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Link Crew peer mentor program comes to local high schools

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, August 2017: A huge priority at Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD) is making sure that every child at every school has a caring and trusted adult they can go to. These healthy connections and relationships play a vital role in how successful scholars are in school and life. Meaningful connections at school help ensure a student feels safe, comfortable, and ready to learn.

The school district also recognizes that the transition to high school can be a stressful time for ninth-graders. Students may feel excitement coupled with apprehension, and uncertainty as to how they will fit in at their new school. To address this issue and ensure a smooth transition, TTUSD is launching a new peer mentor program, Link Crew, so students start their high school experience on a positive note and develop a real connection from the beginning.

Link Crew gives every ninth-grade student at North Tahoe and Truckee high schools a student mentor the entire school year. It starts with a personal call from the mentor, inviting the new student to a freshmen orientation. Then throughout the year, the mentors and peers have the opportunity to talk about real life issues academic and social. The mentors serve as a guide and support through the freshman’s first year. They can talk about everything from what clubs to participate in, even mistakes they’ve made and learned from what classes to take, and the A- G course requirements. Students have candid conversations with their peers and learn from each other’s experiences.

The compelling part of Link Crew is that it’s students helping students. They build solid connections with each other, and each student has another go to person outside of their classroom.

Both high schools have two Link Crew coordinators dedicated to the Link Crew program. In preparation for launching this program, the coordinators and student leaders participated in Link Crew Leader training and were trained as advisers.

This new program at TTUSD would not be possible without the generous support of the SH Cowell Foundation, the Excellence in Education Foundation and Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts and his wife, Elena Amsterdam. Each of these funders is dedicated to supporting local youth through mental health and wellness programs and appreciate the proactive approach of Link Crew’s positive, peer-to-peer model.

The district is excited to roll out Link Crew to help instill lasting school connections and ensure the success in the freshmen transition.


This article was contributed by Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and originally appeared in print in the August 23, 2017, publication Back to School 2017 in Sierra Sun. Rob Katz and Elena Amsterdam helped fund the Link Crew program through a grant facilitated by TTCF as part of the 2017 Tahoe Truckee Youth Wellness Program which encompasses four approaches to youth wellness.

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Grant Update: An Interview with Slow Food Lake Tahoe

If you’ve ever attempted to garden at high elevations, you know it is no simple undertaking. In 2013, as part of its mission to connect our community to the enjoyment of good, clean, and fair food by inspiring a self-reliant food culture, Slow Food Lake Tahoe (SFLT) became the steward of the Truckee Demonstration Garden.

Katie Townsend-Merino, a recently retired college professor and administrator, took over as Garden Manager when she moved to her second home in Truckee. It was Katie who Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF) contacted to follow up on a Queen of Hearts Women’s Fund grant awarded to SFLT this past year.

Katie overflowed with gratitude and excitement for the improvements the grant has allowed her to make. Upon beginning the interview with TTCF, she emphatically invited Queen of Hearts supporters to drop by the garden or schedule a tour.

Below is the abbreviated interview in which Katie weaves together how a single grant can build an oasis in a desert, educate near and far, feed the elderly, and bring together a community.


Katie Townsend Merino (KTM), Slow Food Lake Tahoe

Ashley Cooper (AC), TTCF Storyteller and Queen of Hearts supporter

AC: How’s summer going at the garden?

KTM: Great! It’s the most beautiful and productive season yet. We finished two of the new big structures; one contains bush beans, the other cucumbers and squash. We’re also growing tomatoes for the first time ever in the garden – five different varieties within a “wall of water” that surrounds them.

The Kids Garden is freshly painted with a flower garden, sink, and new bench. We bought high-quality gardening tools for the kids, and just finished flagstone entry ways. Next week we hope to have a sand box.

We also built extra shelving in the green house to do a lot more starts this year. In the next two weeks, we’ll build the Bean House around the hay bale garden.

AC: Wow, busy summer! A lot of that was funded by the Queen of Hearts Grant, is that correct?

KTM: Yes, the grant covered all of that and the costs of tools, supplies, seeds, and starters. It also helped us develop workshops. High altitude gardening is very difficult with extreme temperature changes, critters, and really short seasons. We designed workshops to encourage people to grow their food despite those obstacles.

In May, we collaborated with the Master Gardeners from South Lake Tahoe to give four workshops: asparagus, garlic and onions, tomatoes, and strawberries. People were given multiple seed varieties to grow in their yard and now they send their data so we can determine what grows best in our regional micro-climates. Some organic farmers in Colorado are even collecting our data to help them grow there.

We also partnered with the Truckee Roundhouse to host a workshop on building garden beds. Truckee Tahoe Lumber sold us discounted lumber for the beds, and people signed up as teams, some with their grandmas or partners. Roundhouse teachers taught them how to use the power tools and participants built most of their beds that day. The following day, they took Organic Gardening 101 in the Demonstration Garden. Many of those people have since become garden volunteers.

AC: It’s always great to hear that people are volunteering locally!

KTM:  The garden’s a lot of work, I work about thirty hours a week during grow season and still I couldn’t do it alone. It really takes a community. I’ve also had my grandson with me for the beginning of the summer, my other grandkids will come later this year. My husband is always ready to help.

I come from a long line of farmers and fieldworkers. I’m happy with my hands in the dirt. I raised my kids and grandkids gardening and want them have a sense of gratitude for the people who provide them with food.

AC: How can someone come volunteer?

KTM: Just show up! We have volunteer days Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from around 9:00am – 1:00pm- earlier on Monday because it’s harvest day. The third Saturday of the month, we have a “Dig In” with big construction projects. About fifteen to twenty people come to those.

AC: You have a partnership with Sierra Senior Services to give them the harvest, right? Can you tell me a bit about that?

KTM:  When I first took over the garden, it became clear that it’s important to know what happens with the food you grow. The garden needed a purpose. Now, every Monday I drop off approximately ten to fifteen pounds of fresh organic produce to the Senior Center to be served there and through Meals on Wheels. It always includes fresh greens, herbs, and whatever else is growing. In 2016, we served 60-70 “second meals” a day for seniors in our community.

It’s so rewarding. Our first week’s harvest only had rhubarb, and when I dropped it off a 95 year old woman asked for a raw piece and started chewing it. She said, “this takes like when I grew up”.

AC: Speaking of childhood and plants, how do children react to the garden?

KTM: All of them are super excited to plant and water, and some are really into getting dirty. KidZone just did two weeks of “Farm Camp” with half their time at the demonstration garden.

Sierra Expeditionary Learning School sent their kindergarten class for a tour. Everyone planted a seed and a flower. Each kid also made a necklace with radish seeds to wear in a little baggy around their neck, your body heat makes the seeds sprout. We also do tours for Tahoe Donner day camps and the camps in the park.

Most little kids, from three to five years old, don’t even know their food comes from underground. I always make sure they can eat something whether it’s mint or lettuce.

AC: Do kids volunteer or come with their parents?

KTM: Sometimes they come with their parents who have a question or are dropping off compost, and they run right over to the garden. We’re making a sign that says “Come Play.” I always tell them, “help me plant, help me weed, help me water.” There’s always something to do and kids love having something to do.

AC: Wait… compost?

KTM: Yes! You can come in with a huge amount of produce to dump in the compost. It helps us immensely.

AC: Last question: As you’ve entered into this new chapter of your life, how does this endeavor fit into everything else you’re creating?

KTM: Well in several ways. One, I want to participate in the world and greater community in a way that makes me feel open-hearted and not closed. I always feel open in the garden.

Second, I’m super present while I’m gardening. It’s just me and the plant I’m with. That’s always true, I don’t have to think about whether or not I am projecting into the past or future. Gardening itself is a mindfulness practice. (**Side note: Katie teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction locally).

Third, I want to feel like what I do in my life connects me to others face to face. I have faith that people will come and help, especially if I make it a space with great, open love. People want to experience that and be a part of a really radical, loving, communal place. I meet the best people in the garden, it’s amazing. The world is challenging, this makes me feel more connected and closer to people, not farther away or more separate.

AC: Thank you so much for sharing that. Anything else we should know?

KTM: Come down and visit me! I’m always there. You can volunteer, swing in to ask your gardening questions, you can also schedule a tour. Come alone or bring your family or friends. You can also have meetings at the garden, we’ve built long benches and it’s a really lovely place to be.

If anyone is interested in scheduling a tour with your fellow Queen of Hearts supporters, take it to the Facebook group or email Ashley@ttcf.net to help you.


Volunteer in the Garden:

Tuesdays & Thursdays: 9AM – 12PM

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Significant Growth Projected for TTCF

On June 15th, TTCF held a Fundholders Luncheon on the Lake. It was a perfect summer day with a sweeping view of Lake Tahoe from Gar Wood’s second floor windows. TTCF fundholders gathered alongside Board Members, staff, and consultants to reconnect over delicious food and learn about new investment strategies TTCF is undertaking.

Brian Sharpes, CIMA and UBS Senior Institutional Consultant, advises TTCF’s Investment Committee and presented on the future of TTCF’s potential growth. He shared that his team, who works primarily with institutions, projects a foundation’s endowment will grow exponentially when it reaches approximately $25 million. He said this was for a myriad of reasons including increased capacity, widespread attention, and funder confidence that a foundation can handle larger grants and donations.

TTCF’s assets are approximately $27 million and growing quickly. Naturally, this was exciting news to a room full of people who are deeply invested in both TTCF and our region. Brian went on to speak to the importance of a diverse portfolio of investments and the evolution of impact investing.

Stacy Caldwell, TTCF CEO, then took the stage to translate what this exponential growth could mean for our greater region. Presenting the Impact Agenda, Stacy shared TTCF’s goal of attracting $100 Million to North Tahoe – Truckee. She spoke to the tried and true approaches that TTCF has used in our nearly twenty years to serve our community, our five year strategic plan, and how we see how $100 Million could impact different areas including: Housing, Impact Investing, Families, and Forest Stewardship.

Linda Brown, Donor Engagement Consultant, finished the luncheon speaking to the power of planned giving and the opportunity we all have to leave a legacy we can be proud of. You can read the incredible story Linda told about how one woman left a gift that would impact a whole community.

It was a wonderful luncheon and we are so happy that many of our fundholders were able to join us. If you are interested in learning more about TTCF’s bright future, call us at (530) 587-1776. We would love to chat. You can also email Kathy Whitlow at Kathy@ttcf.net.

Have you seen the Impact Agenda?? You don’t want to miss it.

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Supporting our Youth, Together – $264,250 in Scholarships

Knowing it would mean missing her own high school graduation, Hailey finished school early so she could teach in a remote village in Nepal for four months before starting University.

Emma has a growing interest in politics and a deep desire to advocate “for everyone to be on equal standing in a world that has, for hundreds of years, advocated against their humanity so that no one has to be scared of who they are anymore.”

When Isela couldn’t coax her friends into volunteering with her, she went by herself. She says that through volunteering, she found herself and now wants to pay it forward.

Freddy, the first person in his family to graduate high school, is pursuing cinematography and has already been mentored by current National Geographic, Telemundo, BBC, and History Channel cinematographers.

These are just a few of the scholarship recipients that we can all proudly call a part of our community. Once again, this year’s scholarship applications and essays swept through our offices exposing the perseverance, kindness, intelligence, and unique personalities of our local young people. These kids speak of the parents, teachers, educational staff, nonprofit and youth programs, coaches and instructors who have changed the course of their lives. It’s undeniably one of the best times of year when we are able to see just how well our mountain village is doing in the raising of our children.

We are happy to announce that twenty-six graduating seniors received a total of  $114,000 in TTCF facilitated scholarships. This year was even more exciting thanks to the generosity of TTCF’s Board of Directors, aligned donors, and collaborative partners who worked together so TTCF could secure a three year subscription to AwardSpring software. The entire scholarship process was streamlined to make it easier for students, review committees, and administrators and we reached more young people than ever before.

Here are some of the numbers:

  • 120 total applicants (over twice as many as TTCF saw last year)
  • $114,000 – TTCF facilitated scholarships
  • $264,250 – total scholarships awarded through participating partners
  • 27 first generation college students
  • 18 first generation high school graduates

Some of our scholarship recipients.

Scholarships are all thanks to the generosity of you –  our donors, scholarship administrators, and grants committee volunteers. If you are interested in supporting our young neighbors please consider Donating Now and indicating the TTCF Community Scholarship Grant Fund. You may also donate an existing scholarship on the TTCF Scholarships page.  Call or email Phyllis McConn, Community Impact Officer at phyllis@ttcf.net, to discuss it more in depth. TTCF (530) 587-1776.

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Leaving a Legacy

The power of legacy giving is immeasurable.  When donors leave a bequest through their wills and trusts, incredible things happen.  Ruth Ivy Frishman, a former Truckee attorney, is a model for us all.

Ruth was an early TTCF Legacy Society donor.  In 2004, she lost her battle with cancer.  When her Legacy gift of $700,000 was passed on to the charity of her choice, the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe, Executive Director Stephanie Nistler said, “She never told us that she intended to leave any of her estate to our organization, so to say we were surprised is an understatement!”

Stephanie went on to say, “There were no specific instructions but she had told the executor of her estate as well as many local people that she hoped it could help us build a new animal shelter.  This gift brought together two of the things she valued most in life…this community and animals.  She was a staunch animal advocate who believed the people in our community could have a great/positive impact on the lives of homeless pets.

“At the time we were a small, grass roots organization with one employee and many dedicated volunteers.  (With her help) we launched our campaign in 2008 and completed payment on the project (our new facility) in 2015.

“What is different today because of her legacy gift?  We have an awesome animal shelter that helped over 1,000 animals just last year.  While it is likely we would have eventually launched our campaign, I can assure you it would have taken many more years before we were in a position to pull it off.  It’s safe to say her legacy gift has given life to thousands of homeless pets who wouldn’t have otherwise received a second chance.  Our gratitude for Ruth runs deep.”


You love this place… so do we. Let us help you leave the legacy that honors your relationship with North Tahoe – Truckee. You are just a phone call away from learning how you can achieve your philanthropic goals, and we are waiting on the other line. Call (530) 587-1776 to speak to Stacy Caldwell, TTCF CEO, today. You can also email her at Stacy@ttcf.net

Are you a financial advisor? Stacy Caldwell, TTCF CEO, and Linda Brown, Donor Engagement Consultant, are scheduling meetings with financial advisors to ensure you have the information you need to help your clients meet their legacy goals. Call (530) 587-1776 today or email Linda to set up an appointment at Linda@ttcf.net

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Our Summer Reading List

We here at TTCF are voracious readers and are always sharing excerpts and ideas from fiction and nonfiction, sector-related and passion-related alike. Inspired by the Community Collaborative’s book club (see below) we decided to share what we’re reading with our community members. The list will be growing throughout the summer, so check in whenever you need inspiration.

Conscious Collaboration: Re-Thinking The Way We Work Together, For Good by Ben Emmens. “Some of the most successful collaborations have been begun by a group of unusual suspects, not kindred spirits,” (Emmens). In this quick-read, the author lays out the practices and compromises necessary for unlike-minded people to create intentional community change. Ashley, our resident Storyteller, loves how this book channels awareness practices into impact.

In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis by David Madden and Peter Marcuse. Stacy, our CEO, is intrigued by the way the book’s authors explore housing as a universal necessity of life. Without it, one cannot participate in social, political, or economic life. Housing confirms one’s agency, cultural identity, individuality, and creative powers. It is the precondition for work and leisure.

No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America by Ron Powers. The Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee (CCTT) is in the midst of its inaugural Mental Health Awareness Month Book Club. The intention is to align with efforts of CCTT and the broader community to increase collective knowledge of supporting youth and adults with mental health challenges. Stuck in a snow delay to visit her son at Wyoming State, Phyllis, our Community Impact Officer, read this and two other books in three days!

Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities by Diana Leafe Christian. A guide of practical information distilled from numerous firsthand sources on how to establish an intentional community. From interpersonal and leadership issues to vision statements and legal structures, Christian shares how people can work together in pursuit of a common ideal. Itzi, our CFO, loves the idea of communal living and shared responsibility to create an intentional living experience.

Get to know our staff members a little better by reading our bios! You can let us know what you’re reading by emailing Ashley at ashley@ttcf.net.

Did you know that Word After Word Bookshop in historic downtown Truckee will order books for you? Visit their wonderful staff and #shoplocal. 10118 Donner Pass Road  Truckee, CA  96161. Phone: 530-536-5099.

Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee Kicks Off

The Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee (MHC) kicked off their commitment to accelerating regional housing solutions on April 29th. Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF) hosted the community housing event to celebrate the work to-date and kick-off the next phase of collaborative action.

The event was well attending by the community with many more people tuning in through Tahoe Truckee Community Television’s livestream. The April 29th gathering started with with three local leaders sharing personal stories of community members struggling with housing in the North Tahoe – Truckee region. After firmly rooting the audience in the everyday realities of our local families and workforce, Stacy Caldwell, TTCF CEO, took the stage to present highlights of the findings of the 2016 Regional Housing Study conducted by Bay Area Economics (BAE). The Study brought to light the hard data of North Tahoe – Truckee’s housing issues that affect not only low-income residents, but all of us from employers, first responders, teachers, and second homeowners. From there, the screen lit up with one of the premiere episodes of the storytelling film series Housing for the People produced by Elevate Tahoe, a partnership between Moonshine Ink, TTCF, and SBS Media House. View the videos as they are released throughout May here

Stacy Caldwell shared the recommendations that came out of the Housing Study  which included establishing a regional housing agenda and a housing entity. Since the Study was released last August, local leaders have been coalescing under TTCF’s leadership to follow through on these recommendations and form the Mountain Housing Council.

As of the April 29th event, thirteen local organizations have committed their time and resources to participating in the MHC and accelerating housing solutions for the people of North Tahoe – Truckee. Representatives from ten of these organizations took to the stage to publicly state their commitments, a moment that was undoubtedly a milestone in our region’s willingness to tackle this crisis together.

“Based upon the positive momentum and support that created the Housing Council I am convinced it will result in real housing opportunities for our local residents,” said Tony Lashbrook, Town of Truckee Town Manager.

The event ended with a Solutions Slam. Audience members stepped up to the mic and shared their ideas for creative housing solutions. All ideas were recorded and will be brought to the first MHC session. The event ended as all Saturday morning events should, with a buzz of excitement and plenty of time to get out into the spring sunshine.

Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee Partners To-Date

  • Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe (CA-TT)
  • Family Resource Center of Truckee
  • Nevada County
  • North Tahoe Family Resource Center
  • Placer County
  • Squaw Valley
  • Tahoe City Public Utility District
  • Tahoe Donner Homeowners Association
  • Tahoe Forest Hospital District
  • Tahoe Truckee Unified School District
  • Town of Truckee
  • Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce
  • Truckee Donner Public Utility District
  • Truckee Tahoe Airport District
  • Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation
  • Vail Resorts: Northstar California Resort

For more information, visit www.mountainhousingcouncil.org.

Watch the recorded event.

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Girls Giving Back Awards Third Annual Grant Cycle!

Girls Giving Back (GGB) is a youth philanthropy project of TTCF’s Queen of Hearts Women’s Fund (QoH). GGB members are young women under eighteen who are interested in shaping their community through philanthropy. By facilitating their own youth grant cycles, the Girls learn how to fund raise through local events, evaluate grant proposals, and select as a collective a local youth nonprofit to receive a grant. In a supported environment, these young women learn the intricacies of philanthropy and develop a unique set of tools that prepares them to grow into effective community changemakers.

GGB has had yet another successful year. Thanks to our leadership team, local business partners, and all of  who demonstrated support at three fantastic fundraising events, GGB has completed their third annual grant cycle.  We are happy to announce that the recipient of the $2500 GGB Grant was Lake Tahoe Music Festival’s Youth Mentoring Program. This free program connects high school mentors with grade school students to provide music education and increase grade school participation in music events including rehearsals, orchestra performances, and concerts.

Join us in congratulating our always impressive GGB!

If you are interested in participating in GGB or know a young woman who would benefit from the project, contact Alison Elder at Tahoe@alisonelder.com or queenofhearts@ttcf.net.

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You’re invited to a Community Housing Event: April 29th

Building on the momentum of stakeholders from across the region, the newly formed Mountain Housing Council of Truckee Tahoe will host a Community Housing Event on April 29.

For the last eighteen months, North Tahoe – Truckee has been focused on identifying our regional housing issues and potential solutions. The 2016 Regional Housing Study was truly a community undertaking that engaged local businesses, public agencies, nonprofits, and community members. Now, provided with a framework and recommendations to move forward, our region is ready to work together to accelerate solutions.

The April 29 event marks the official kick-off of the Mountain Housing Council and an opportunity to celebrate the progress we have made so far as a community. Council representatives will share their commitments to solving the local housing issues and co-create a regional housing agenda to guide local leaders towards measurable impact.

“We are excited to bring everybody together to work on the critical issue of housing in our region. And we look forward to the community joining us in this process. ” – Stacy Caldwell, CEO Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation

Elevate Tahoe will also premiere its film series, “Housing for the People.” The storytelling series captures the conditions that have created North Tahoe – Truckee’s current housing climate, as well as the stories of individuals, families, and businesses who live with these realities on a daily basis.

For those ready to accelerate housing solutions for our community, please join the Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee on Saturday, April 29 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Truckee High School.  Space is limited, RSVP at: bit.ly/mountainhousingevent.

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What do you want in a local library? Take the survey.

Nevada County residents recently voted for an increased sales tax to benefit local libraries! These Measure A dollars will provide and continue to improve library services. Voters also decided to allocate the dollars across certain areas.

To determine exactly how to use the increased budget, Nevada County wants community input! Please help your community shape the future of the Truckee Library by filling out the survey below and sharing it with your friends and neighbors.

The survey focuses on three specific areas: hours of operation, children and teen programming, and information and technology. The survey is due April 10, 2017. Thank you!

En Noviembre, los residentes del condado de Nevada votaron para aumentar los dólares para la Medida A para beneficiar nuestras bibliotecas locales. La votación para ampliar la Biblioteca de Truckee es aproximadamente tres veces su tamaño anterior. El impuesto de ventas se aplicará específicamente a continuar proporcionando y expandiendo los servicios, específicamente en estas tres áreas:

*Horas de operación
*Programación para Niños y Adolescentes
*Acceso a la tecnología

Es una prioridad del Condado de Nevada usar la contribución de la comunidad para asignar el aumento del presupuesto. Por favor, ayúdenos rellenando la encuesta y compartiéndola con los que conoce.

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