An update from our 2013 Community Grant recipients

The Impact of Impact100 Sonoma
Community Grant Recipient Update
Saturday, March 22

Gang prevention, healthy living with good food and exercise, hospice care, transitioning from foster care, feeding the hungry, and stimulating the mind with a book – these were the topics of interest as Impact100 Sonoma members and their guests gathered at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley to hear from representatives of our 2013 Community Grant recipients.

Impact100 president, Sydney Randazzo, welcomed the attendees and thanked our sponsors (listed below) and then provided some impressive statistics about Impact100 Sonoma:
• We are one of 15 Impact100 organizations and the only one in California
• We have 239 members for 2014, meaning grants totaling $239,000
• We have a 79% membership retention level
• All membership income ($239,000) is given as grants
• We have sufficient funding from MemberPlus, Friends, underwriter and sponsors, matching gifts and in-kind donations to cover all administrative costs

Another unique aspect of Impact100 Sonoma is that we were the first Impact100 group to initiate a Community Grants program. Much of the success of that program has been the amazing energy and dedication of Lorraine Ashton, Chair of Community Grants. So following a well-deserved round of applause, Lorraine took the microphone to introduce each of the 2013 Community Grant recipients, so they could share with the audience the impact of their Impact100 grant.

PierDave Pier, Executive Director
Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley
Strategic Partnership/Collaboration Grant – $15,000
As the recipient of the first $100,000 Impact Grant in 2010, Dave first pointed to the photographs of the 100 graduates of their College Bound program, which continues to grow and thrive thanks to that original Impact100 grant. He then focused on the results of the current grant which has provided the opportunity of a series of meetings among the partners: B&GSV, Social Advocates for Youth, La Luz Center, and the City of Sonoma Police/Sonoma County Sheriff Departments to develop a plan to address gang issues and strategies for prevention. Multiple meetings culminated in a day-long meeting that included school district personnel, Sonoma Valley Teen Services, California youth organizations, and gang prevention task forces to look at current efforts in Santa Rosa and the reality of the situation here in Sonoma.

Among the findings: (a) the police have identified 230 gang members in Sonoma, (b) gang members in nearby areas often infiltrate surrounding neighborhoods, (c) our Sonoma schools are doing a good job with zero gang incidents at Sonoma Valley High School last year, (d) a prevention plan is needed. Dave explained that we know that gang issues arise at an early age and so the prevention plan will target the 4th – 8th grade population in order to catch those at risk from being recruited at a time when they are making decisions about their pathways. In Sonoma this represents 1800 students of whom 40% are deemed at risk. Collaboration, family outreach, leadership from a government agency such as the school district, and funding through state grants, public funding, and foundations will be critical. Good connections and first steps have been made, and Dave thanked Impact100 for having faith in the partners to come up with the recommendations.

BI 2Angela Grech, Fund Development, and John Castle, Program Recipient
Becoming Independent
Innovation Grant – $5,000
Becoming Independent was started more than 40 years ago by parents who wanted a better life for their children with developmental disabilities. Angela explained that about a year ago, they offered a healthy living and wellness class, and there was a great deal of excitement about its potential. The Impact100 grant has enabled them to launch a new pilot program in the Sonoma Valley – the Healthy Living Class. Funds were used to purchase professional cooking supplies and conduct classes that focus on healthy behaviors: exercise and nutritional meal preparation.

John, a program participant who has been working for BI for 8 years, spoke about learning new recipes, developing a shopping list and going to the store to purchase the ingredients, and then preparing tasty meals – one of which included all sorts of yummy vegetables wrapped in cabbage leaves. He also attends the yoga and tai chi classes and was happy to report that all the participants were living healthier and together had lost 25 pounds!

BI has also been able to purchase a greenhouse and was pleased to work with numerous Impact100 members and other community volunteers to upgrade their garden. It now includes four new raised beds and a compost bin, which greatly enhances their “garden to table” class. For more information on that effort, see Many Hands Make Light Work.

CPI 1aCarmen Van Horn, Bilingual Parent Educator
California Parenting Institute
Innovation Grant – $15,000
Over the past few years, CPI has been providing services to more than 140 families in Sonoma Valley, but the grant from Impact100 has enabled them to expand these services and to initiate parenting classes that focus on gang prevention. These classes target Spanish-speaking parents of middle school children. Many of the parents come from another country and feel very isolated when they arrive in Sonoma. Their children also lack a sense of belonging and therefore are vulnerable to gang recruitment. The parents attended weekly classes at La Luz over a period of ten weeks and 16 of the original 19 parents have completed the course. The classes help parents to communicate with their children and show them how to provide discipline in a positive way, not as a punishment. They learn that they are the main teachers for their children, and they graduate with the tools to play that role more successfully.

ceresFrancesca Fifis, Program Chief
Ceres Community Project
Innovation Grant – $15,000
Francesca began with a heartfelt thank you for the opportunity to expand their services to Sonoma. The Impact100 grant, combined with a grant from Junior League, enabled them to provide free, healthy meals mainly to low income clients in Sonoma suffering from serious illness. Each week, a client liaison checks in with the clients, and Francesca comes up with a menu based on food donations from local farms and Whole Foods. On Tuesday and Wednesdays after schools, the mentor chefs and local teens come to Hanna Boys Center, prepare the meals, and then the meals are delivered to clients the following day.

The goal is to fix a meal that is “beautiful enough to try, good enough to eat, and nutritious enough to make a difference in their health.” No doubt the foods are new to most of the clients and they certainly are to the teens preparing them, but three months after the meals began, 83% of their clients have made changes in their diets; 27% of the teens are eating more fruits and vegetables, and 50% of the teens have become nutrition advocates.

The goal for 2014 is to serve 5500 meals to 65 families, but the results have already proven to be more than just improved nutrition. One client suffering from breast cancer and taking care of her 91 year old mother was overwhelmed that complete strangers wanted to take care of her. But they were also laughing because “they had no idea what they were eating, but they loved it and they felt the love and benefit in every mouthful.”

hospiceWendy Ranzau, Director Patient Services, and Jayne Schabel, Coordinator of Foundation and Corporate Relations
Hospice by the Bay
Innovation Grant – $8,500
In a joint venture with Sonoma Valley hospital, this grant has provided a hospice care room within the hospital – a safe and caring place for individuals to receive end-of-life care without incurring any cost. Two additional partnerships add to the special nature of this unique program: (a) Broadway Quilts makes lap quilts for each patient, which then goes to the family; (b) Altimira Middle School grows flowers in their garden, which are the source of daily fresh flowers in the hospice room. Nineteen patients have experienced this new mode of care since the room opened. It is the only such program in the country.

The nineteen patients that have benefited from the program have their own special stories. Wendy shared one such story: A woman, only 50 years old, died last December. She had already lost her husband and one of her daughters and was being cared for at home by another daughter, only 20 years old. The daughter provided 24-hour care, seven days a week and after some time became distraught with the stress and responsibility to the point of becoming suicidal. She barricaded herself in her room with medications and a gun, wanting only to join her deceased father and sister and soon to be deceased mother. For her, the care system had fallen apart. Hospice arranged for psychiatric help and the daughter finally agreed to have her mother move to the hospice room. There, her symptoms and pain were managed and the daughter was relieved of the caregiver duty and was able to once again be a daughter. Her mother died peacefully and the daughter continues to receive bereavement counseling – all without cost. “Access to that room would not have been possible without your support.”

voicesAmber Twitchell, Program director, and Mitch Findley, Lead Youth Staff
On the Move/VOICES
Innovation Grant – $15,000
VOICES was awarded a grant that allowed them to expand their services into the Sonoma Valley, working with dozens of youth transitioning from the foster care system to find their full potential. Amber began with a thank you, but immediately explained that the thanks was for more than the money. “That big check you gave us hangs on our wall. It is a reminder of your trust and belief and investment in us and all of our young people. I get to tell them about you. They understand that you believe in them.” Amber also thanked Community Grants Chair, Lorraine Ashton, for always “being there,” adding that it is unusual for a representative of a funding agency to be so approachable and so helpful throughout the entire process and she was much appreciative.

Mitch spoke from his personal experience as a former foster youth and a founding member of VOICES since 2005. Mitch was in and out of foster care beginning in 5th grade, facing homelessness at one point, separation from his two younger sisters, and some tough decisions, including calling the police on his own father even knowing that would mean he would once again return to foster care. But that decision also led him to connect with VOICES which he credits with changing his life and even offering him a career path.

The Impact100 grant allowed VOICES to expand into Sonoma Valley, sending two staff members to Sonoma Valley Teen Services. There they eventually identified 48 young people, many of whom were homeless, and ascertained how many were in foster care. Most of them were unaware of the services available to them. He talked about Michael, age 18 and homeless, who (through AB 212) was eligible for extended title IV-E assistance. Michael now has his own place, is attending Santa Rosa Junior College, and has a job at Mary’s Pizza………… all because they asked the simple question: “Were you in foster care?”

REFBBilly Bartz, Grants Manager
Redwood Empire Food Bank
Innovation Grant – $15,000
Billy began with some simple but powerful questions: “In the past 12 months, has your child gone to bed hungry? Have any of your children not eaten for a whole day? Have you as a parent given up your own food so that your child could eat?” These circumstances are more common than we might think. For 2,500 people in Sonoma Valley, hunger is a reality. Billy reminded us that “food is medicine” – it has the power to prevent, control, and heal disease; and “hunger is an education issue” – studies show that hungry children fall behind in school, fall behind their peers, and miss days of school. Pangs of hunger can lead to despair and depression.

The mission of the Redwood Empire Food Bank is to end hunger in our community. To do so, they provide direct food distribution to 175 partners in Sonoma County, but partners in Sonoma faced a 60-mile round trip, which often prevented them getting fresh food. The grant from Impact100 changed all that. In a unique program, the REFB has partnered with St. Leo’s Church to serve as a distribution hub. Every other Tuesday, food distributors such as SOS, Brown Baggers, La Luz, and Sonoma Valley Teen Services arrive at St. Leo’s to pick up fresh food to distribute to their clients. In the last six months, this innovative program has provided 40,000 meals in Sonoma Valley.

Billy closed with an important message and a special thank you: “Every parent should have access to food for their children. Thank you to all of the women sitting in this room and to all of our partners and to our community who have created the synergy needed to make Sonoma beautiful.”

bookmobile4Stacey Rupert, Board Member
Bookmobile/Literary Arts Guild
Capital Grant – $3,000
Stacey has been a supporter of the Bookmobile for three years. She loves to read and finds that this is an easy way to give back. She often joins Glen Weaver, Director of the Bookmobile, as he travels around the county to rural and low income areas often not served by a library. His visits also include La Luz Center, Boys & Girls Clubs, Sassarini, Altimira and Dunbar Schools, Valley of the Moon Teen Center, Sonoma Overnight Support Haven Shelter, Flowery and El Verano Preschools, Oak Ridge Senior Homes, and Sonoma Child Development Center. Wherever they go, they are amazed by the smiling faces that emerge from the receipt of a free book.

Stacey recalled one little boy about four years old, who entered the Bookmobile all by himself. Wondering where the mother was, Glen spoke to him in Spanish and indicated a section of the stacks where he could pick out “tres libros” – three books. For fifteen minutes, the boy poured over every book and finally selected one book which he brought over to Glen. As Glen told him that he could select two more, his eyes lit up and back he went. When his mother arrived, she asked how much she would need to pay and was overwhelmed to find that they were free. Book-reading was now going to be part of their lives.

Stacey also mentioned that Glen was as excited as that little boy when the new shelter for his beloved Bookmobile arrived – thanks to the grant from Impact100. As she stated: “The big green monster will be safe for many generations, thanks to all of you.”

I100 logo smallThe event came to a close with time for questions and answers moderated by Impact100 member, Karla Noyes, and a message from Chair of Membership, Ann Reder. Renowned for her analogies, Ann referenced “March madness” and how every successful basketball team needs a good coach, effective players at every position, and a strong bench, but the primary ingredient is teamwork. Impact100 succeeds due to the teamwork drawing on all of the different strengths and talents of our amazing members.

This event reminded us that Impact100 not only supports the nonprofits of the valley, but also the individuals whom they serve. Sonoma is a community of people that invests in its people. It is indeed a special place, and Impact100 makes it even more so.

Photos provided by individual nonprofits
and Impact100 member Jeanette Barekman

Thank you to our Event Sponsors:

Special thanks to our 2014 Major Underwriter