The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County logo
October 15, 2020
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." ~ Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1993-2020

Dear Friends-

In the midst of an already challenging year we were saddened to learn of the passing of Justice Ginsburg. Her voice on the Supreme Court and her work throughout her life were a true testament to how we can advocate for those things that serve the public well. This was a good reminder of the importance of our work especially during these days of COVID pandemic, political uncertainty and unrest, economic downturn and now fires across our state.

COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the lives of San Luis Obispo County residents. Since launching in March, our Disaster Support Fund has provided critical emergency funding for food, housing, mental health and program support to nonprofits serving SLO County residents in need. We are honored to serve our community as a connector and catalyst for funding essential programs that support the health and well being of so many and welcome your support.

We’re immensely grateful to the donors and funders who stepped up to support our community through this fund. The commitment to support our community must be sustained and we welcome gifts to the fund in order to make further grants to meet the need. With the support of our community, we know that together we are making a difference.

With gratitude,

Heidi H. McPherson
Chief Executive Officer
Spotlights and Highlights
Funding for Our Communities Impacted By COVID-19

The Community Foundation launched the Disaster Support Fund in mid-March to support nonprofits in San Luis Obispo County serving our most vulnerable populations impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Areas of focus included Childcare & Education, Health, Housing Stability, Food Insecurity, and Organization Capacity which served the following populations: low-income, seniors and people with disabilities, youth and families, Undocumented, farm workers, and the homeless.

Thanks to our generous funding partners and through donations from our community,
ore than $420,000 in grants have been awarded. Since January, we have awarded $3.4 million in grants. Additionally, due to the devastating wildfires across California, the Foundation created a Fire Relief Fund to provide urgent assistance to organizations that provide relief to those who have been affected by the fires. To learn more about our grant impact of our grant programs to far this year read our report here. Below are a few images of the beneficiaries of our grants.

Boys & Girls Club long distance learning
Courtney's House worker mixing salad

SLO Food Bank thanks Foundation for Emergency Grants

Earlier this month the SLO Food Bank celebrated The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County’s Disaster Support Fund, a fund providing economic relief to nonprofits in the region working diligently to ease suffering and minimize the impact of loss during the challenging times. To date, the SLO Food Bank has been the recipient of $64,000 in Disaster Support Fund Grants, which resulted in 378,000 additional meals to offer those we serve through neighborhood distributions and agency partners.

The rate of hunger has more than doubled in our County since the beginning of the year, and some people have found themselves relying on the SLO Food Bank for the first time in their lives. At the onset of the pandemic, the SLO Food Bank experienced an increase in food distributions by 370%, quickly depleting our warehouse’s inventory from a steady 6-month reserve to only seven weeks’ worth of food.

The Community Foundation was quick to offer COVID relief funding. This initial contribution allowed the SLO Food Bank to meet the growing demands for food and strengthen the safety net cast out to those in need. Special thanks to our community members for donating to the Disaster Support Fund during the pandemic.
SLO Food Bank Appreciation for the Foundation
Director of Grants and Programs Cassandra Wagner and Board of Directors President Jeff Buckingham gratefully accept a plaque on behalf of The Community Foundation presented by SLO Food Bank CEO Garret Olson and Director of Development Branna Still.
Women's Legacy Fund Continues to "Invest in Her" 

Last month our Women's Legacy Fund provided an opportunity for our community to learn about the needs of women and girls in our community at our "Invest in Her" virtual event. The findings of the third edition of "What Do Women Need?" report highlighted the areas of greatest need across SLO County and beyond. We also shared the impact of our $500,000 in grant funding, including interviews with last years grantee recipients. We heard from supporters and businesses about the important need to "Invest in Her" to help women to strengthen their physical, emotional, intellectual and financial well-being. Best of all, more than $25,000 in donations has been received so far which will provide for future grantmaking.
The impact of the Women's Legacy Fund has never been greater or more important. The pandemic may have exposed and amplified systematic inequalities that women face but we have the opportunity to fuel the change we want to see for future generations of women and girls. By investing in women you improve families and as a result the community thrives. Consider making a contribution today to ensure that our grantmaking to nonprofit programs continues when funding is so essential.

WLF Invest in Her Virtual Event
Click here to view the WLF "Invest in Her" Virtual Event
Disaster Support Fund Grant Impact Through ECHO

Sometimes the best way to show the impact of grant funding is by citing an example of the lives that are touched by the programs the Foundation supports...

Anthony’s world was turned upside down when COVID-19 struck. Anthony was working as an in-house caretaker for the last two years when his client was advised by a doctor to limit all contact with others. Within a week, he was made homeless without any foreseeable income. Uncertain about where to turn, he searched for homeless assistance in the area and stumbled across ECHO. Anthony arrived at the facility with hopes of receiving a free meal and possibly a blanket. While receiving services, a volunteer encouraged him to fill out an application. Anthony was able to meet with a case manager and was offered a bed that same evening. 

Having all of his basic needs met meant Anthony could focus his efforts on employment and self-care. During his time at ECHO, Anthony routinely went to Atascadero Lake Park to meditate and collect his thoughts in between his job search. It wasn’t long before he was given the opportunity to work as an independent contractor refurbishing furniture. Anthony was in the program for only a month before finding sustainable housing nearby. “ECHO allowed me to work on myself in a completely relaxed environment. I was empowered to make the changes I needed to rebuild my life in the community I love; Atascadero is my home."

Happy Hour with Heidi Donor Events

As a service to our donors, we are pleased to offer monthly “Happy Hour with Heidi” donor events. Each virtual presentation is different and features interactive and engaging speakers talking about important issues in our community. Some examples of recent speakers and topics included:

  • SLO Food Bank CEO Garret Olson shared about the work being done to help those who face hunger in our community; 
  • Wendy Wendt, Executive Director of First 5 San Luis Obispo County explained the need for support for the undocumented workers who help keep our economy going, put food on our table, and provide personal services; 
  • Jim Dantona, CEO of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce discussed the economic impacts of COVID-19 on our business community and the collaboration with the Foundation and the City of SLO to provide SLO City Small Business Grants;
  • In November, Dr. Jim Brescia, the SLO County Superintendent of Schools, will speak about the state of schools and how the way our children are educated has changed.
If you are a donor to the Foundation and you would like to be included in our guest list for our "Happy Hour with Heidi" series, reach out to Donor Services Coordinator Cecelia Mazelin at
Tracking our Scholarship Recipients

The world of higher education was thrust into a whole new world when COVID-19 hit. While many of our scholarship recipients have moved back to campus, or the city where the college is located, many are sitting here in San Luis Obispo County and taking online courses virtually. Indeed, for many the dream of college life as envisioned is yet to be realized. This year the Foundation was pleased to award more than $294,000 to 67 local students for scholarship support.

Until a vaccine is available for all the pandemic is likely to be a continuing challenge for our K‐12 and higher education institutions. The Foundation remains committed to offering scholarships to our hardworking SLO County high school seniors, with most scholarship applications opening in early December. In the meantime plan to virtually attend College Night SLO on Monday, October 26 from 5:30-7:30pm. Special thanks to the Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust for funding this important opportunity for area students. 

Important Dates
October 18: Invisible Disabilities Week
October 18: College Night SLO
November 3: Election Day
November 12: "Happy Hour with Heidi" Donor Event
November 13: National Philanthropy Day Event
November 16: General Grants Program Available
December 3: Scholarship Applications Open
You can make a difference!
The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County is a grantmaking and education foundation that provides support to charitable organizations throughout our county. For more than 20 years, the Foundation has provided more than $37 million in grants and scholarships and our charitable assets under management have grown to over $66 million, and provide support to all aspects of our community in perpetuity. For further information or to donate to any fund, please call 805-543-2323.
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The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County
550 Dana Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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