Other Voices: Community foundations make a difference

Recently there have been accusations of harassment and misconduct at Silicon Valley Community Foundation. In light of this news, you may be asking what is a community foundation, and why is it important for a community such as ours?

Community foundations enable residents, private foundations and businesses to strengthen the community through local philanthropy and civic engagement. They are the “people’s foundation,” offering community members the ability to set up funds, start programs, give grants, collaborate and volunteer to address local needs and improve quality of life.

To be effective, however, community foundations must do more than offer a wide variety of services. They must represent and reinforce the positive values of the communities they serve.

The board and staff of Los Altos Community Foundation (LACF) are committed to our community and its values. LACF assists our donors, volunteers and all local residents in their work to improve the community. This dedication is the same as that seen at other local community-based foundations, such as those in Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Hollister, Santa Cruz and Monterey.

Los Altos values compassion, generosity, innovation and collaboration. We also value trusting relationships and mutual respect, which facilitate effective action, community strength and joy. Many who move to our community tell me that they like the “small town” feel and that residents are very engaged. This is not by accident or luck. LACF is one of the reasons for our unique community.

LACF’s services foster compassion and generosity. Over the past quarter-century, LACF and its donors have generously given more than $10 million in grants to local nonprofit organizations, school programs and new initiatives. These range from parades and concerts in the park to supporting organizations helping struggling populations.

Social innovation and collaboration lead to creative approaches for addressing new issues and opportunities. LACF has incubated and funded dozens of new startup nonprofits and initiatives, enabling individuals and groups to address local needs and/or simply make our community a better place to live for all. For example, Mentor Tutor Connection, Living Classroom and WomenSV started as programs at LACF.

Most importantly, a community such as ours is based on trusting relationships and mutual respect. LACF’s services encourage open collaboration for better ideas, residents watching out for the youth and seniors in their neighborhood and the willingness of community members to roll up their sleeves and help one another.

In light of everything going on at the regional, national and global level, it is important for everyone to follow the compass of our local values. Our lives will be more rewarding and our youth better grounded as they prepare to be the leaders of tomorrow. Los Altos Community Foundation is committed to our community values and is here to help you live them.

Joe Eyre is executive director of Los Altos Community Foundation.

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