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Women and Girls in Local Philanthropy

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
Published on December 27, 2018

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The Queen of Hearts Women’s Fund, a program of Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF),  just wrapped up another joyful season of generosity. At the start of the season, TTCF sat down with Queen of Hearts representatives to record a podcast about the power of Women in Philanthropy. In 41 minutes of inspiring conversation, four women speak to the way that females shape the world they live in through philanthropy. They explore how role models influence the charitable tendencies of women, how volunteering can plug a person into community, the power of giving collectively, and how programs benefiting young boys can change the world for women. Featuring: Stacy Caldwell, TTCF CEO; Martha Simon- who launched the Fund as a TTCF staff member; Nancy Gisko- a significant Queen of Hearts’ leader; and Lacey Norris- one of the original members of Girls Giving Back, TTCF’s youth philanthropy project.

The Queen of Hearts

Launched in February 2006, the Fund sought to inspire 1,000 women to donate $1,000 within a single year to raise $1 million for an endowment. That goal was surpassed, and the endowment now kicks off approximately $60,000 a year for grantmaking to local nonprofits! Since 2006, the Fund has channeled $691,518 into programs and projects benefiting North Tahoe-Truckee, and the initial $1 million+ still remains in an endowment that will serve this region into perpetuity.

In December, supporters also volunteer in the Annual Senior Gifts Program to fulfill the holiday wishlists of local seniors. By partnering with Sierra Senior Services, these women make the holidays brighter for our local elders who may not have loved ones nearby to celebrate with.

2018 December Highlights:

  • 65 local elders received gifts, personalized cards, and holiday spirit
  • 8 nonprofits received grants of $10,000 and $5,000
  • 75 women gathered at the annual GEMS Grants Showcase
  • A local girls science program received a $2500 Girls Giving Back grant which then inspired an additional $3500 from anonymous donors


Each year, TTCF hosts the Queen of Hearts’ Annual GEMS Grants Showcase for supporters to gather and connect in a cozy holiday setting before watching eight nonprofit finalists pitch their 3 minute grant proposals. The pitches are recorded and shared across the country so that the over 1300 supporters can cast their votes across four areas of funding. One of the greatest parts of this event is that everyone is a winner! In each category, one nonprofit wins $10,000 and second place wins $5,000. Learn about the recipients in the ballot language below.

On top of the GEMS grants, Girls Giving Back (GGB), a youth philanthropy project of the Queen of Hearts Women’s Fund, hosts an annual grant cycle. GGB began in 2014 when many young Queen of Hearts supporters demonstrated passionate community commitment. The GGB team hosts annual fundraisers, learns how to vet grant proposals, and then votes on which nonprofit will receive the funding. In four years, GGB original members have awarded a total of $10,000! This year, they chose to address the widening gap between boys and girls pursuing education and careers in STEM, learn more below.



Bringing STEM Education to Girls – $2,500

Headwaters Science Institute

Jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are the fastest growing and best paying in the country. Unfortunately, there is a significant achievement gap between girls and boys in STEM education. Women make up only 15-25% of the STEM workforce, and data shows that the gap is actually widening. This means that we are under-preparing the next generation of women for success in these crucial fields. All-female science and math education can be effective in closing the STEM achievement gap because girls take fewer risks in mixed-gender settings, can be made to feel less capable than boys, and defer to them in math and science classes. Girls science camps help close the STEM gender achievement gap by giving girls an empowering single-gender learning opportunity.




Building an Interactive and Sensory Community Park for All Ages – $10,000

Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe Community Project (CATTCP)

We want to create an interactive and sensory community park that is usable and accessible for all ages where people can come together to play, eat, listen, and converse in historic downtown Truckee. The current outdoor space adjoining the Truckee Community Art Center is mostly asphalt, with some lawn and a small playground that is not to code. We’ve been asked to transform this bleak ¼ acre space into the New Downtown Park with an amphitheater, natural playgrounds for younger and older children, and a sensory garden with interpretive elements and interactive features. The landscape design includes murals, a meandering path, multiple play, interactive learning, and historical elements. Currently, there is no gathering space like this in downtown Truckee, and this is a prime location. We are requesting funds to support the Park Amenities portion of the budget which includes signs, historical mural, picnic tables, shade structures, amphitheater stage and seating, playground features, and more.  This “core” downtown restoration and neighborhood revitalization project will offer a community gathering place, enhance community pride, and support community economics. 


Shining a Brighter Light on a Cultural Gem – $5,000

Lake Tahoe Dance Collective

On our stage, we present some of today’s most prominent and fascinating performing artists in works that are distinct for both their creativity and rarity. Our promotion of exceptional classical, modern and contemporary dance in our region through performance, education and outreach, enriches the community as a whole and identifies the Lake Tahoe region as a cultural destination. Our annual world class dance festival deserves to be elevated to a higher standing with greater awareness beyond our loyal fans. The event is currently growing in numbers annually, and increasing awareness of it could serve more local and visiting artists, expose large audiences to thought-provoking works, and create more overall positive growth for the organization, as well as continuing to establish our region as a cultural center.  The festival takes place both at Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City and at West End Beach at Donner Lake. During the three weeks leading in to the festival, a Young Dancers Workshop engages students from local dance schools in a far more affordable summer program than other out of area offerings.  Our overall goals include presenting the finest level of dance, keeping ticket prices accessible, and raising awareness. We are mindful of not losing our “special sauce” while putting on a great performance, and sharing the powerful effect live performance has on a person’s soul. 



Provide a Seamless Transition and Year-Round Support to Students through Middle School, High School, and College – $10,000

Aim High for High School

Over the last eight years, we have provided transformative academic classes and enrichment opportunities to keep high potential Tahoe-Truckee students safe, stimulated, and engaged throughout the summer. Our goal is to provide a seamless transition and offer students year-round support as they navigate the path through middle school, high school, and college. We respectfully request funding to help us prepare, nurture and inspire 140 high-potential, under-resourced middle school students at Alder Creek Middle School during Summer 2019. Our program meets the needs of low-income youth by intervening in the summer and during these pivotal middle school years. Our innovative and engaging learning model is uniquely designed to mitigate the summer slide and also help students gain academic ground. In rigorous classes, youth begin to see their potential, work to prepare for the year ahead, look beyond to high school, and learn about the path to college. Students attending our Tahoe-Truckee campus in 2019 will experience a summer that blends challenging academics––including 25 days of math and science (STEM) coursework––with enrichment opportunities, leadership development, and environmental education. All classes and activities are team-taught, with a teacher-student ratio of 1:8, by diverse educators (more than 70% are people of color and 54% are multilingual). 

Helping Adolescent Boys Find their Voices, Express Themselves, and Build Resiliency – $5,000

Positively Rolling

Our enrichment program for middle school boys promotes positive character development and fosters meaningful connections. The program takes a non-traditional approach combining mentorship and skateboard art to help adolescent boys find their voices, express themselves, and learn new skills to deal with life’s challenges. Over the last 5 years, 600 participants have completed the program with an overwhelming positive response. These boys have connected with positive male role models, shared with peers, expressed themselves via artwork, and learned new skills to build resiliency. Boys are 30% more likely to drop-out of school, with girls receiving higher grades than boys at all levels of education. Boys constitute 65% of special-education students, are five times more likely to be labeled as hyperactive, and four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Boys are also at increased risk for self-destructive behaviors such as poor decision making, truancy, flunking classes, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, violence, bullying, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. This program was born out a creative response from concerned educators and community members to reach out to middle school boys and offer support. The program strives to make authentic connections with middle school boys by creating a fun, open space to articulate their feelings and express themselves in healthy ways.



Creating Indoor Recreation Spaces for Children in North Lake Tahoe – $10,000

Tahoe City Public Utility District

While other parts of Tahoe-Truckee are served by year-round indoor recreation centers, there are none between Crystal Bay and Emerald Bay on North Lake.  The only children’s indoor play structure in the region is at the Kid Zone Museum in Truckee, and the only indoor rock climbing structures or skate parks are in Truckee and Incline. We know that our region struggles with viable public transportation options which means that many children and young families have to travel long distances to access indoor recreation and educational opportunities, things that are vital in healthy development of young children. We are requesting funding to build a play structure for kids ages 2-6 as part of the Rideout Community Project. Our young families are often asking community leaders to offer a consistent play space for toddlers and young children to play, especially during the winter months where families are challenged with finding easy access to snow-less recreation. Much like a park setting, the indoor playground will offer visitors and residents to the Rideout Community Center a place to let their children play safely while also offering a place around the play structure for parents and caregivers to socialize.  Through the Project, our community can finally offer a unique indoor space for our children to move, explore, and play, especially during Tahoe’s winter months. 

Creating Visionary Spaces Honoring the Legacy of the Pioneer Spirit – $5,000

Sierra State Parks Foundation

The Donner Project will restore Pioneer Monument, create a surrounding reflective seating and landscaping area, and install an outdoor, 100-seat amphitheater to host public educational and arts events adjacent to the new Visitor Center at Donner Memorial State Park. The 100 year-old Pioneer Monument stands at the Gateway to California in Donner Memorial State Park and honors the pioneer families who made the difficult journey across the continent to reach California in the 1840s. Their strength and resilience continue to inspire us today. The Pioneer Monument, the focal point of Truckee’s fascinating emigrant story and a significant highlight of California history, is now approaching a critical tipping point of irreversible deterioration. The Project will also create a space for education and interpretative programs that will enhance visitor understanding and appreciation of our history and natural resources. The unique outdoor education pavilion design reflects the Washoe contribution to our shared heritage and will be a significant attraction and source of civic pride for our town. It will also be a venue for local organization events. To date, the Donner Project’s progress is a result of strong public-private partnerships, these collaborative partners will provide the power needed to guide the Donner Project to completion. 



Transportation Improvement Project to Better Serve our Seniors – $10,000

Sierra Senior Services

We are the local Meals on Wheels provider for Truckee and North Lake Tahoe.  Our service area covers 862 square miles serving over 37,500 meals per year.  We provide hot meals and a friendly face to home bound seniors in our community.  As we deliver seniors their meals, we are looking at their living arrangements to ensure basic needs are met.  If our drivers have concerns, we refer that senior to networked partners to ensure his or her wellbeing.  Usually, we are the last lifeline to seniors who want nothing more than to stay in their homes and maintain their independence for as long as they can safely do so. This fiscal year, we hope to be able to replace two of our oldest vehicles with more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly models that will be in our fleet for at least a decade.  This will improve our delivery capabilities and ensure the safety of our volunteer drivers. Along with the purchase of vehicles we would like to develop a funding source for the ongoing costs of fuels, maintenance, and tires for all our vehicles so we can keep our “meals on wheels”.


Strengthening Support for our Most Vulnerable Neighbors this Winter – $5,000

Emergency Warming Center

We provide our community’s homeless neighbors a safe, warm place to sleep on severe weather nights as well as connect with long term solutions. To do so effectively and to provide the safest, consistent experience for guests and volunteers, we found it’s imperative to maintain consistent positions in key staff roles. This builds mutual respect and trust that makes volunteers feel grounded, and guests confident they can turn to someone for help. Last winter, 335 volunteers dedicated over 1,325 hours for the center.  Open 40 nights, we sheltered 50 guests and 5 dogs; with repeat guests, we provided 238 total nights of shelter.  We also served 39 warm meals to ‘neighbors’ before they slept elsewhere. 45 additional individuals received basic necessities throughout the year, and 42% of our guests were connected with long-term support.  We’re grateful to provide 40 nights of shelter, but the burden is heavy for two staff people with other full-time responsibilities.  Weather triggers often occur at the last minute making scheduling difficult. An additional trained shift supervisor would lessen the burden. We also would like to provide consistency for our overnight shifts. It’s difficult to secure volunteer coverage for these physically and energetically demanding shifts (10pm – 6am) when we’re open many nights in a row. Last year in the midst of a 16 night stretch, we hired a security company to provide one licensed security officer – giving shelter to our guests when we would otherwise have had to close. The program coordinator, shift supervisors, and overnight security will work together to create a consistent experience to ensure we can provide long-term help to our vulnerable neighbors in addition to a night’s shelter.