Last Fall, after six months living through the pandemic, the Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa knew more support was needed for local charities as these organizations struggled from the lasting impacts of COVID-19. To meet this need, the Board of Directors voted to accelerate the club’s annual community grants program, which would normally have occurred in Spring 2021, and to focus specifically on COVID relief. A total of $25,000 was distributed by the end of calendar year 2020 to five organizations, each receiving $5,000.
The grant application was revised to indicate that the club was specifically supporting organizations substantially impacted by the pandemic, resulting in an increase in need and/or a decline in fundraising and donations. The five organizations selected were:
Assistance League® of San Luis Obispo County Operation School Bell
The impact of COVID-19 has been catastrophic to the children and families served by the Assistance League’s Operation School Bell program. The number of impoverished students countywide has risen since the last school year from 39% to 45%, and most of these growing children cannot get through the school year in clothing purchased a year ago. Rotary de Tolosa’s $5,000 grant will provide clothing and shoes for an additional 37 local children.
Cal Poly Arts’ PolyArts for Youth (PAFY) Virtual Program
Cal Poly Arts has developed a series of Virtual Field Trips as a way to offer students creative experiences during distance learning. These Virtual Field Trips may be the only arts experience that many students will receive during this school year, and all content is linked to the Common Core Curriculum. The Rotary de Tolosa grant of $5,000 will cover the artist fee for Black Violin. The band uses their unique blend of classical and hip hop music to overcome stereotypes while encouraging people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds to join together to break down cultural barriers.
San Luis Coastal Education Foundation’s School Closure Impact Fund
The San Luis Coastal Education Foundation launched their School Closure Impact Fund to directly and immediately respond to the basic needs of the school district’s most vulnerable students and families impacted by the COVID pandemic. Schools are working hard to help impacted students, but they cannot do it alone. Families are eligible for up to $300 in direct assistance to be applied toward rental assistance, food, medical expenses, utilities, transportation, tutoring or other basic needs. Rotary de Tolosa’s $5,000 grant will allow them to provide direct financial assistance to another 15-20 families.
SLO County YMCA Camp Care
During this time that school is virtual, many families need care for their children so that they are able to return to work. At Camp CARE, the Y provides safe, CDC compliant childcare for essential workers. Parents and families have peace of mind knowing their children are well cared for, and these experiences increase the children’s self-efficacy, boost their confidence, and help the children grow emotionally and physically. The Y will never turn a family away due to inability to pay, and Rotary de Tolosa’s $5,000 grant will help to provide this assistance to an increasing number of families.
The Community Foundation of San Luis County Fund for SLO County UndocuSupport
SLO UndocuSupport is a new fund at The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County that provides for families who were excluded from COVID-19 federal stimulus and other support benefits if even just one family member lacked a social security number. UndocuSupport has been working with trusted local social services organizations with capacity to reach immigrant families with funds and other critical services. Rotary de Tolosa’s 
$5,000 grant will support families in the city of San Luis Obispo.
"Rotary de Tolosa has always had a charitable giving focus on youth,” said Club President Tom Zehnder. “This year we felt it important to expedite our community grants program to provide funding to these important organizations as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the Spring when we have traditionally given out our grants. We were happy to be able to distribute $25,000 to support local youth programs in 2020."
The Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa works to encourage people to better the world, one project at a time, and these five organizations will help so many local families get the help that they need after enduring hard times.