more than 83,000 local women, children and families in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria.

The nonprofits receiving 2013-2014 Women’s Fund awards are: Casa Esperanza – $50,000 for shelter and support to transition women out of homelessness; Domestic Violence Solutions – $50,000 for a security systems upgrade and a safe playground surface; Legal Aid Foundation of SB – $75,000 for a domestic violence attorney for women and children; Peoples’ Self-Help Housing – $50,000 for after-school/summer educational enhancement programs for children of low-income families; Posse Program: Opening Doors to College – $75,000 for a tutorial and mentoring partnership for high-achieving low-income students; SBCC: Single Parent Achievement Program – $90,000 for childcare support for low-income single mothers allowing them to attend college; Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center – $50,000 for crisis intervention and long-term counseling services; Storyteller Children’s Center – $50,000 for a food program for low-income preschool children; and Youth Interactive Santa Barbara – $60,000 for entrepreneurial and job skills programs for underserved youth. (Click here to read a SEASONS Magazine story about Youth Interactive Santa Barbara.)

“When we began ten years ago, we were inspired by a new concept in women’s philanthropy: giving large and well-researched local grants without spending money on recruiting and fundraising,” said Carol Palladini, Women’s Fund Founding Chair. “In 2004, a small group of women said there had to be a better way to make a difference in our local community.  We were weary of planning and attending fundraisers.  We wanted to make a bigger impact than most of us felt we were doing alone.  And we wanted to celebrate the strength and generosity of women.”

(Click here to read a SEASONS Magazine story about Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara.)

 For additional information about the Women’s Fund, visit womensfundsb.org.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on May 4, 2014.

National Charity League of Santa Barbara, Senior Presents Class of 2014

For more than 50 years, National Charity League of Santa Barbara (NCL) has brought mothers and daughters together working on philanthropic projects. This year’s NCL Senior Presents takes place on April 6 at 5:30 p.m. at The Fess Parker Resort.

The graduating seniors of 2014, along with their mothers, gave an impressive 5,856 volunteer hours over their six years in National Charity League to local nonprofits in Santa Barbara.  Nonprofits included Dream Foundation, Safety Town, Special Olympics, CADA, Storyteller Children’s Center, Children’s Creative Project, Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Ridley Tree Education Center and more.

National Charity League Senior Class of 2014 (courtesy photo)

National Charity League Senior Class of 2014 (courtesy photo)

The graduating senior girls, known as “Ticktockers”  pictured include: (Top row from left to right) Sara Ashlin Doyle, Grace Copeland, Emma Eccles, Grace Jordan Woolf, Britten Barbara Ann Vilander, Clara Mae Madsen, Julia Rene’e McClintock; (Middle row from left to right) Madeleine Wall, Milana Rose Skiff, Sammi Schurmer, Rachel Rene Fay, Susan Madeline Marquis, Nicole Kristine-Marie Larson, Brenna Claire Geiger; (Bottom row from left to right) Hannah Rose Brisby, Olivia Jane Pickett, Olivia Belle Caesar, Kayla Zola, Caterina Jacquelyn Lafitte and Madeline Grace Frohling.

Says Ticktocker, Milana Skiff,  who has volunteered an inspiring 921 hours, “the Oncology Department at Cottage Hospital is my favorite place to volunteer.  I love it and everyone there is so kind.  It’s a good experience for me and because of it I will pursue a career as an oncologist in college.  My mom and I have also volunteered in the pasta booth at the I Madonnari every year for the past six years and we really enjoy it.  It gives us the chance to participate in community service together.”

Ticktocker Kayla Zola and Patroness Belinda Zola enjoyed volunteering together making flower arrangements for the Dream Foundation.  Belinda shares, “it feels more like we are sharing a hobby than anything else.  Kayla is very creative, and I have learned so much from her about just letting go and having fun!  Not only are we able to bring some joy to terminally ill people, but we can also share the joy of our efforts with other volunteers, with each other and ourselves!  This is just one example of how NCL has helped teach our three daughters how to get involved and give back to their community while strengthening mother, daughter and sibling relationships”

The NCL Senior Presentation Event is an opportunity for the girls not only be recognized for their service, but it is also the chance for them to share how these experiences have shaped their lives.  “It has been an privilege to work with the Class of 2014 NCL Ticktockers to help them achieve these outstanding goals,” say Luann Caesar and Ann Marquis,  co-chairs for the event.  “It has been an honor to work alongside our daughters for the past six years, to see them grow and mature while giving back through volunteer work to the the Santa Barbara community.”

Founded in 1962, the Santa Barbara chapter of NCL currently supports the works of 19 local philanthropies, often providing a valuable volunteer workforce for local organizations such as Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, Direct Relief International, Santa Barbara Public Library,Unity Shoppe, Cottage Hospital, McKinley School and many more.  The local chapter is an “hours only” chapter, meaning that members donate their time only, and do not raise funds to assist the charities.   Each mother and daughter member is required to fulfill a minimum of both league and philanthropy hours, or community service.  Each Ticktocker is part of an age-level class that conducts a monthly meeting, has guest speakers on various age-appropriate topics, and often does an off-site philanthropy project as a part of their meeting.   For more information click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 20, 2014.

Legacies: Storyteller

storytellerThe infectious chirping of children’s laughter greets visitors. Pigtails fly as a little girl rounds the playground on a tricycle, her smile as bright as the sun. This scene could take place at any of Santa Barbara’s high quality preschool programs, with one exceptional difference–this is Storyteller Children’s Center and these children are homeless.

Founded in 1988 by volunteers who pushed aside cots at Transition House to make space for a small group of children, Storyteller has a come a long way from those humble beginnings.

“We started out as a half-day program for about ten kids,” says Executive Director Terri Allison, who co-wrote the initial proposal to fund a childcare center for homeless children when she worked for the Community Action Commission. The children thrived and the program grew, incorporating in 1991 and moving to First Congregational Church, then to a dedicated center in 1999.

As the program matured, so did its goals. “In the beginning, the group was very focused on providing a safe space for kids,” says board president Jon Clark. “Now we’re looking in a more focused way at the children and their families and what they need. … In particular because of the living situations these children are in, it really is on Storyteller to provide educational experiences, nutrition and all those things that will help them grow.”

Most families are referred through word-of-mouth or from other agencies such as Transition House, Domestic Violence Solutions, St. Vincent’s, Department of Social Services and Child Protective Services.

“A teacher sits down with every family for at least an hour … to establish a level of trust with them and also to figure how we can help,” Allison says. In addition to early childcare and education services, offerings include on-site counseling, family services and case management; parent support groups and education workshops; mental health and disability services; health, vision and dental screenings and nutrition services.

“The teacher helps set goals with the parents and we monitor them on a monthly basis,” Allison says. “We know that the best way to affect change is through the whole family, so parents to have the skills that they need, as well as the children.”

“Parents who leave their children with us are expressing tremendous trust in the people that work at Storyteller,” says Clark. “Once that trusting relationship is developed, there is so much that we can do to help them deal with their family issues and parenting issues. That was a real eye-opener when we realized that the relationship between the organization and the families and the trust that developed was such a huge asset.”

Studies of graduates and their families show a marked improvement in their social and economic status and Storyteller is working with UCSB to research the longer-term impact of its programs. “What we’re trying to do is to make meaningful changes in the lives of children and their families that are going to play out over time,” says Clark.

“There is so much scientific evidence about the huge differences that quality preschool education can make in later years,” says Allison. Experts agree that investment in high quality education for young children has substantial economic payoffs–for every $1 invested, $3 to $16 is returned from decreased jail time and increased physical and mental health.

One of the biggest challenges for Storyteller is trying to focus on the depth of services to individual families and still offer a breadth of services to the community. The waiting list for children continues to grow. Allison cites research that there is only one licensed childcare space for every three eligible children in Santa Barbara County–regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

Still, Storyteller is doing its best to help more children. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the organization opened a second facility, thanks in large part to the generosity of the Orfalea Foundation, who bought the building and is leasing it back to Storyteller rent-free for ten years, enabling Storyteller to mount a $3.2 million capital campaign for the expansion.

Last spring Storyteller was able to increase capacity from 29 to 50 children in the two preschools. By September of 2009 they expect to have 72 children enrolled.

“It’s really amazing to think of how far we’ve come,” says board member J.P. Sharp, a volunteer since 1994. “It was a real grassroots organization of helping children and helping parents and really teaching them how to parent. This is still a wonderful place to visit and volunteer.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine in Fall 2008.

Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Grants $600,000 to Local Nonprofits

Women's Fund of Santa Barbara“Collaborative efforts are part of the future of philanthropy,” said Natalie Orfalea, addressing the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara’s annual luncheon on Jan. 28.

As chairwoman of the Orfalea Fund and co-founder of the Orfalea Family Foundation, Orfalea is an expert on collaborative giving, and was instrumental in developing her foundation’s partnership with the Women’s Fund. With Orfalea matching all of the money raised by the Women’s Fund, it was able to award $600,000 to support the work of eight local nonprofit organizations: Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara, Casa Pacifica, Family Service Agency, Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara, Isla Vista Youth Projects, People’s Self-Help Housing, Storyteller Children’s Center and Transition House.

This brings the total amount given to the community by the Women’s Fund to $1,425,000, in just four short years of existence. The grassroots group was founded by a small group of women — chairwoman Carol Palladini and Perri Harcourt, Shirley Ann Hurley, Jean Kaplan, Dale Kern, Joanne Rapp, Elna Scheinfeld, Meredith Scott, Kay Stern, Anne Smith Towbes, Marsha Wayne and Fritzie Yamin — who were interested in contributing to the community without having to sell tickets, make decorations, solicit auction items or spend valuable resources to bring in funding for nonprofit organizations.

It’s a simple, yet powerful, idea that’s growing in the philanthropic community: Why not take the time, energy and money spent on producing and attending elaborate fund-raisers and write a single check once a year to put that money where it’s most needed.

The concept of giving circles — pooling resources with other donors to have a bigger impact — is catching on, too, not just with the Women’s Fund but within the Women’s Fund as well. To become a member of the Women’s Fund, a woman simply writes a tax-deductible check for $2,500 once a year and in return receives one vote to decide where the funds will be distributed. When the group started in 2004, it targeted women who could easily make the $2,500 donation required to participate.

In recent years, the circle of giving has widened to include group members — often younger women in the community who can’t afford the entire $2,500 donation — who pool their money and share one vote. SBParent.com has put together two of these groups, and there are 28 other sets of women who are neighbors, coworkers, friends and acquaintances who also contributed to the fund as group members, with anywhere from two to 12 members pooling their funds to come up with the required $2,500.

The idea of the money donated going directly to help people, rather than being spent on events or fund-raising expenses appealed to SBParent’s Julie Sorenson and Rachael Steidl. Other members said they joined the group to meet like-minded women or to learn more about the nonprofit organizations serving the community. Assisted by the Santa Barbara Foundation, the research committee does all the legwork to identify causes that align with the Women’s Fund goal of giving to meaningful projects affecting women, children and families.

The largest gift awarded by the Women’s Fund this year was a $150,000 leadership grant to Storyteller Children’s Center, for its $2.5 million expansion campaign that will be launched in 2008. Storyteller, which provides high-quality free preschool for homeless and at-risk children, will use the funds to help establish a second center on De la Vina Street. The organization will serve 1,000 homeless and at-risk children and their families in the next decade, said executive director Terri Allison.

“One in every five children in Santa Barbara County lives in poverty,” Allison said. And while these funds will greatly expand the availability of services, “for every child who joins Storyteller, we must place one on our waiting list.”

Family Service Agency’s 211 Human Services Helpline was awarded $95,000, an amount that will provide one-third of the funding needed to carry on the operation of the helpline when government funds expire in 2008.

Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara was awarded $85,000 to pay for a licensed social worker to recruit, screen, train and support 20 foster families, doubling the number of infants and toddlers that were placed in foster care in 2007.

“These parents risk their own broken hearts,” said executive director Meichelle Arntz, “and this money allows us to provide them with additional support.”

Isla Vista Youth Projects, which lost state funds in 2007, received $60,000 for a family advocate and counselor for one year. This gap funding will restore programs to keep low-income families healthy through regular medical and dental care.

Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara was awarded $55,000 for its Teen Mentoring Program. Thise program expansion will allow girls 13 to 18 years old to participate in Girls Inc. for the first time locally. In the past the agency only served girls up to age 12.

Casa Pacifica received $55,000 to purchase three cars to enable caseworkers and mental health professionals to deliver 24/7 mobile emergency services for youth in immediate psychiatric crisis and to provide assistance for families with youth who are at risk for being placed in foster care.

People’s Self-Help Housing was granted $50,000 to fund a third educator for its year-round specialized mentoring learning program that serves school-aged children in low-income families.

Transition House also received $50,000, which will provide gap funding for the salary of one case manager for a year. Transition House case managers meet one-on-one with at-risk families to craft solutions to help them restore self-sufficiency.

As if helping these worthy organizations weren’t reward enough, oversight committee chairwoman Jo Gifford told the crowd of approximately 150 women that she recently learned that givers are happier than nongivers, less depressed, and full of the hormones that reduce stress.

“So with that in mind, I stand before the happiest, least depressed and least stressed women in Santa Barbara,” she said.

For more information about the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara visit www.womensfundsb.org or contact Jo Gifford at 805.969.3320 or mjog@cox.net.

Originally published in Noozhawk and SBParent.com on January 30, 2008.