Legacy Endowment held its annual Grant Awards Dinner Wednesday, Nov. 10 at Pala Mesa Resort. Now 26 years old, Legacy continues to manage funds and endowments which local residents have set up to provide funding for the specific causes they have chosen to support. Award recipients were invited to the dinner to receive the funds they had applied for, and three of them were chosen to talk about their nonprofits.
The grants committee reviews all the applications and determines how much each nonprofit will get. Committee member Ken Munson said, "It is fun to give away money," while former board president Mark Hvasta said, "This room is filled with people who want to help out of the goodness of their heart."
Hvasta added that Jan Pichel, program director for more than eight years, is "the glue that holds it together." He explained that as a community foundation, Legacy is a 501(c)(3) that supports nonprofits; we manage assets to fund them."
Legacy has four financial advisors besides a board of directors. Its current board president is Rachel Mason who said she is honored to continue that legacy as she was on the other side getting a grant not long ago, when she was the director of the Foundation for Senior Care. As director of the Fallbrook Regional Health District, she works with many of the groups receiving grants. Mason continued saying, "We have no where to go but up (after last year); the little engine that could, we'll keep going. We can't predict the future or the stock market, but we can be good shepherds of those funds, and pledge to bring awareness to those donors of what Legacy can do.
"We are in a position to provide funding, expertise, education...best practices...we get to help by having you tell your story," Mason said. First, she announced that Legacy is making history by giving away just under $700,000 this year.
Then, she introduced the first speaker from one of the best resources for helping those with disabilities develop life skills and also the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce's Nonprofit of the Year, D'Vine Path's Lenila Batali.
Batali said, "Thank you for believing in our program; it just started in 2019. We weren't a nonprofit yet, (when they got their first grant), based on a working vineyard." They have two programs – Cordon for individuals with Aspergers and high functioning disabilities and Leaff for moderate functioning adults.
All students take classes in agriculture, viticulture, hospitality and life skills with employment as the goal. The classes are conducted Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. They take away the students' cell phones first. Each student adopts two vines to care for from dormancy through harvest, from farm to table. They have guest speakers, academics, healthy lifestyle classes and relationship training. They learn good etiquette, do mock interviews and a budget workshop.
The program has been so successful that they have a waiting list and are looking for a larger piece of property, 10+ acres, to expand it. For more information, visit https://www.dvinepath.org/.
The next speaker was Steve Rubin, founder of the WAVES Project which uses the therapeutic value of SCUBA to help wounded veterans. Rubin said, "We look upon Legacy as a partner." His program not only teaches veterans to scuba dive but also helps them get training to become instructors so they can help other veterans.
Rubin introduced a veteran named Victor who just became a divemaster; he was injured by an IED in Fallujah and later wanted to learn to scuba dive. He heard about WAVES through friends and it was "a phenomenal experience, now I can teach others with PTSD, brain injuries underwater seven days a week; it is special." To learn more about the program, go to https://www.wavesproject.org/.
The last speaker was Stephen Wampler who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair but considers that a nonissue. His Stephen J. Wampler Foundation was created to offer a camping experience to children with disabilities – because going to the camp for kids with disabilities when he was 8 years old changed his life. "I went to camp as one child and came back as another child," he said. He went every summer after that until he was 18. After attending UC Davis, he became an environmental engineer but hated his job working in a cubicle.
So, he quit his job and went to the leaders in Coronado who helped him start a nonprofit to start the camp. They had their first campers in 2004 and raise money all year long so no parent will have to pay for the camp. Attending the camp is "a stepping stone for these kids; they go home changed like I did," he said.
But, he realized, "I need to do something to put our foundation on the map; I trained for 18 months and climbed El Capitan Mountain; slept there for five nights and did 20,000 pull ups." (His wife, Elizabeth, pointed out that he has use of one limb, his right hand.) A documentary was made of this feat – Wampler's Ascent which can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
For more about the camp, see https://stephenjwamplerfoundation.org/.
There were 62 people in attendance at the grant awards dinner; those grant recipients who could not make it were to receive their checks in the mail.