This article was originally published in Healdsburg Living Magazine.
Nearly 20 years ago, a group of dedicated local volunteers, including Jason Liles and Demaris Briton, approached Community Foundation Sonoma County expressing interest in establishing a permanent fund that would be able to help support nonprofit organizations in the Healdsburg and Geyserville region, in perpetuity. Six generous families and over 200 community members contributed to launch the fund, and Healdsburg Forever was born.
With over $1.5 million in a permanent endowment, and over $1.1 million in grants made since 2003, the donors of Healdsburg Forever have truly made their mark in the community.
Last year, Healdsburg Forever offered $190,000 in funds to support 18 vitally needed programs. 2019 grants helped to bring English language learners together with teachers through grants to Alexander Valley School Adult and Family ESL and The Bishop’s Ranch, to provide healthy food to families in need through grants to Farm to Pantry and the Healdsburg Food Pantry, to bring arts and environmental education to children through grants to the Healdsburg Performing Arts Theater and Pepperwood, and more.
The funds provided by Community Foundation Sonoma County through Healdsburg Forever are dedicated to supporting the nonprofit organizations working to foster a sense of place in Healdsburg and Geyserville, ensuring a sustainable, inclusive community where everyone can thrive. Guided by a dedicated group of Healdsburg-based Board of Advisors, these local volunteers bring on the ground knowledge and community connections to oversee the grants process, and raise dollars for the fund.
At a time when many nonprofit organizations are suffering from economic instability, and are facing challenges to retain key staff in a tight housing market, having dedicated, locally based support from the foundation is a big help in attaining financial stability and growth. Connie Newhall, the executive director of Farm to Pantry, explains that a grant from Healdsburg Forever allowed their organization to redesign their website several years ago, leading to an increase in online donations, more volunteers, and increased media attention.
Healdsburg Forever’s rigorous grants process ensures that the funds given are dedicated to meeting the most pressing community needs, and will be given to organizations that are doing excellent work. Dave Ring, grants committee co-chair explains, “Whether you’re a long-standing member of the community, a recent arrival or a weekender, Healdsburg Forever provides you with an easy way to be a smart local philanthropist. Careful vetting of grant applications combined with deep community knowledge results in a portfolio of grants with significant benefits to both Healdsburg and Geyserville.”
Donors share with one another a deep love of place and a desire to see that everyone living here has the opportunity to thrive. Since 2003, hundreds of donors to Healdsburg Forever have helped to grow the fund’s endowment to over $1.5 million; a powerful testament to the power of collective giving. While many donors support the fund annually, for donors who wish to leave a legacy for the future, they can choose to dedicate a part of their estate to Healdsburg Forever, ensuring that they can continue to support the community they love dearly, even beyond their own lifetimes.
Healdsburg Forever is also an attractive option to donors who live in Healdsburg part time, and wish to support the community but do not have the capacity to dive deeply into research on what organizations are doing the most impactful work. By trusting the Healdsburg Forever grants process, donors have the option of making a single gift with a much bigger impact. Bob & Deborah Van Nest explain their motivation for giving: “Deborah and I have been part- time community members since 1992. Healdsburg is a wonderful, caring community, but the needs in healthcare, food security, and education have grown tremendously. We trust Healdsburg Forever to identify the most urgent needs, and the most capable programs to address them, and are proud to be contributors.”
The Healdsburg Forever board, and staff of Community Foundation, are dedicated to creating meaningful community connections even beyond their direct grantmaking roles. Healdsburg Forever hosts an annual celebration of community, an event bringing the fund’s donors together with the nonprofits who received grants, culminating in the awarding of the Harmon Heald Legacy Award for Lasting Community Impact. Highlighting the dedicated work of individuals who have made a sincere difference in the community, this treasured award was given in 2019 to Lynn Horowitz founder of Alexander Valley ESL, Melita Love founder of Farm to Pantry, and Ari Rosen & Dawnelise Regnery Rosen co-founders of Corazón Healdsburg.
In 2020 Community Foundation Sonoma County and Healdsburg Forever are expanding to add a new office space in downtown Healdsburg at CRAFTWORK, located at 445 Center Street, Healdsburg.