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January 28, 2010: Monterey County Weekly’s Community Fund Drive (Monterey County Weekly)

Posted on January 28, 2010

By Monterey County Weekly Staff.

Angel Contributor

Linda Orr liked to help out quietly; the gifts of time and energy she gave local schools and children were anonymous. “She would do things with so many organizations,” remembers one friend, “and you would never know.”

As a medical office worker married to a Carmel cop, her means were modest, but she patiently saved enough to start a foundation that would care for the community’s kids after she was gone. Orr asked four close friends – “her adopted nieces and nephews,” they call themselves – to steward the foundation after her death.

Last month, two of them walked into the Weekly and cut one $56,976 check to the Community Fund for the Youth Arts Collective (YAC), and another $46,976 donation for Chartwell School.

Earlier this month, YAC celebrated 10 years of providing a haven for vulnerable youth and helping them find their creative identities. Chartwell has won awards for its breakthrough ability to educate the area’s learning disabled. The two gifts liquidated the Linda Orr Foundation.

“We felt at this time, with the economy, that organizations needed the support. Instead of little donations to keep the foundation going, we felt we could do more good this way,” says Salinas resident Margaret Basa, a Marina police officer and one of Orr’s four friend-board members.

Orr’s legacy will affect hundreds of deserving local children – though she may have preferred to do so more discreetly. [MCA]

Teachable Moment:

Jill Meyer saw the Weekly’s Community Fund as a way to vote with her dollars for groups she thought were doing the county’s best work.

But she’s unemployed, and didn’t have much extra cash, so she pored over the list and handed a dollar each to her top 10. Among them, three groups that serve seniors: Prunedale Senior Center, Legal Services for Seniors, and Foster Grandparents. Meyer says she’d fork over a million dollars to that last group, if she could; she’s seen first-hand what positive adult influences can do for kids.

“The idea of matching up needy young people with adults with time on their hands is a good one,” she says.

Meyer, a bilingual elementary school teacher, applied her personal and professional experiences to her choices. A dollar went to MS Quality of Life in honor of a cousin with multiple sclerosis. Mesoamerican Cultural Preservation got another because Meyer has seen kids with strong cultural roots do better in school than those who lack them. Radio Bilingue, the non-commercial Spanish language network, also got a nod.

Now, Meyer waits for someone to choose her. With 17 years of classroom experience, she’s ready to put her own skills to work where they’re most needed. [RU]

High School Memories

Teenage nostalgia led Cannery Row chef and real estate mogul Bert Cutino to donate to the track and football field renovation at his alma mater. “It was one of the greatest times of my life, going through Monterey High School and watching the sports being played,” he says. “I thought it was a great idea to upgrade the school."

Monterey High’s track and field had never been renovated since it was built in 1915. The promise of a matching donation from the Weekly’s Community Fund gave Cutino further incentive to contribute $2,000 to help finish paying the $1.2 million bill for upgrading Dan Albert Stadium. His donation made up a sizable chunk of the $4,808 in reader contributions to the cause.

Cutino is no stranger to giving. For the past 13 years the co-founder of The Sardine Factory has organized a feast at Spanish Bay to benefit Meals on Wheels, which he estimates has raised more than $1 million over the years. Although Cutino says between bussing tables and commercial fishing, he never had time to play sports in high school, he hopes his support for Monterey High’s project will help educate future generations of students. [ZS]

Art from the Heart

It was a small effort, but a worthy one. A small group of graphic designers wanted to help some of their own.

“We just wanted to donate as a group to an organization that was close to our hearts, one that would inspire future artists,” says Brandl Tucker, lead designer at the Weekly. “We wanted to help someone in the arts, and the kids in Salinas need more outlets to be creative.”

The four-person production team gathered funds to boost popular after-school workshops at the Alisal Center for Fine Arts. The center, located near elementary schools in East Salinas, focuses on creating a safe, artistic environment for kids by offering after-school dance, music and visual art classes. The center also plans to start two theater programs in Salinas this year. [NC]

International Effort

Ten parents, five early mornings, two birthday parties, and dozens of pastries and power bars added up to big bucks – $69,344 from 273 donors, 135 of them under 35 years old – for the International School of Monterey when it took up the Weekly’s Community Fund challenge, reports parent Jennifer Stone.

Stone and ISM Foundation co-chair Camilla Mann, along with a handful of recruits, stood bleary-eyed in the school parking lot at 7:30 every morning for a week, offering donated sweets and snacks in exchange for whatever parents, grandparents, kids and teachers could pull from their pockets and piggy banks.

Most memorable donor: a third-grader with a paper bag containing $10.81 in change. “That was the sweetest thing,” Stone says, “because you could just see it all there – all of her collection.”

The ISM also benefited from two calls for donations in lieu of gifts at student birthday parties during the fundraising week.

Mann and Stone jumped on the Community Fund opportunity because they are staring down a $350,000 yearly fundraising goal for ISM. The public charter school spends $1,800 more per student every year than the state provides for its program of experiential learning. Each trimester, the kids study the usual subjects by considering a single question. For example, when Stone’s daughter’s was in third grade, her class examined “The Great Abyss,” which included astronomy and the study of the Monterey Submarine Canyon near Elkhorn Slough. [RU]

All Peace is Local

Monterey Peace and Justice Center Board President Joyce Vandevere believes in people power. Rather than going after big grants, she says, the MPJC gets most of its funding through individual donations responding to quarterly newsletters.

So when the Weekly’s Community Fund issue hit the streets, Vandevere and MPJC board member Deanne Gwinn (the winner, incidentally, of the Weekly’s 2009 101-word story contest) deftly wove in the donation pitch.

“Everybody was very excited about it,” Vandevere says. “We’re always skating on the end of disaster with our financial situation, and this was an opportunity to bring in more money.”

The Peace Resource Center, an MPJC project whose mission is to promote the teaching of peace, plans to offer peace education classes, a self-improvement workshop and English as a Second Language classes in the New Year. Future workshops may address conflict resolution, anti-bias and cooperation games for schoolteachers. But to keep the PRC ticking, it needs funding. And that’s where the community comes in.

MPJC volunteers held a mailing party, folding and stuffing and stamping some 300 newsletters with Community Fund donation forms enclosed. “I wrote personal notes on as many of the letters as I could, and other board members did the same for people they know,” Vandevere says.

Meanwhile, long-time peace activist Karen Araujo womanned the phones, asking the center’s supporters and space-sharing community organizations to make their 2010 donations early, and Vandevere made the pitch to folks on the Peace Calendar e-mail list.

Their push paid off: The PRC pulled in 111 donations for $11,025, obtained the match of $2,568, for a total of $15,593, dwarfing the $2,000 average donation response from a newsletter. That’s giving peace a chance. [KA]

Fundraising with Soul

Soul’d Out Productions doesn’t have a rich uncle. So when the Castroville-based youth-outreach group looked to raise money through the Weekly’s Community Fund, it turned to its kids. And what do tykes like more than anything? Toys.

During its annual toy giveaway, SOP staff handed out the newsprint contribution forms and passed around coin jars while handing out more than 1,400 toys, from Barbies to Chronicles of Narnia castles, says Kristen Edgar, head of administration. “The kids just poured their change into the jars and filled out all their paperwork,” Edgar says. “Some of them even gave pennies.” In all, Soul’d Out scored 647 contributions, 469 of them from people 35 years old or younger.

The pot came to a modest $885 – averaging $1.37 per person – and ranked Soul’d Out 42 out of 73 in terms of total donations. But as the group with the most total donors, and the most young donors, Soul’d Out will receive a $2,000 bonus from the Weekly, in addition to $206 in matching funds.

Edgar says the 5-year-old nonprofit had never previously received a grant. She hopes Community Fund proceeds will kick-start SOP’s mentoring program for teen students and help pay for renovations at its Geil Street headquarters.

The fundraising frenzy has already passed on a valuable lesson to Soul’d Out juniors, lead teacher Deana Martinez says: “It teaches our children how to be involved in the community, and how to give back.” [ZS]

Park Power

Cleaning up central Seaside’s blighted Martin Park was a daunting task. The patch of grass in a low-income neighborhood was scarred with gang graffiti, neglected turf and crime. But a neighborhood effort led by Volunteers Improving Parks transformed the park into a sustainably landscaped, well-lit, friendly space where families now gather and children play.

But VIP and Sustainable Seaside members aren’t done yet. They envision a water catchment project that will tap the sun and rain, irrigating the park without drawing from the city’s limited water supply. That goal inspired SusSea crusader Kay Cline and VIP visionary Norman Yassany to loiter in Martin Park, delicately soliciting donations for the project via the Weekly’s Community Fund. One man who’d donated paint to the park cleanup effort offered $1. Another who’d pressure-washed the sidewalks gave a few bucks.

“After coming together under the wings of VIP, we’ve come to know each other,” Yassany says. “It was like talking to family.”

Cline marched on, knocking on doors to chat with the park’s neighbors about the fundraising effort. “What I loved was, almost nobody turned me away,” she says. “One woman told me, ‘The value of my house has improved because of that park,’ and gave me $10."

Yassany, meanwhile, hit up his co-workers at Monterey Peninsula Surgery Center and fellow parishioners at Church of the Oaks. “For about a week for me, it was the subject of the day,” he says.

All told, Cline collected $280 from 22 people, and Yassany gathered about $75 in $1 to $2 pops, adding to the group’s $1,903 donation total from 91 supporters.

January 27, 2010: Private Award Given To Help East Salinas (

Posted on January 27, 2010

SALINAS, Calif. - A donation from a private health foundation is set to help improve one part of town.The California Endowment has awarded east Salinas millions of dollars to help build a safer and healthier community.East Salinas is one of 14 communities in California receiving the money. More than 200 people gathered at Martin Luther King Elementary Academy on Wednesday night for the first major community gathering on how to specifically use the money.

Community members to city leaders gathered to decide how to use between $6 million and $10 million donated by the California endowment in a 10-year investment to build a healthier and safer east Salinas."We don't have the resources. They're bringing in literally millions of dollars to improve what's going on here," said Kelly McMillin of the Salinas Police Department.A group of about 50 people have been meeting since July. After hosting 34 focus groups with more than 700 participants, the top two priorities emerged.Some Salinas students, who may become the future leaders of the city, offered their own solutions."It's very important because there's been many clubs that have been canceled and we want to have fun," said student Angel Soriano.

It's all a part of building a future so these kids can grow up in the Salinas they imagine it could be.The problems city leaders are discussing that have plagued east Salinas include poor literacy rates, school dropout rates, and health insurance for all children.

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