When there has been a community need, the Sonora Area Foundation over its 18-year history has been there to help meet it.
Now, with Tuolumne County unemployment at near-record levels and
thousands of residents needing help finding food, shelter, warmth and
the basics of life, the need has never been greater.
So it is no surprise that foundation is again stepping to the
plate. On Friday it launched “May SOS — Tuolumne County Families in
Crisis,” an ambitious campaign aimed at raising a half-million dollars
in just 31 days. The proceeds will go to agencies and organizations
whose mission is providing a safety net for the homeless, jobless and
The foundation is not going it alone: Throughout this month it
will match donations from the community, dollar for dollar, up to
$250,000. And, according to departing Chief Executive Officer Mick
Grimes, some $100,000 has already been pledged by “lead donors.”
The cash will be distributed to three local agencies:
• The Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency, for its food bank, shelter and energy assistance programs.
• Interfaith Community Social Services for food, clothing and firewood services.
• Sierra Senior Providers for Meals on Wheels and its firewood program.
All three organizations have for months faced a perfect storm of
rising demand and reduced funding, particularly from government
Because the need is so urgent, said Grimes, fundraising will
come in an all-out, one-month push. SAF President Celeste Boyd added
that the campaign will include efforts at local schools and by local
“There is such a can-do attitude in the county,” he said. “Tuolumne County has a big heart.”
And the May SOS campaign is so timely and well directed, said Grimes, that “nobody I’ve approached has said no.”
The fund drive had its roots in an SAF-sponsored Safety Net
Forum held earlier this year. At that session social services agencies
reported a dramatic increase in the demand for food, shelter and
firewood, higher costs and less funding.
Then came the pending closure of Gottschalks and the March
announcement that Sierra Pacific Industries would shut the Standard
mill in July, idling nearly 150 workers.
“The SPI closure is probably what really precipitated the campaign,” said Grimes.
If the effort is successful, results will be dramatic and may stretch over a year:
Food provided to community pantries would double, meals served
to seniors by the Meals on Wheels program would rise from five to seven
a week, more seniors and families would get firewood, blankets and
emergency shelter would go the homeless and another 70 would be placed
in transitional shelters and more than 500 would get rental assistance
or help preventing foreclosure.
But just because we’ve come to expect the Sonora Area Foundation
to come forward in times of trouble doesn’t mean we should take it for
Over nearly two decades, this charitable foundation has
distributed some $10 million in grants and has built assets of more
than $28 million. It has touched and improved nearly every facet of
Tuolumne County life.
In the process, it has built an unassailable reputation and won
universal admiration. Its board and administrators have not only
consistently done the right thing, but built an organization that is
uniquely qualified to handle campaigns like this month’s Families in
Our community is blessed to have the Sonora Area Foundation. And
now we have a perfect way to express our gratitude: by making
contributions to its May SOS campaign.
(To do so, visit www.sonora-area.org or call 533-2596).
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