On March 7, 2020, I sat with friends and colleagues around a table at the fairgrounds’ Crosetti building for the annual crab feed. As we laughed and ate way too much, I never imagined the next time I’d be at the fairgrounds would be to see how the Community Foundation could partner with health care providers to get essential workers tested for Covid. Or the time after that I’d be handing out gift cards for gas to hundreds of CZU fire evacuees. Thank goodness for the drive through Christmas lights to bring us all some much-needed cheer. 

We can map out so much of what we’ve survived together the last two-and-a-half years by looking at how folks have gathered at the fairgrounds. It reminds me of what Diane Porter Cooley once told me, “Susan, community is about living life together. It’s about getting through hard times, floods and fire; but it’s also about serving meals and building clinics; helping kids and planting trees.” 

As families continue to heal from the economic and health impacts of the pandemic, educators support children’s wellbeing, seniors are served with love and kindness, and the arts are bursting onto the scene, the Community Foundation is honored to be one small part of the strength found here in the Pajaro Valley—as, like Diane said, we live life together.

Consistently, two-thirds of the Community Foundation’s annual grantmaking program and scholarships directly benefit Pajaro Valley residents. This spring we awarded $1.2 million to South County causes, nonprofits and students. More than $6 million in Covid relief helped keep families safe, housed and fed during the worst of the pandemic. And we’ve invested well over $2 million in loans to Pajaro Valley farmers, new homeowners and entrepreneurs. All of this is made possible by generous donors over generations. 

Indeed, the people who invested deeply are still at work doing good through endowed funds they created at the Foundation. Diane’s family’s gifts are helping teach the next generation of wetlands stewards. The Borina family is helping seniors access meals and hospice care and helping the fairgrounds expand Heritage Hall. Hal & Perky Hyde are helping immigrant families get pro-bono legal aid. Former Pajaronian editor Frank Orr and his wife Zoe Ann made sure 16 nonprofits close to their heart will be supported each year, forever. Ernie Bontadelli’s fund is supporting agricultural education programs and Agri-Culture’s Laura Brown Memorial Scholarship is helping standout students pay for college. And close to our heart is Laura Segura, whose very recent passing we’re still mourning. The Laura Segura Memorial Scholarship Fund will benefit Pajaro Valley youth who have been involved in the juvenile justice system.

For 40 years, we’ve had the privilege of partnering with forward-thinking leaders with a vision for the good they can do in the Pajaro Valley. Their generosity continues to make a lasting impact, one that will only grow. 

At the end of July, I’ll be in Crosetti Hall, again gathered around a table with friends and colleagues. This time we’ll be at the 60th annual awards dinner of the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture where the Community Foundation will be honored as “Organization of the Year.” The chamber’s CEO Shaz Roth told me the Community Foundation was being recognized for all we did to help the Pajaro Valley—and the county overall—survive through Covid. 

But that’s the thing about the Community Foundation. It’s all of us—past, present and future—living life together and investing in people, preserving cherished places, and helping this abundant valley thrive far into the future.

Susan True is the CEO of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County. You can find out more about all the grants and scholarships the Community Foundation makes at cfscc.org.

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