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Beginnings

The date was March 7, 1990 and the place was the conference room of El Capitan Bank on Stockton Street. The occasion was the first meeting of the Board of Directors of the recently incorporated Sonora Area Foundation. The minutes of that first meeting of the Board reflect that a number of organizational actions were taken that evening, setting into motion a community foundation serving charitable needs in Tuolumne County.

Those first seven directors – including Board President Dean Cunningham (who was critical to advancing the idea for a community foundation), Vice President Patrick Dowling, Secretary Lynn Austin, Chief Financial Officer James Angelo, Jackie Christensen, Larry Rotelli and Jack Cassinetto – were the backbone of the Foundation in those early days. There wasn’t a separate office (it was housed at the office of Irving J. Symons on S. Washington Street), or a staff, or the donor funds that comprise a good part of the charitable grant-making for which the Foundation is known.

So, as we begin to celebrate our 25th anniversary, it helps to look back at where we were and how far we have come. We’ve been located in several offices but are now permanently housed in our own office on S. Stewart Street. We have a full time staff of three and administer over 170 local donor funds which are never charged an administration fee. When combined, the donor funds and our competitive grant program account for approximately $1.3 million of grant making annually and are approaching $20 million in grants since 1990.

Although the faces and number on the Board has changed – currently President Jim Johnson, Vice-President Roger Francis, Secretary Clark Segerstrom, Treasurer Bob Ozbirn, Gary Dambacher, Carey Haughy, Pete Kerns, Bill Polley and Tracy Russell – they are, as have all of the members preceding them, been committed to responding to charitable needs that may be identified. The same is true of our long-time staff members, Program Manager Lin Freer and Finance and Administration Manager Cathi Nies.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that none of what we do can happen without you – the greater community that comprises Tuolumne County and the City of Sonora. We are not a community foundation without your support of what drives us through our mission statement – to strengthen our community through assisting donors, making grants and providing leadership.

The Board has adopted a slogan in recognition of our 25th anniversary – Celebrating 25 Years of Giving. You Can Make a Difference. Let Us Help.

Please join us as we not only celebrate this anniversary, but look to begin our next 25 years!