Guided by Vision

Driven by Action

A Message from CEO Susan True

Over the past few months, I've shared with you stories of the incredible generosity that has emerged here in our community to meet the growing and continued needs of those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Collectively, we have responded with open hearts by supporting economic well-being and protecting our community’s health. Our impulse has been to act with care, service, and compassion.

We are now also being called to define and act on who we are as a community as we confront racism both locally and throughout our country.

Which future will we build?

I am the white mother of a multiracial son; the daughter of both the City of Minneapolis and loving, just parents; a supporter of Black activists; a neighbor to undocumented and newly unemployed families; and a committed member of our community. Each of us brings our own history and identity to the reality of today. The decisions we make now about how we act and what we do in the face of long standing injustice impacts how future generations judge us as a community and as leaders.

Our values serve as our guide

A little over a year ago, the Community Foundation board and staff worked on our mission, vision, and values -- a standard part of many nonprofit’s strategic plans. At the Foundation, we developed these statements to be true guides for future decisions we would face. They have served us well as we helped develop our COVID-19 response and now, as we listen to pleas for racial justice, our work is to ensure that our actions embody our vision and demonstrate our values.

Our vision at the Community Foundation is:

This is a vision. It is not yet our current state.

Community Foundation’s actions need to help right the wrongs that have unequally impacted People of Color with less access to opportunities, capital, and the resources they need to support their health and well-being.

Even as People of Color in our community face these barriers, we are enriched by their leadership, values, dreams, culture, activism, service, entrepreneurship, and labor. We need all members of our community to thrive.

It’s our job to acknowledge barriers and hardships, and make access to capital, resources, and power-- ensuring we are living up to our values and making our vision a reality.

Our Response to COVID-19 and Racial Injustice is Guided by Three Values-Driven Actions

WE VALUE SOLUTIONS - We support effective programs that address community issues and enrich the lives of Santa Cruz County residents.

We can’t accelerate solutions if the people most harmed by our county’s pressing problems are not part of creating the answers. The people most affected by injustice need to be the ones driving the solutions that will work best for them. And yet, less than 7% of philanthropic grants in the US have been given to organizations led by and for People of Color.

That’s why we created Rise Together, a program that establishes an initial commitment of $350,000 for the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and racism. We can count on a COVID-19 vaccine someday, although we don’t know when. But, today offers us an opportunity to address the effects of racism with new investments. We’re bringing together Black, Latinx, and Indigenous leaders to shape a plan to heal and strengthen their communities and Rise Together from economic devastation, health risk, and injustice.

Stay tuned for more information on the solutions and actions funded through Rise Together grants.

WE VALUE TRUST - We earn trust through integrity, accountability, discretion, transparency, prudence, and extraordinary service.

We serve our community through interconnected circles of trust. Donors trust us to pick effective organizations that can handle both the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis as well as other challenges we face. We trust our partners on the frontlines to know how best to serve their communities. Many of these partners are leaders of color who now, more than ever, need additional resources.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing COVID-19 disproportionately affect communities of color in Santa Cruz County. An airborne illness thrives in multigenerational family households, cramped housing, and enclosed work spaces – where many Latinx community members are located.

Photo credit: Community Bridges

As of today 55% of known COVID-19 cases are in the Latinx community, while they represent only 34% of our population. Unemployment rates for April were 17% countywide, but 26% in Watsonville. Therefore, over 50% of our relief grants have been given to organizations led by leaders of color and about 90% have met the direct economic needs of undocumented individuals and mixed immigration status families, frail and isolated seniors, and low-wage workers who are bearing much of the brunt of COVID.

Thank you for your trust in us as we continue to respond to COVID-19.

Learn more about our COVID-19 Response Grants at work.

Read our partners’ stories about the impact of our COVID-19 grants.

WE VALUE OPPORTUNITY - We leverage our resources toward a future that is just, equitable, and inclusive of our diverse community.

At the Community Foundation, we work to expand opportunities for those who lack access to capital. In other words, we intentionally invest in those who have been, and continue to be, excluded from economic advancement.

Since 2015, we’ve made over $5 million in low-interest loans to nonprofits and businesses solving social challenges and spurring economic growth on key issues such as housing affordability and economic mobility for our county’s workforce.

Low-interest loans – Lending to Farmlink, now totaling over $2 million, provides financing and business development services to low-income and immigrant farmers committed to sustainable agriculture. Our loan to Habitat for Humanity is helping finance 11 new affordable homes in Live Oak. Our loan to The Opportunity Fund microloan program specifically supported Latinx business owners to expand jobs and grow their enterprises.

We are continuing to work on new loans in partnership with El Pajaro Community Development Corporation and the Mission Economic Development Agency that will support lending to Latinx-owned small businesses that have been excluded from CARES Act funding to promote the stability, jobs and prosperity of Main Street.

Learn more about our Community Investment Revolving Fund.

We value LIFE.

Our hearts ache that we live in a world where this has to be said.

Black Lives Matter.

In recent weeks, we have been in collective mourning and outrage for the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and too many others. We want to recognize that in a county that has a population of just 1.9% African-Americans – many of our Black friends and colleagues have shared with us that much of the time they feel invisible, discriminated against, trapped by racism, and/or tokenized.

Your numbers in our county may be small, but your black lives matter.

I was taught that actions speak louder than words. At the Community Foundation, we work daily to catalyze your generosity and service into actions that create meaningful solutions for our residents, for our neighbors.

I invite you to ask questions, make suggestions, and guide us if we are off track as our community builds a future that is more just, more equitable, and becomes a place where everyone has opportunity. I invite you to invest in communities that have been most impacted by COVID-19 and by racism.

We invite you to join us in making Santa Cruz County thrive for ALL who call it home, now and in the future.