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The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County celebrates 20 years of local charitable giving 

For 30 years, The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County has been giving back to its community with a goal of empowering its future. Erin McCall, the communications and program associate, said the foundation was established to provide financial support through a permanent endowment. With that fund, the foundation is able to support local organizations and youth with grants and scholarships.

click to enlarge WORKING FOR THE FUTURE The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County strives to empower the future of its local residents. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Community Foundation Of San Luis Obispo County
  • WORKING FOR THE FUTURE The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County strives to empower the future of its local residents.

"The original visionary group, Foundation for Community Design, began this legacy in 1988. Created by and for the people of San Luis Obispo County, the foundation is an enduring source of charitable funds to meet the changing needs and interests of the community," McCall said.

Board President Mary Verdin said the foundation started with donations from a few donors totaling $60,000. Today that number is nearly $60 million in charitable assets managed by the foundation; annual scholarships and grants now exceed $2 million. Combining philanthropic gifts from individuals, families, and businesses, the foundation has awarded more than 950 scholarships and 4,800 grants to nonprofit organizations to date.

"I can't drive to any part of the county without coming across students or nonprofit organizations doing work made possible by a Community Foundation scholarship or grant," Verdin said.

Foundation staff members pride themselves on having a broad expertise regarding community issues and needs. With this knowledge, McCall said, the foundation is able to provide personalized service tailored to each individual's charitable and financial needs.

"Our funds help people invest in the causes they care about most," she said.

CEO Heidi McPherson said the grants reflect the diversity of donor interest, including education, arts, environmental protection, historic preservation, community health, children's welfare, domestic abuse, and homelessness.

"The foundation's work has evolved to include convening forums to educate donors on county needs, supporting local agencies, and coordinating giving among donors to create greater impact," McPherson said.

Over the years, a long list of organizations have benefited from the foundation such as the San Luis Obispo County YMCA, Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation, Transitions Mental Health Association, Santa Maria Valley Senior Citizens Club, and Central Coast State Parks Association.

"We build endowment funds that benefit the community forever and help create personal legacies," McCall said. "We are a community leader, convening agencies and coordinating resources to create positive change."

New Times created the Stephen Donnellan Moss Memorial Scholarship in Journalism Fund, which The Foundation manages.

She said the local donors understand that working through the foundation to achieve their charitable goals provides them with access to the expertise of foundation staff, community leadership, and investment management.

"We work to enhance the quality of life of all residents of San Luis Obispo County by focusing on the needs of the residents," she said.

For most gifts, the foundation offers maximum tax advantage under federal law; it multiplies the impact of gift dollars by pooling them with other gifts and grants.

To learn more organization, visit

Fast fact

Hats for Hope is giving eight cancer patients one of eight gifts in July. Patients throughout San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are nominated by friends, family, nurses, and doctors to receive the gift of a hat or wig. Hats for Hope launched its gifting program in 2015 at the Hats for Hope Annual Benefit. Nominees must reside on the Central Coast (between Paso Robles and Santa Ynez), must currently be undergoing treatment, and must demonstrate a financial need. Since 2001, Hats for Hope has successfully raised funds to help cancer patients on the Central Coast. For more information on the organization or how to nominate an individual, visit Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to

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