The Amador Drama (photo:courtesy)

Fostering Community

Back Commentary Jan 26, 2018 By Kathleen Harmon

We all want to make a difference; that is human nature. Investing in your community’s future, giving someone the same opportunity in life that others once gave you, creating a legacy for your family or setting an example for younger generations makes sense. With the help of a community foundation, you can ensure the financial security of your loved ones while supporting causes that matter.

Regardless of the reasons that cause you to give back, donors have important — and often complicated — decisions to make. The Amador Community Foundation, established in 1999, was created to help our residents find the answers to philanthropic questions.  

Community foundations have a long tradition of helping to bring about thoughtful, effective change. As 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charities, they enable people to easily and effectively support the issues they care about, including education, youth, arts, social services, environment, recreation, public health and more.

Community foundations do this by helping individuals, families and businesses establish their own charitable funds to which they may contribute a variety of assets. Grants are made from these funds to nonprofit agencies in order to meet the charitable goals of the donors, and their families may be actively involved in the selection of the nonprofit groups and individuals who receive these grants. They can be made in the donor’s name or anonymously.

Amador Community Foundation has in-depth knowledge of our community. We remain alert to emerging needs in order to respond quickly and effectively. Donors, nonprofit leaders and elected officials work together to foster greater giving and volunteering in our community. We grant over $500,000 annually to projects and nonprofits that need the unrestricted funding to build or sustain a project. Here are just a few of our projects:

In 2016, when the Butte Fire destroyed more than 70,000 acres and nearly 1,000 homes, we met with FEMA and other agencies to develop a plan to rebuild, and raised more than $400,000 to help our community.

Our fiscal sponsorship program is extensive. We sponsor Calaveras Recovers, a local organization that helps rebuild homes and lives after disasters. They coordinate the volunteers and homeowners, while we provide the 501(c)(3) oversight. We are proud to do this for 40 total projects.

Budget cuts to education have impacted the quality of well-rounded education for our youth. We grant more than $100,000 each year to fund music, art, drama and physical education in our schools, and award several scholarships totaling more than $120,000 every year to qualified, graduating high school seniors. We are also pioneering a “Promise Program” for our community, called Amador Promise. It is a community-led effort to build an endowment that expands college and career options for Amador County youth. It is a unique partnership program between the Amador County Unified School District, Amador Community Foundation and California Scholarshare.

Amador County is rich in history, and we most recently worked with the City of Sutter Creek to acquire the Knight Foundry. We co-established the Knight Foundry Alliance Fund, and we now maintain the fund to sustain this historic treasure. If the Amador Community Foundation did not exist, the acquisition and management of this historic cast iron foundry and machine shop would have been difficult, if not impossible.

There had been several attempts in our region to start a community garden, but it never quite got off the ground: One of our donors loved the idea of a community garden, so we were able to fund a startup and provide funding for the next year. The garden is now successfully self-sustainable.  

Amador Community Foundation believes in enhancing the lives and future of the people in our unique community by connecting people who care deeply with causes that matter. We are the vehicle for philanthropic giving in Amador County, which we achieve by respecting our community, listening to their needs, honoring donor intent and maintaining the foundation’s integrity. One conversation can change your life and the lives of others. Please join us in making Amador County a better place to live today and for generations to come.  

This story is part of the 22nd annual Capital Region Cares, Comstock’s special publication dedicated to nonprofits and charitable giving. You can order the 2017-2018 edition online here. To submit your nonprofit success story for consideration in next year’s edition, fill out this online form.