2023 Community Grants

$1.58 Million to Help Santa Cruz County Thrive

Community Foundation Santa Cruz County awarded $1.58 million to 77 local nonprofits including those supporting the health and wellbeing of youth, seniors, and families, contributors to our arts and culture ecosystem, and partners working toward a sustainable and resilient Santa Cruz County where all can thrive.

The annual grants are made possible thanks to the generosity of dozens of families who have entrusted the Community Foundation with their charitable visions or made a gift to the Greatest Needs Fund. That includes the extraordinary legacy of the Borina family who’s giving to support the Pajaro Valley for years to come is a cornerstone of the Community Grants program. As in many years, more than half of the grant funds benefit South County programs. The majority of the grants support organizations directed by leaders from Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latino communities. Half of this year’s funding came in the form of multi-year general operating support grants.

Salud y Cariño Salud partners with other community based organizations to promote health and wellness for girls through physical activity, prevention and education. From left to right: Executive Director Theresa Cariño, student Lynda Otero, and Kevin Heuer, Director of Engagement & Impact at the Community Foundation. Lynda Otero was a 2023 recipient of a Community Foundation scholarship from the Barbara J. Thompson Scholarship Fund.

Funding Community Solutions

Kevin Heuer, the Community Foundation’s Director of Engagement and Impact said, “Our annual Community Grants fund community solutions that improve the quality of life in Santa Cruz County. Each year we look to leverage these resources towards a future that is just, equitable, and inclusive of our diverse community. We see these grants and the work our nonprofit partners will be able to do, as building blocks towards a more resilient and equitable future.”

“We are extremely grateful to offer our meaningful programs to more than 125 youth from Live Oak families, at no cost, “ said Theresa Cariño, Founder and Executive Director of Salud y Cariño.This is really important in such a high-cost community, where parents often work two or more jobs just to make ends meet. Having a multi-year and unrestricted grant was huge for us! It allows more time and energy to focus our efforts on deepening our program impact and strengthening our connections with other youth-serving organizations in our community.”

Santa Cruz Black works to empower and sustain a prosperous and thriving Black community. A first-time grantee, their Community Grant will be used to create and build up their youth development program as well as creating more Black Neighborhood events.

Support for Emerging Organizations

“While we continue to offer core support to frontline service providers—especially those helping people recovering from this year’s devastating storms—we also wanted to fund emerging organizations working to advance social justice and civic participation to help ensure the people most affected by issues are trusted to help drive the solutions,” said Community Foundation CEO Susan True. First-time awardees included Santa Cruz Black, Housing Santa Cruz County, and Santa Cruz Welcoming Network.

Community volunteers with Watsonville Wetlands Watch remove invasive plants along Struve Slough as part of a wetlands restoration project. Credit: Brooke Sampson

Solutions for Local Challenges

The Community Grants address critical local challenges including racial equity, family well-being, and water and climate resilience. Examples include:

  • Racial Equity: Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA) will help train and support new leaders, including from Spanish-speaking communities, so they can engage effectively in civic life and have the power to influence the decisions that affect their families. Santa Cruz County Black Health Matters Initiative is expanding its Youth Ambassadors program, through weekly programs and events that center Black culture and mental wellness. Watsonville Law Center is working with pregnant, undocumented agricultural worker households and their doctors to integrate immigration legal services and access to state paid maternal, disability, and parental leave into maternal health care.
  • Family Wellbeing: Families in Transition will serve more than 300 families working to secure and retain stable housing, with an aim of maintaining a 90% success rate. Monarch Services, along with local nonprofit Ventures, will team up to disrupt patterns of intimate partner violence by supporting housing and economic security and financial literacy for women and children. Mountain Community Resources, a program of Community Bridges, will help San Lorenzo Valley residents access health insurance and other benefits, support disaster recovery, offer weekly food distributions, youth activities and parent education.
  • Water & Climate Resilience: Watsonville Wetlands Watch’s Climate Corps Leadership Institute will empower 34 high school youth with the tools and skills to lead their community in climate action. In collaboration with leaders of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History is launching the First People's Educator Workshop series, a new subject matter resource for teachers of our region's natural history. Coastal Watershed Council will use the funding to expand their Watershed Rangers program, inspiring more Santa Cruz students around environmental science and becoming environmental leaders.

Header photo: Three years of Community Grant funding is helping Save the Music and Pajaro Valley Unified School District ensure equitable access to comprehensive music education at all 16 elementary schools for the first time in the district’s history. Photo: Save the Music

Learn about the nonprofits building a Santa Cruz County where everyone thrives!

Meet all of the 2023 Community Grantees