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News From The Sonora Area Foundation

Greetings from the Sonora Area Foundation. Having just completed my sixth month at the Foundation, perhaps a recap and summary of activities would be of interest. It has certainly been fascinating for me. The theme of my early tenure, as 2016 came to a close, was proactive grants. These are gifts initiated by our Board and presented to worthy projects. Recipients included the Smile Keepers program ($25,000), Children’s Holiday Party ($15,000), Sonora Vets Helping Vets ($10,000) and a grant to Tuolumne County of $150,000 in support of their effort to expand the soccer fields at Standard Park. The response from the representatives of these organizations when the awards were handed out was indescribable.

Speaking of precious reactions, I also experienced my first Polar Express. Approximately 100 children departed Railtown 1897 and enjoyed a magical journey to the North Pole. These 3-to-5 year-olds were selected via random drawing and received tickets provided by the Foundation. Amazing to witness.

As the year ended, I had the pleasure of assisting donors with establishing their charitable giving fund at the Foundation. Two couples, one relatively new to our area, and another representing a fifth generation Tuolumne County family, established Donor Advised Funds, allowing them to support charitable organizations within our community or outside the area. A long-time Tuolumne County educator added to our growing list of scholarships by establishing a fund for graduates of Jamestown Elementary and a local church set up a fund to support their organization. There’s a story behind each fund established at the Foundation and we love sharing. Look for our Spring/Summer newsletter due around Memorial Day where two of our detailed stories will focus on donors.

2017 has featured more of the same including meetings with donors and potential donors,
presentations to community groups, and representing the Foundation at local events. One of the most enjoyable activities has been interviewing our former board members. Their collective love for our community and support for the Foundation has been a source of both motivation and inspiration. Everyone has been gracious, helpful and supportive. They represent why this community is so special.

Another important area of focus has been assisting our donors with meeting their giving wishes. Funds are set up at the Foundation to facilitate charitable donations, however, choosing precisely where to place those donations requires an understanding of the donor. The Foundation’s ability to “Do Good” is directly connected to fulfilling the wishes of our donors – including our founder Irving J. Symons. Once the relationship with the donor is established, it allows the ability to pull together resources in support of a specific cause. For instance, the TMAP (Tree Mortality Aid Program), which assists low income seniors and disabled residents with removal of dead and damaged trees, was in need of a second round of fundraising. The Foundation granted TMAP $20,000 when they established a fund last year. However, when work had been completed at approximately half the qualifying homes, the program was running out of money. We reached out to several of our fund representatives, made them aware of the need and generated an additional $4000 in donations. Our donors were happy to help, TMAP was pleased and the residents will be thrilled to have dangerous trees removed from their property – something they otherwise could not have had done.

It’s been nothing short of amazing working with those associated with the Foundation. Our staff, board, donors, non-profits and community partners have been extremely supportive. One shining example is our program manager Lin Freer. On March 16 th Lin celebrated her 20 th anniversary with the Foundation. She is a true professional with a heart for our community and she is fantastic to work with.

We’ve also been busy planning the inaugural Senior Family Forum. This free community event will feature a fast paced morning of presentations by local experts on issues critical to our senior citizens and their families. Topics include: Elder Abuse / Scams, Investment / Financial Issues, Grandparents’ Rights, Medi-Cal Planning, Trusts, Insurance Issues, Conservatorships, Tax Planning, Estate Planning and more. The event is Wednesday, May 3rd from 8:45 to 12:00 at Sierra Bible Church. Please call our office at 533-2596 for more information.

Finally, the larger take away from my short time with the Foundation is that every day is filled with reminders of the responsibility we have to support our community. However, each day also includes consistent reinforcement from the community that the Foundation is making a difference. I am excited for the future and committed to upholding the values and responsibilities of the Foundation for the years to come.

If you are interested in learning more about how you too can make a difference, please call or stop by our office. We are located at 362 South Stewart Street in downtown Sonora and our number is 533-2596.