2013 Fall Impact Grant Update

thank you noteOn Saturday, September 28, members of Impact100 Sonoma were able to see first-hand the impact that they are making in Sonoma Valley.  Only three months ago, they awarded the $100,000 Impact Grant to the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) to support SmartStart – a program to expand early learning opportunities for children at high-risk of entering Kindergarten without the necessary social, behavioral, and academic skills crucial for early learning and school success.  Those funds have already begun transforming a classroom at Sassarini Elementary School into the location for a new preschool that will soon be welcoming 24 young children to begin their education with a huge advantage.


Sydney Randazzo, President

Impact100 Sonoma President, Sydney Randazzo, opened the meeting with welcoming remarks and a brief reflection on the first four years of our organization’s growth and evolution.  She introduced our motto for our fifth year: Impact Times Five and stressed that this year will be a time of celebration, but also a time to listen and learn from our nonprofits and our members in anticipation of our next five years of growth.

Laura Zimmerman

Laura Zimmerman

Laura Zimmerman, SVEF Executive Director, then welcomed the Impact100 members to Sassarini and shared current research about the importance of the preschool experience in a child’s educational success.  She also described how that success affects the entire family, who are also invested in the process.  “The needs are very high in our valley. Preschool is the way kids get a fair chance – a difference that lasts a lifetime.”  She described how the Impact Grant will open the door for children to have success.  “That’s why you are called Impact and I want to thank you.”

Maite Iturri

Maite Iturri

Maite Iturri, Principal of El Verano School where a preschool program has already proved successful, agreed on the importance of parent participation.  Monthly meetings help parents to establish a learning environment at home that reinforces the same strategies being used in the classroom.  Those meetings were described as critical by Shelby Rico, mother of a recent preschool graduate.  She and the other parents attending such meetings participated in the same educational activities that their children experienced – even “running around the classroom doing the chicken dance,” so that they could understand the importance of encouraging an inquisitive mind and how different activities support learning. She feels fortunate that her son now loves learning and to her it is clear that children thrive when they know that their parents are excited about their learning.

Words of appreciation were also expressed by Kristin Gornick, Principal, Sassarini School; Justin Frese, Deputy Superintendent, Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD); and Louann Carlomagno, Superintendent SVUSD each of whom provided their perspectives on the SmartStart project, its current status, and what the impact it will make when those doors open to the new preschool classroom.

This year, members also received grateful updates from the 2013 Impact Grant finalists: the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation (SVHF) and Willmar Family Grief & Healing Center, each of whom received $20,000 from Impact100 Sonoma.

Sharon Nevins

Sharon Nevins

Sharon Nevins, Chair of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, described the new bilingual services that are being made available without charge to all women within the valley.  Impact100 funding supported new furnishings, computers, printers, software, and a lending library available at the Women’s Health and Resource Center on Perkins Street.

Barbara Cullens, Executive Director at Willmar, described the use of their peer support group model and expressive arts for children, teens, and adults healing through trauma after a catastrophic loss.  Impact100 funds will provide new cabinets, chairs, tables, and other furnishings plus art supplies and volunteer training.  She described Impact100 Sonoma as “a vital and valuable part of Willmar.”

Barbara Virginia and Isaiah

Barbara greets Isaiah and Virginia

Barbara was joined by two WillMar volunteers: Impact100 Sonoma member Virginia Bertelesen and her trusted friend, Isaiah.  Virginia talked about her experiences at WillMar and three critical needs for those suffering grief:  safety, security, and someone to listen.  “The greatest thing we can do is to listen. I learned from my dog how to do that.  Isaiah doesn’t talk back – he provides unconditional love.”   And as Isaiah calmly nuzzled the hands of those in the front row, the power of that love was quite clear.

In keeping with the education theme, Chair of Membership Ann Reder reminded us to “get our homework in” (e.g. our checks for this year!) and to consider some “extra credit” in the form of Members Plus donations.

tiny toilet

Impact 100 member Erin Selby at the “tiny toilet”


As the meeting closed, we all adjourned for the much awaited tour of the new preschool facilities.  Having heard about all of the state requirements of appropriate carpeting and square footage, we were most intrigued to see the “adorable tiny toilet” mentioned by the SmartStart project team and indeed, it was adorable!