2016 Community Grants Update: Sharing Stories, Making an Impact!

DSCN0591 copyRewarding, inspiring, poignant – that’s how members describe the 2016 Community Grant Update held on March 18 at Vintage House. Last May, $121,408 in Community Grants was awarded to eleven organizations. During the gathering spokespeople from the eight nonprofits that received full funding shared how the grant money is serving their clients in Sonoma Valley.
Here are their informative and heartfelt reports:
Ceres Community Project – Healing Meals Program,
Cathryn Couch, Executive Director

Ceres Community Project
Ceres supports low-income people struggling because of a serious health challenge by providing free and low-cost home-delivered, nourishing organic meals, nutrition education and the caring support of the community. All of the meals are prepared by youth ages 14 and up who volunteer in Ceres’ ¾-acre food production garden and three commercial kitchen sites in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Ceres received a $15,000 grant for its Healing Meals Program. To date they have provided 7300 meals for 42 families in Sonoma Valley. Cathryn Couch commented that she doesn’t often get to meet funders, yet “we feel our partnership every day.” She shared that ninety percent of their clients say the daily delivery of food helps them feel less isolated. “I can feel the love in the food,” said one grateful client. Another client said how good it makes her feel to know that so many people she doesn’t even know care about her.


FISH – Rental Assistance,
Sandy Piotter, Executive Director
FISHFriends in Sonoma Helping (FISH) is an all-volunteer organization that keeps Sonoma Valley families from becoming homeless or going hungry by providing temporary or supplemental help that includes food, clothing, rent, utility assistance, transportation to medical and social service appointments.

FISH received a $15,000 grant for its Rental Assistance program. Sandy Piotter explained that, with rising property values in Sonoma Valley, it takes more money every year to keep people in their homes, and that 75% of people who qualify for rental assistance don’t receive it. In January alone, FISH received 53 calls for rental assistance as families were hit hard by the wet, cold winter. In the first two months of 2017 they paid $40,000 in rent checks to keep 64 families intact in safe, dry housing.


La Luz – Bi-Lingual Employment Classes,
Juan Hernandez, Executive Director
La LuzLa Luz provides English language training and financial support services, teaches computer skills, distributes food, hosts medical and legal services, offers crisis counseling, and supports events that celebrate the multicultural richness of the community.
La Luz’s $15,000 grant enabled 150 people to receive support and education in a wide range of computer and technology classes. Of those, 81 graduated. 14 received 1-on-1 tutoring, and 37 were referred to employment services. A graduation celebration is slated for June. “Instead of handing out fish, we are teaching people how to fish, “Juan Hernandez offered. “Well, maybe we give out a few fish along the way, but we are also teaching them how!”


Pets Lifeline – Spay/Neuter Program Expansion,
Kevin Schuh, Board President
PetsLifeline_Logo_COLOR_FINALAs the only animal shelter in the Sonoma Valley, Pets Lifeline finds permanent homes for dogs and cats. It also provides care for abused and abandoned animals, offers spay/neuter clinics, conducts child education programs, and provides elderly companionship services. Pets Lifeline relies entirely on grants and private donations and does not receive funds from either the city or the county.
Creating an onsite spay/neuter facility was a top priority for Pets Lifeline and receiving a $15,000 Community Grant helped the $23,000 project become a reality. Off-site procedures could not be regularly scheduled, were more expensive, limited to animals under 25-pounds, and highly stressful to the animals that had to be transported. Opening this spring, the on-site facility will eliminate all of those challenges. Kevin Schuh happily reported that, resulting from the $15,000 grant, Pets Lifeline will save $20,000 in costs every year.


Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB) – Fresh Produce Pantry,
Allison Goodwin, Director of Programs
Redwood Empire Food BankIn an effort to effectively reach people struggling with food insecurity in Sonoma County, the Redwood Empire Food Bank operates 15 innovative programs under three strategic hunger relief initiatives – Every Child-Every Day, Senior Security, and the Neighborhood Hunger Network.
With their $15,000 grant, REFB is able to acquire 7,600 pounds of fresh produce every week for low-income Sonoma Valley seniors, families and individuals. That translates to 300 people coming twice a week to a Fresh Produce Pantry and receiving 20 – 25 pounds of fresh produce to keep their families nourished and well.


Sonoma Community Center (SCC) – New Ceramics Kiln,
John Tamiazzo, Executive Director
Sonoma Community Center editedThe Sonoma Community Center’s mission is to enrich the lives of Valley residents and visitors with a broad range of cultural, educational, recreational and community service activities.
SCC’s Ceramics Program is a vibrant department of the organization and soon, with a new, clean-burning, safe, reliable kiln, the program can expand and offer a wider range of artistic options. John Tamiazzo added that the $10,000 grant received from Impact motivated other community members to fully fund the $40,000 kiln. He shared how the kiln, to be utilized by youth and adults, will contribute to the many benefits of the power of play – creativity heals mind, body and spirit; it opens up people to trust and to bond with others; it inspires self-esteem and self-expression.


Teen Services Sonoma (TSS) – Welding Program,
Cristin Felso, Executive Director
Sonoma Valley Teen Services3TSS provides teens with work readiness and on-the-job training, job placement services and coaching that instills confidence and empowers them for employment and life success.
TSS partnered with Hanna Boys Center and was granted $15,000 for a pilot Welding Program. The result? Last summer 12 students, including one female, began and 11 completed the 6-week 42-hour program, each earning 3 college credits. In addition to technical skills, the youth gained self-confidence, creative empowerment and new employment options. In 2017 the program will expand to 7-weeks and include welding, blacksmithing and carpentry with a wait-list expected. Long-term hopes are for a year-round after-school curriculum.


Vintage House – LIMO Program,
Cynthia Scarborough, Executive Director
Vintage House5Vintage House is a membership organization that offers over 60 programs, classes and services a week to community seniors.
A $15,000 grant was awarded to expand Vintage House’s transportation project (LIMO) that enhances the lives of seniors by providing free, local rides for errands such as banking, food shopping, post office stops, and social activities. To do this the LIMO program coordinator position expanded from part- to full-time. To date the program has added 13 new riders and 5 new drivers, with hopes to add 5 more after their July driver-training class.


When we have the opportunity to hear how neighbors from every corner of our community are being supported through Impact100 grants it’s not surprising that members, guests and presenters alike are moved, humbled and gratified. As Gera Vaz, Membership Chair, summed up, “Our membership invests in ideas and the people who believe in them.” Thanks to one and all for making this possible.