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Sonora Area Foundation improves our lives

Is there any facet of Tuolumne County life the Sonora Area Foundation has not touched and improved?

Look at the foundation's 2007 giving totals — a record $1.5 million distributed to nonprofit corporations, government agencies, schools, charities and worthwhile causes in 307 grants — and you have a pretty good idea what the answer might be.

Then examine the organization's 17-year history — $10.2 million in grants given and more than $25 million in accumulated assets.

Finally, ask 10-year SAF Executive Director Mick Grimes about the organization's future. "We'll be bigger and stronger as time goes on," he'll tell you, predicting one year after another of record giving. "We're living up to our motto — "For good, for ever."

The answer then becomes clear: The collective good the foundation has done is broad-based and incredibly varied. Any facet of Tuolumne County life it has not touched or improved in the last 17 years will almost certainly benefit in the years to come.

Grants given by SAF and by its supporting organization, the Irving J. Symons Foundation, best illustrate its benevolent reach and profound impacts. A look at just a few from the past two years:

• $70,000 in December went to the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency to buy fresh food, increase dry-goods donations and build its volunteer base

• $12,000 went to A-TCAA to train adult mentors and match them with youngsters

• $85,000 in October was awarded to Tuolumne County's YES partnership for drug, alcohol and suicide prevention activities for young people

• $30,000 helped fund school arts programs

• Up to $200,000 in matching funds was pledged to Summerville High School to build a four-court tennis complex

• $25,000 helped renovate Sonora's homeless shelter

• $24,000 bought 18 defibrillators for Tuolumne County Schools

• $35,000 in matching funds helped buy the 110-year-old Jamestown jail, move it back from a Lodi-area theme park and restore it to its original condition

• $20,000 went the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse to help build a riding arena at the posse grounds on Rawhide Road

• $50,000 in matching funds went to overhaul Railtown 1897 State Park's Engine No. 3, a century-old locomotive that has starred in numerous movies, including "High Noon"

You get the idea, and so did the Sierra Business Council. SBC, in 2006, gave the Sonora Are Foundation its Vision 20/20 award — not only for its epic generosity, but for preparing Tuolumne County Profile 2005, a comprehensive survey of community assets, services and needs.

Does Grimes have an explanation for the foundation's success?

"I think we've reached critical mass," he said, explaining that SAF, through its grants and assets, has built a level of trust that now assures a steady flow of local contributions and support from the community.

As the above makes obvious, the foundation has returned our favors in spades.

Union Democrat editorial positions are formed through regular meetings of the newspaper's editorial board — Publisher Ron Horton; editor Teresa Chebuhar; managing editor, news Craig Cassidy; senior reporter-columnist Chris Bateman.

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