Power of Purpose — July 28, 2022

 In Newsletters

Dear Ventura County Community Foundation Family,

This year, VCCF will award over $1.4 million in scholarships to more than 300 inspiring local students.

VCCF could not support the educational pursuits of deserving students without our VCCF scholarship donors. We are inspired by their generosity, love, and commitment to support the next generation. Additionally, it is only due to the dedication of our Scholarship Selection Committee and every scholarship reader that this vital program is possible. For six weeks out of the year, these individuals work tirelessly to review thousands of scholarship applications. I know even though this is a challenging commitment, each reader walks away inspired about the future of our community through these deserving students. Each of these gifts is what makes this program possible.

We are so grateful to all the students who apply each year for their perseverance, dedication, and trust. It is a tremendous honor to read their stories and witness their journey as they strive for a better future. Our hope is that the scholarships awarded not only provide financial assistance to students, but that in receiving these much needed funds, our students feel the love and support of their entire community.

Caitlin, a recipient of both the Smith Family Foundation Scholarship for Emancipated Foster Youth and the TEACh Scholarship, will touch the world as a hospital pharmacist. These two scholarships are awarded to students who have lived in the foster care system. Caitlin describes her experience in foster care as equally the best and worst thing that could have happened to her. In Caitlin’s own words we see the lasting impact of community support:

Suffering through abuse isn’t anyone’s idea of an ideal childhood, and it wasn’t until Child Protective Services realized what was happening that I finally got removed from the household.

When I first arrived to my foster home with the Kwast household, I came with a single suitcase and a stuffed cat. My entrance was heralded by the barking dog outside. Mrs. Kwast would later explain that, as a rescued dog, Koko suffered from extreme anxiety, other people, and the fear of abandonment. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I clung to the dog first out of anyone in the family. I understood the kind of terror, the paranoia. Yet, I also saw the sheer joy. When she finally warmed up to someone, Koko would leap at them, offering endless kisses, and wagging her stubby tail. She would offer up toys and roll over to show them her soft belly. Slowly, she wore down the constant anxiety that had pervaded my life.

Although I didn’t wag my tail or kiss others on the face like she did, I began to slowly start opening up to strangers again. I started learning that it was okay to tell others how I felt. I saw how the Kwasts would gently comfort Koko whenever she would go through a nervous fit at any dog she saw outside, and they handled my tears and outbursts the same way. I started going on walks with Mrs. Kwast, and I learned how to bike with Kaylee, my foster sister. I would play video games with both my foster brothers, Dylan, and Zach, and ask Mr. Kwast endless questions. Even if I wasn’t their biological family, they all treated me like one of their own. Family was no longer a foreign or terrifying concept. For the first time in my life, I was given stability.

Much like Koko, I want to become better than what life gave me at first. I want to go into the medical field and become a hospital pharmacist. The money from the scholarship will support me throughout my journey, I could go to a UC, pay for groceries and rent, buy the textbooks and lab supplies I would need for my STEM courses. I want to give thanks to my foster family by showing them the kind of person I became with their selfless love and support. I could save lives just like they saved mine. The possibilities of what I could become are endless, and it all started with a foster family willing to care for me, and their anxious dog.

Today, and every day, we celebrate Caitlin and all our scholarship recipients. We can’t wait to see where you go from here.

Best regards,
Dr. Cristina Miranda
VCCF Scholarship Director

VCCF 2022 Scholarships by the Numbers

An infographic of the data of VCCF's scholarships from 2019 to 2022

The Brian Patrick Gialketsis Memorial Scholarship, A Story from Brian’s Father

A picture of Brian Gialtketsis laughing on the beach A photo of Brian Gialtketsis holding a large inflatable heart in front of a mural of a hummingbird

The Brian Patrick Gialketsis Memorial Scholarship was created by his family to honor the memory of his son, a passionate advocate for the environment and the LGBTQ community, determined to build a healthier community for everyone around him. Brian’s father, Mike Gialketsis, wrote a short piece celebrating the memory of his son and the family’s creation of the scholarship to carry forward Brian’s legacy and his fight for the environment, justice, and equality.

VCCF’s $35K Grant to Soaring Spirits International

Two smiling women attending Soaring Spirit International's Camp Widow

First-time campers at Soaring Spirits Internation’s flagship program, Camp Widow. Practical, peer-focused, powerful and hopeful, Camp Widow supports widowed families throughout the arch of their grief experience.

VCCF is delighted to announce a $35,000 grant for Soaring Spirits International (SSI), a Ventura County-based nonprofit providing research-based programs for anyone who has experienced the death of a spouse or partner.

SSI has developed a pilot program meet the specific needs of underserved communities such as Latinx widowed, BIPOC widowed, LGBTQ+ widowed, Suicide and Homicide Survivors, COVID-19 widowed, and other populations/life experiences/relationship types not noted here.

Transfer of Wealth Part II Presentation & Cohort Application Open

Part II of the Transfer of Wealth took place this week at the Planned Giving Readiness workshop co-convened by the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and VCCF. The slide deck from the presentation is available by clicking this link, as well as the Planned Giving presentation from Endowment Horizon’s Sue Nunn.

If you’d like to apply for the Planned Giving Program beginning this fall, the deadline to apply to participate is August 31 at 5 p.m.

Meet Terri Lisagor

VCCF Donor Client Terri Lisagor teaching a class of Qʼeqchiʼ villagers in Guatemala about nutrition and oral hygiene

VCCF spoke with Terri Lisagor for July’s donor-client interview, honoring National Make a Difference for Children Month. Follow Terri’s life’s journey from her discovery of her life’s purpose as an educator, all the way to the jungles of Guatemala where she taught Qʼeqchiʼ families about nutrition and oral hygiene, and read more to see how this work ties into her love-driven philanthropy.

Power of Community

Good News from YOUR Ventura Community

Saving the Monarchs with Santa Monica Mountains Fund

This month, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature categorized the migrating monarch butterfly as “endangered” for the first time, two steps away from extinction.

Thankfully, the Santa Monica Mountains Fund is on a mission to protect this beloved species in our community! The SAMO Fund Native Plant Nursery at Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park held their second virtual Southern California Monarch and Milkweed conference in March. With hundreds of attendees and a vibrant collection of speakers, this free event shared information geared towards encouraging the return and improvement of monarch habitat through planting pollinator plants and native milkweed, both vital for the survival of the species as food and habitat. Additionally, the Nursery held its first Monarch Day of Action, which invited the public to join hands-on events at several sites to protect the monarch butterflies, ranging from restoration to milkweed planting demonstrations to guided hikes and more.

SAMO Fund also launched Mission Monarch in 2021, and since April 2022 has given away nearly 10,000 narrowleaf milkweed plants and established over 1,00 new native milkweed plots in Southern California. Mission Monarch has also brought in local youth to introduce them to local parks and meaningful work. This project aims to change the lives of local youths and make landscapes more drought-tolerant and monarch friendly. Their final giveaway will be on Saturday, July 30 at 9 am to 12 pm at the Arroyo Vista Recreation Center in Moorpark.

The Nursery aims to support native plant conservation and educate the public on their work. The facilities allow for the growth of over 50,000 plants every year (including milkweed!), the collection and cleaning of seeds, and the curation of their native plant herbarium, all while involving community volunteers. Click here to learn more about their work and current projects and read more about SAMO’s new Executive Director, Deanna Armbruster.

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