It is often said that “it takes a village to raise a child” and one local organization is doing their part to help ensure that the younger members of our community have opportunities to engage in learning and enrichment programs.
Founded in 1992, the volunteer led Community Foundation of Estero Bay provides participation scholarships to youth, 4-18 years of age who otherwise might not be able to participate in organized youth sports and enrichment programs operating in Los Osos, Morro Bay, Cambria and Cayucos.
“We recognize that there are a variety of elements that contribute to healthy, safe and thriving youth within our community,” ” said Hannah Held, president of the Foundation. “The heart of our mission has been, and continues to be, focused on our young community members and their access to and engagement in recreation and enrichment activities. These programs include organized play and physical activity, the arts, technology, and the all-important opportunity for enhanced social competencies. These scholarships provide Estero Bay area youth with the opportunity to experience healthy recreational activities that impart critical life experiences such as cooperation, commitment and self-esteem.”
The Foundation supports kids involved in the City of Morro Bay Recreation Division, South Bay Soccer, Coast Little League, and Infinite Music. Staring in 2020, they supported youth with distance learning and have partially funded participation in the Kids Club Program run by the City of Morro Bay as well as the YMCA program in Los Osos.
To be eligible for financial support a family must qualify for a free or reduced price meal at their child’s school. Additionally, the programs they support have an application process.
Since forming, the Foundation has provided $460,000 in youth sports and enrichment grants/scholarships. In 2019 and 2020, they provided funding for 347 children for a total of nearly $78,000.
April is recognized as both the Month of the Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Foundation is one of the partners working with the SLO County Child Care Planning Council to support the importance of early learning and care.
The mission of the SLO County Child Care Planning Council is to plan for child care and development service based on the needs of families countywide. Traditionally, they put on the Children’s Day in the Plaza event in Mission Plaza bringing together community organizations and resources that provide learning opportunities to children in a fun filled day of visual, literary and performing arts activities. Like everything else during the pandemic, things are different this year — the 43rd year. Participants were asked to host a virtual live event or pre-recorded message that showcases their services.
The Foundation’s annual Morro Bay Sings fundraiser typically held in October is a community favorite featuring music, dinner and live and silent auctions.
Up until the end of its run in 2019, they also participated in The Dixon Spaghetti feed as a partnership with the City of Morro Bay. Becoming a part of the month of recognition and the plaza event seemed like a natural fit for their mission.
“We have been looking for a spring event to take the place of that for several years,” Held said. “We decided to try participating in the Month of the Child/Children’s Day in the Plaza event for 2021. This gives us an established platform and we can jump off from here. Perhaps in the future we will develop a small spring fundraiser.”
The Foundation is asking community members to wear purple ribbons throughout the month in support of the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s celebration every April of early learning, young children, their teachers, families, and communities. The NAEYC is the world’s largest early childhood education association, with nearly 60,000 members and a network of 51 affiliates.
“We are letting the community know that we support NAEYC’s mission and shining some light on the SLO Child Care Planning Council,” Held said. “We are also interested in raising awareness about the Foundation and want people on the coast to know that during the pandemic the Foundations has been meeting monthly and continuing to work to raise money for scholarships.”
The foundation is hoping to hold Morro Bay Sings this year, but that decision will be based on the State’s rules for events during the pandemic. One thing that is guaranteed is the continued support of recreational and enrichment programs that are able to take place.
“Some families may find that through the pandemic their financial situation has become strained,” Held said. “The Foundation is ready and able to support these families.”
For more information or to make a donation the Community Foundation of Estero Bay, go to communityfoundationesterobay.org. Folks can also follow them on Facebook to keep up with future events and opportunities to get involved.
The SLO County Child Care Planning Council is putting together a full calendar of events for the Month of the Child that can be viewed at sanluischildcare.org