In a small town, the best way to pave the way for sustained happiness is to bolster the organizations that make local culture what it is.
This is what makes Healdsburg Forever so special.
The organization doles out hundreds of thousands of dollars to Healdsburg and Geyserville nonprofits every year, but their reach goes farther than that. They also serve Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and parts of the Russian River Valley. And during the COVID-19 pandemic the group pivoted and set up an emergency fund to help those serving the area’s most vulnerable populations.
At the end of the day, the nonprofit’s mission is simple: To make sure that what makes Healdsburg great, survives for as long as possible.
“We’re here for the long haul and exist to make things easier for others,” Healdsburg Forever Board Chair Carol Beattie said. “It’s our only mission as an organization, and it’s a mission we take incredibly seriously, no matter what else might be happening in our community overall.”
Ready to serve the community
Since its inception in 2003 the nonprofit has granted more than $1.7 million to local organizations and has helped more than 70 nonprofits around Sonoma County.https://newsletter.pressdemocrat.com/framed/single/f6c763e1c2721f5f16a4949a2abb89c7?pref=pd_alert&hideImage=1&fid=8915
The organization established an endowment that has ballooned to more than $2 million; essentially the interest this fund generates covers the bulk of grants it creates.
“Because we have the endowment, we can approach giving knowing that we have money coming in at the beginning of every year, without fail,” Beattie said. “Many nonprofits don’t have this luxury; we start with about $60,000 every year.”
At the beginning of last decade, Healdsburg Forever’s strategic grant-making helped incubate nonprofits such as Farm to Pantry, which now gleans hundreds of thousands of pounds of food annually to feed those in need. In recent years, Healdsburg Forever grants have enabled several nonprofits that respond to disasters including wildfires, floods and COVID-19.
Specifically, over the course of 2020, Healdsburg Forever provided two rounds of emergency grants totaling $142,000 to eight organizations providing essential services in the Healdsburg and Geyserville communities. The eight organizations that received grants were Redwood Empire Food Bank, Corazón Healdsburg, Healdsburg Shared Ministries/Food Pantry, Boys and Girls Club, Farm to Pantry, Reach for Home, Food for Thought and Alliance Medical Center.
Last year the organization launched the Community Impact Fund, which raised $150,000 that was paired with a matching $150,000 grant from Community Foundation Sonoma County.
Impact of the Impact Fund
The Community Impact Fund was precipitated by COVID-19 and the unique challenges it created for many small nonprofits in the area. As part of it, Healdsburg Forever gave $300,000 to five nonprofits and one nonprofit/City of Healdsburg partnership earlier this year.
The money helped thousands of local residents get goods and services when they needed them most.
Legal Aid of Sonoma County was one of the most recent grant recipients, receiving $35,000 to help those in need of legal services. Executive Director Ronit Rubinoff said her organization offers bilingual eviction protection and tenant stabilization services throughout the county. She added that the group used the money to pay attorneys to assist with these cases.
“This was the first time we’ve ever had funding to direct our services to a particular part of the county,” Rubinoff said. “As a result of this grant, we were able to help people stay in the homes they know and love.”
Alliance Medical Center also received some money as part of the most recent grant package from Healdsburg Forever totaling $40,000.
Executive Director Susannah Labbe said the organization leveraged the grant to support vaccine efforts and set up a free vaccination clinic for residents. That first weekend, Alliance vaccinated more than 1,000 people. Since then, they have doled out more than 30,000 doses.
“The grant from Healdsburg Forever was the springboard,” she said. “It all came fast and furious in the beginning. We knew we needed to do this but we weren’t sure where funding was coming from. Because of (Healdsburg Forever), we didn’t have to worry about the money and knew we could focus on protecting the community.”
Organizational ties that bind
Technically, Healdsburg Forever is one of two affiliates of Community Foundation Sonoma County, a grant-giving organization that serves the county.
Both affiliates (the other serves the Sonoma Valley) are part of the larger entity, but each has its own board of directors that is empowered to make individual decisions about how the affiliate organization serves its respective community.
According to Community Foundation Sonoma County’s Director of Communications, Caitlin Childs, this decentralized model enables the parent organization to stay better connected to the communities it serves.
“Having local people in communities like Healdsburg dedicated to pursuing our mission of increasing philanthropy across the county is incredibly valuable,” said Childs. “From a donor’s perspective, if you know you can make a gift that’s going to end up benefiting a number of small nonprofits doing great work in the community, that’s a great incentive to give.”
This value proposition certainly has resonated with Ozzy Jimenez.
Jimenez now serves as vice mayor of Healdsburg but at the time was just a local business owner wanting to make a difference. He saw Healdsburg Forever as a great way to accomplish that goal.
“I joined the board at Healdsburg Forever because I’ve seen first-hand how consistently the organization shows up for our non-profit community,” he wrote in a recent text message. “I cannot be prouder of the impact that Healdsburg Forever is having today but also in perpetuity because of our fund.”
Jimenez still sits on the Healdsburg Forever Board but is not playing an active role while he serves in local government. Instead, he’s working with fellow board members on projects related to the city. One of these projects included Camp 2.0, a socially distanced camp and daycare program at the city’s community center this past summer.
Looking forward, Healdsburg Forever is currently raising money to allocate in early 2022, and will meet in November to determine which nonprofits to fund.
Beattie said she’s confident the organization will give out more than $400,000 in grants next year, which would be a record. She added that so long as there are nonprofits in northern Sonoma County that need money to operate, Healdsburg Forever will step up and help.
“We are here to serve,” she said. “It’s a mission none of us takes lightly.”