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By Lucette Moramarco
Associate Editor 

Legacy honors nonprofits with funds


Last updated 11/29/2019 at 10:14pm

Lucette Moramarco photo

Representatives of area nonprofits pose for a photo after receiving funds at Legacy's third annual grant presentation dinner, Thursday, Nov. 14. Pictured are, from left, front row, Debra Emerson, St. Madeleine Sophie's Center; Michael Dunlap, Cabin By The Lake; Reta Webber, 4 Paws 4 Patriots; Leisa Tilley-Grajek, K9 Guardians; Lenila Batali, D'Vine Path; Kaitlyn Siewert, REINS, Vatei Campbell, Elizabeth Hospice; Phyllis Sweeney, Fallbrook Senior Service Club; Karen Estes, AAUW; back row, Phil Delaney, Legacy past president; Mark Hvasta, Legacy's current president; Keith Birkfeld, Foundation for Senior Care; Jan Pichel, Legacy program officer; Bob Freaney, Fallbrook Music Society; Karla Standridge, Fallbrook Land Conservancy; Laura Sylvester, Good Dog; and Steve Rubin,WAVES.

Legacy Endowment, the Community Foundation, held its third annual grant presentation dinner, Nov. 14, at Pala Mesa Resort. Created 24 years ago, Legacy manages funds and endowments which local residents have set up to provide funding for specific causes they have chosen to support.

Many of those donors have since died, leaving a legacy of giving to help those in need for generations to come.

One of the founders, Michael Dunlap said, "Twenty-five years ago, the San Diego Foundation was coming in, taking money and spending it in San Diego. We wanted it available to local charities."

Legacy Board President Mark Hvasta said that Legacy had been around for a long time serving the community.

"It takes a village to serve this village," he said. "We do hold a lot of money for the benefit of others, close to $44 million in assets and looking to grow it to have more of an impact."

For the current fiscal year, Legacy is giving away more than $600,000, $400,000 was given away during the dinner, most to local community groups.

"For future generations, a lot of money is in endowment, permanent funds. Charitable remainder trusts are making over $600,000 this year," Hvasta said.

Donors are interviewed to find out what causes they want to support, or they leave instructions. The board finds nonprofits to fulfill those wishes after putting out a request for funds.

Legacy Program Officer Jan Pichel, who said that she had a horrible commute driving to Fallbrook which gave her lots of time to think about her work, said that the watchword at last year's ceremony was "humble," this year it was "honor."

"I am truly honored to work for Legacy, to help, to write grants, to be a part of all you do. Thank you, donors, nonprofits," she said.

Pichel asked the recipients to share their achievements and what moved them to reach out to those in need. "You make it worth the drive [to work]."

Pichel distributed the grants to groups that had a representative present.

Fallbrook groups included the American Association of University Women. The AAUW's AVID program has two high school juniors on Legacy's funding committee this year; they will continue to serve next year as seniors too.

Other local recipients serve a variety of ages from the Boys and Girls Clubs of North County to the Foundation for Senior Care.

Fallbrook Music Society President Bob Freaney said his group is 42 years old. It provides free concerts at the library and supports music in the schools. The founding president, Roy Ansell, was a founding board member of Legacy, besides starting music assemblies in the local schools.

Fallbrook Land Conservancy Preserve Manager Karla Standridge said its funds will go toward maintaining and enhancing their preserves which include 2,100 acres. The two most popular sites, Los Jilgueros and Monserate Mountain are visited for more than 10,000 hiking trips per month.

Fallbrook Senior Center Special Projects Manager Phyllis Sweeney accepted the grant for the Senior Citizens Club which has existed since 1974. Its meals program was started in 1979 but food insecurity is growing. The funds will help feed local seniors.

Laura Sylvester, founder of Good Dog, said her son who has autism received a service dog in 2011 and it made such a difference in his life that her family now trains families with service dogs for their own children. They live in Fallbrook.

D'Vine Path founder Lenila Batali told how she and her husband were asked by Fallbrook High School seven years ago to be partners in teaching high functioning autistic young adults a trade at their vineyard. They just graduated their first class and have a lot of other vineyards in the area wanting workers.

Canece Huber, technology and event coordinator at REINS Therapeutic Horsemanship Program said they have been receiving Legacy funds for more than 12 years which helps 120 volunteers serve 200 disabled riders each week. REINS was started 35 years old.

Leisa Tilley-Grajek, founder of K9 Guardians brought one of her puppies in training with her. She said that 22 veterans commit suicide each day; her service dogs help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said that more than one veteran told her that, "it wasn't if but when they were going to commit suicide," before they received their dogs and all of them are still alive.

"I am honored to be a part of this community with the support of prayers and funds," she said.

Two other nonprofits also serve veterans and received funds from the Ansell Family Endowment; 4 Paws 4 Patriots in Temecula trains dogs, most of which are rescue dogs, to help disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers, etc.

Wounded American Veterans Experience Scuba founder Steve Rubin said they "stumbled into how therapeutic water is to veterans." He brought a veteran with him to tell her story.

Bonnie was a Master Sergeant in the Army and served for 23 years. Suffering from PTSD, she tried to commit suicide and needed a purpose in life. After experiencing the silence underwater, 35 minutes at a time, she was able to overcome her problems and is also no longer on blood pressure medication. She is now going to take open diving training with her 12-year-old grandson who is autistic.

Debra Emerson, CEO of St. Madeleine Sophie's Center, accepted its grant from the Deranian Fund. She said they serve over 400 adults with developmental disabilities in a center that is like a village.

Vatei Campbell of Elizabeth Hospice said that among their clients, 80% of the seniors are over 70. Besides hospice care, they also provide bereavement support, including for children in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District. They have 500 patients in care at any time.

Cabin by the Lake was started by Michael and Carol Dunlap after her sister died, she had been in a wheelchair for 40 years but enjoyed staying in cabins. Cabin by the Lake has provided cabins that are handicap accessible all over San Diego County and on Camp Pendleton.

There were many other area nonprofits to receive funds which did not have a representative at the presentation but will benefit from the generosity of Fallbrook residents, past and present.

Legacy's mission "is to improve the quality of life in our communities, by empowering individuals, families, businesses and our charitable partners to realize their philanthropic dreams now and for future generations." Its motto is, "Connecting people who care with causes that matter."

For more information on Legacy and how to set up a trust or endowment, visit, call (760) 941-8646 or email [email protected]


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