Changing Lives Together: Joyce Dudley to Keynote Women’s Fund Site Visit

Joyce Dudley, courtesy photo

Joyce Dudley, courtesy photo

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara will host a Site Visit Kick-Off on Thursday, October 29 from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church (21 E. Constance Ave., Santa Barbara).  This annual event features progress reports from the seven local nonprofits that received Women’s Fund grants this past spring: Children’s Resource and Referral, Community Action Commission, Conflict Solutions Center, Mental Wellness Center, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Sarah House and Transition House.

In addition to representatives from the nonprofits, for the first time there will be a keynote speaker at the event—Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

 “Joyce knows that prevention and early intervention strategies are key to changing lives,” said Women’s Fund Chair Nancy Harter.  “For more than a decade, the Women’s Fund has researched and funded local programs with those same strategies.”

 While there is a $20 fee for Women’s Fund members to help defray costs, the event is open to guests free of charge. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m.

 For more information and to register, go to the Women’s Fund website at

 After the October 29 Kick-Off, Women’s Fund members and guests will have the opportunity to sign up for small-group visits to the seven 2015 grantees to see first-hand how Women’s Fund grants are changing lives.  The small-group visits will be available on a first-come basis between November and February.

Donating more than $5.1 million to the local community since 2004, the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara is an all-volunteer collective donor group that enables women to combine their charitable dollars into significant grants focused on the critical needs of women, children and families in south Santa Barbara County.  The Women’s Fund has grown from 68 members in 2004 to nearly 700 in 2015.

 —Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on October 27, 2015

Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara Grants $460,000 to Seven Local Nonprofits

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara awarded grants to seven local nonprofits represented by, front row from left, Fran Forman of the Community Action Commission, Kristine Schwarz of New Beginnings Counseling Center and Kathleen Baushke of Transition House; back row from left, Debbie McQuade of Sarah House, Michelle Graham of the Children’s Resource & Referral, Lizzie Rodriguez of Conflict Solutions Center and Annmarie Cameron of the Mental Wellness Center. Courtesy Women's Fund of SB.

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara awarded grants to seven local nonprofits represented by, front row from left, Fran Forman of the Community Action Commission, Kristine Schwarz of New Beginnings Counseling Center and Kathleen Baushke of Transition House; back row from left, Debbie McQuade of Sarah House, Michelle Graham of the Children’s Resource & Referral, Lizzie Rodriguez of Conflict Solutions Center and Annmarie Cameron of the Mental Wellness Center. Courtesy Women’s Fund of SB.

Seven local nonprofits received a total of $460,000 in grants from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara on Monday afternoon at the Montecito Country Club, bringing the organization’s total contributions to the community, since it began in 2004, to more than $5.1 million.

“The Women’s Fund is an all-volunteer organization 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 are able to do on our own,” Women’s Fund co-chair Sallie Coughlin said. “We give large grants, frequently for programs that wouldn’t be funded by others. We are flexible — funding startups, established proven programs and capital projects — and we look for ways to leverage our investments. Our grants allow agencies to dream big and achieve those dreams.”

Local nonprofit organizations receiving awards were Children’s Resource & Referral, the Community Action Commission, the Conflict Solutions Center, the Mental Wellness Center, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Sarah House and Transition House.

Accepting the first grant of the day was Michelle Graham, executive director of Children’s Resource & Referral. The agency received $80,000 to increase the number of child-care spaces in new, women-owned family child-care businesses.

“Tragically, there is a critical shortage of child care in our community,” Graham said. “Since 2008, Santa Barbara has lost 300 child-care spaces, primarily in family-based child-care homes. Children’s Resource & Referral has an exceptional program to recruit and train providers and increase the quality of family-based child-care programs. This grant will give us the opportunity to aggressively recruit new providers. We are confident that in one year we can regain two-thirds of the spaces lost over the last seven years, which means there will be 200 new, high-quality child-care spaces for local children.”

Fran Forman, executive director of the Community Action Commission, accepted a donation of $80,000 for the Healthy Seniors Lunch program, which will serve more than 600 low-income and disabled seniors in the coming year.

“This funding will prevent senior hunger and provide a safety net to those who need it most,” Forman said. “Each day, our chefs prepare meals that are served in senior centers and directly delivered to the homes of seniors who are unable to shop or cook for themselves. Most Healthy Senior Lunch clients live on less than $16,000 per year. Without these meals, seniors report that they would need to choose between eating, paying rent or buying medicine. In most cases, for our clients at home, our drivers are the only visitor for the day.”

Lizzie Rodriguez, executive director of the Conflict Solutions Center, accepted a grant of $60,000 to launch a restorative justice program as an alternative to juvenile incarceration.

“The traditional method of addressing juvenile crime is punishment, isolation and shaming,” Rodriguez said. “Most people who move through the experience do not find it healing or satisfying. Victims often feel revictimized and their need for justice is unmet. … This method has been repeatedly proven to be unsuccessful. However, a restorative approach to addressing the harm caused by juvenile crime is profoundly impactful. A restorative approach operates from a belief that the path to justice lies in problem solving and healing rather than punitive isolation. Through a restorative process, juvenile offenders understand the impact their behaviors have on themselves, their families and their community. Young offenders are able to take responsibility for their actions and begin to understand and value their relationship with others.”

Accepting a $60,000 grant to fund the establishment of peer-to-peer support groups for families dealing with early onset teen mental illness was Annmarie Cameron, CEO of the Mental Wellness Center.

“With this generous funding from the Women’s Fund, families of teens and young adults … will have early access to a safe and compassionate community, emotional support and information about available treatment,” she said. “They will find reason to have hope about their family’s future, despite a diagnosis of mental illness in their family.”

New Beginnings Counseling Center received $80,000 to assist individuals and families living in their vehicles.

“New Beginnings serves over 2,000 families and individuals in the county of Santa Barbara,” Executive Director Kristine Schwarz said. “We serve those most fragile in our community including the homeless, people with severe and persistent mental illness, domestic violence victims, the elderly, veterans and many more. The funds that we have been awarded today will allow our Safe Parking Program to continue providing overnight shelter for families and individuals who live in their cars. In addition, your contributions will go directly towards transitioning our clients back into permanent and sustainable housing.”

Executive Director Debbie McQuade accepted a $50,000 grant for Sarah House to deliver hospice care to low-income individuals suffering terminal illnesses. The grant funds the equivalent of one caregiver position for one year in the residential care facility.

The final grant of the day went to Transition House, for $50,000 to install air conditioning and sound proofing in the family homeless shelter.

“We know we ask a lot of the families in our program,” Executive Director Kathleen Baushke said. “Over the three or four months they are with us, parents are expected to find jobs, take anti-poverty classes, and work with their case managers on creating — and sticking to — monthly budgets and savings plans. Children are encouraged to keep up with their schoolwork and do their best to behave in an unfamiliar environment. By the end of their stay, successful residents have solid employment, money saved for a security deposit, and life skills that will allow them maintain their housing long-term. We work with the children in hopes that they experience minimal negative impacts due to experiencing homelessness.

“While it is up to the parents to do the hard work of returning to permanent housing, it is our job to provide the best environment to facilitate their success. Given that shelter residents are already experiencing significant stress due to being homeless, we want to create an environment that is as low-stress as possible by reducing excessive noise and heat. With the help of the Women’s Fund, Transition House will be better able to support families in attaining permanent housing.”

Women’s Fund co-chair Nancy Harter concluded the event, stating, “What a huge moment for all Women’s Fund members and grantees — and for our guests. We come together to celebrate our year-long efforts as a community of smart and informed givers. I applaud each and every one of you for investing in the shared vision that together we have much more strength and clout as philanthropists than we do on our own.”

Laurie Tumbler and Christine Riesenfeld were the research committee co-chairs for 2014-15, and Stina Hans chaired the event.

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

Originally published on Noozhawk on May 6, 2015.

The gift of charity



It’s hard to avoid the symptoms. “I want that.” “Mommy/Daddy/Grandma, buy me this and this and this…”

Here are some ways to help prevent your child from coming down with an annual case of “the gimmes,” and maybe even provide a little bit of instruction about the true spirit of the holiday season.

Start in your coat closets. Pull out all the old coats your children have outgrown or you don’t wear anymore and take them to Casa Esperanza (816 Cacique St., 884.8481), Transition House (425 E. Cota St., 966.9668) or the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission (535 E. Yanonoli St., 966.1316).

Or better yet, get your friends in on the act and host a coat party. Have guests bring coats that are used but still in good condition. Put younger kids to work cleaning out pockets and using masking tape to mark areas that need to be mended or buttons that are missing. Help older kids sew buttons and do simple mending. Other kids can decide which coats might need dry cleaning and which are ready to go. It’ll be a celebration sure to give everyone a warm feeling.

Another variation of this is to have a food party. Ask your guests for canned food and have children help pack it up for the FoodBank of Santa Barbara County (4554 Hollister Ave., 967.5741). You also can host toy or book parties along the same lines.

Sponsor a needy child or family. Transition House has more than 130 children to be “adopted” this Christmas, said volunteer coordinator Xochitl Ortiz. Interested sponsors can call her directly at 966.9668 x115 to receive a wish list from a child or visit the shelter at 425 E. Cota St. and pick someone to sponsor from the “Giving Tree,” where ornaments list a child’s name, age, and wish for something he or she would like for the holidays.

“We can definitely use all the Secret Santas that we can get,” Ortiz said. “We have almost twice as many people as we did last year or the year before.”

For those unable to make two trips to Transition House and want to just buy a toy, Ortiz said popular requests this year are Bionicles, Hot Wheels, My Little Pony, Video Now Players and Cabbage Patch kids. Wrapping paper, tape and ribbon are also needed.

You can also sponsor an adult, “by maybe donating a gift card to like Macy’s so that they can get work clothes after the holiday sale,” said Ortiz. “We’re hoping to get everything in by Dec. 20, only because if someone doesn’t get adopted, it gives staff enough time to go out and shop for that family or that individual.”

The Salvation Army (4849 Hollister Ave., 964.3230 x13) also has a similar program, with about 120 more families waiting to be “adopted” for Christmas. Working from a “wish list,” sponsors buy each child in the family a new, wrapped gift, one clothing item for each member of the family and a food or grocery voucher for Christmas dinner.

“You can even request a certain age group of children and we’ll try and match it as closely as possible,” said Lt. Stacy Cross, who asked that all items be brought to the Salvation Army by Dec. 17. There are also “Angel Trees” (similar to the “Giving Trees” described above) at most of the Santa Barbara Bank & Trust branches, La Cumbre Plaza and toy drives at seven of the local Longs Drugs locations.

Another way to give to the Salvation Army is making cash donations to bell ringers. Young children enjoy putting coins in the kettle and it’s a good chance to explain to them that the money goes to help people who are less fortunate.

Laurie Jewell Evans suggested this is also a good opportunity to teach children about budgets. Decide how much money you will donate this year, then put that money into an envelope in small bills and coins and keep it in your purse.

“Then, every time my daughter and I pass a bell-ringer, she can take a coin or bill from the envelope and donate it, until all the money is gone,” she said.

Another way to donate your spare change is through San Marcos High’s annual Penny Drive to benefit Unity Shoppe. Canisters are located at most of the local schools. You can also drop off your dollars and cents at the South Coast Beacon, 15 W. Figueroa St.

Sometimes all it takes is just a reminder of just how fortunate we are to put the holidays into perspective for all of us. Ortiz shared this story from Transition House.

“It’s not an over the top Christmas … when it’s a family as a unit that’s homeless, it can become quite a hard time for them to have to spend at a shelter. The parents get depressed because they feel like they’ve failed. The kids feel discouraged because they have to go back to school and tell their friends what they got for Christmas and they’re worried they might not get anything. And a lot of them don’t tell their friends they are staying at a shelter.

“It’s a really tough time for them, so we try to alleviate that … we surprise them on Christmas morning with all of the gifts. … We can’t do it without the help from the community … as soon as they find out what we need, everyone’s so wonderful as far as being able to provide.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Giving Back: Chuck Slosser

Chuck Slosser (courtesy photo)

Chuck Slosser (courtesy photo)

With the same engaging grin and focused attention that have pried philanthropic purse strings loose since he came to town in 1981, Chuck Slosser says he’s excited to tackle retirement after 18 years as executive director of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

What an amazing ride it has been. When Slosser, now 66 took the helm of the Santa Barbara Foundation–Santa Barbara County’s largest private source of funding for nonprofit programs–it had a staff of three, roughly $30 million in assets, and was giving out a few million in scholarships and grants a year.

Compare that to today’s foundation–under Slosser’s leadership, it now has a staff of 23, more than $300 million in assets, and donates about $27 million each year. He’s justifiably proud, but still ready for a slower pace, saying, “I thoroughly enjoyed the foundation and the work that we’ve done here and the great things that have happened in the community as a result. I’ve never objected to the 9 to 5, but it’s really the 5 to 9.”

Slosser and his wife of almost 38 years, Stephanie, who retired from UC Santa Barbara’s biology department three years ago, plan to travel, play golf and do yoga. He’s also interested in playing more basketball (he’s got a regular game at the Boys and Girls Club), taking Spanish lessons, picking up a guitar and a dissertation that have been collecting dust, and perhaps doing some consulting. He smiles. “I really do feel like a kid in a candy store. I want to do that, and I want to do that, and I can’t wait.”

Clearly, Slosser is a man with many interests, which is why the diverse Santa Barbara Foundation was “a dream job come true.” With an infinite variety of grant recipients–Music Academy of the West, Page Youth Center, Special Olympics, Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Red Cross, St. Vincent’s, Legal Aid, Transition House, Girls Inc. and Wildlife Care Network, to name a few — the foundation was a perfect place for this Renaissance man.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine in January 2009.

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. 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 or contact Jo Gifford at 805.969.3320 or

Originally published in Noozhawk and on January 30, 2008.