The Way to Beat Poverty

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn wrote an amazing article in the New York Times, The Way to Beat Poverty.

“One reason the United States has not made more progress against poverty is that our interventions come too late. If there’s one overarching lesson from the past few decades of research about how to break the cycles of poverty in the United States, it’s the power of parenting — and of intervening early, ideally in the first year or two of life or even before a child is born.”

0914COVER-master495-v2“What does that mean for all of us? We wish more donors would endow not just professorships but also the jobs of nurses who visit at-risk parents; we wish tycoons would seek naming opportunities not only at concert halls and museum wings but also in nursery schools. We need advocates to push federal, state and local governments to invest in the first couple of years of life, to support parents during pregnancy and a child’s earliest years.”

Read the full article here.

Lorraine Alban, President J&L Wines


A New Way of Local Philanthropy

becky_grayIf you would have asked me 3 years ago what the biggest social issues were that our communities faced, I would have recited something I read about in the local paper, or seen on the news.  I had a general understanding of San Luis Obispo County, but not nearly the insight I have today.  You see, 3 years ago I was working in the wine industry, and had no idea that my career path was about to change.  And better yet, our communities were about to be significantly transformed.

I always knew our County was a special place.  The beauty that abounds this area is quite spectacular.  Just look around.  When I began working for must! charities in 2012, it was as if someone lifted the veil to the true inner beauty of our region.  A beauty that lies deep in the hearts of so many in our community.  A beauty that is deep rooted in history from those who paved the way long ago.  This beauty isn’t superficial; it is much more than that.
I’ve discovered that the most beautiful thing about our region is the generosity and kindness of the people who actively give back.  They are joyful souls.  Deep rooted in compassion, generous (of their time, talents & treasures), and selfless.  I always considered myself to be a generous person.  I would donate to charity and volunteered where I could.  But alone, I was only able to do so much and wasn’t sure if it had significant impact.

Enter the concept of Catalytic Philanthropy; a concept very different from conventional philanthropy. Mark Kramer stated it best in an article written for Stanford Social Innovation Review.  He stated, “The contributions of conventional donors and the good work of effective nonprofits may temporarily improve matters at a particular place and time, but they are unlikely to create the lasting reform that society so urgently requires.”

We found this to be the case, right here in our local community and we knew something needed to change.  We needed to do philanthropy better and this was the beginning of must! charities.  Driven by a collaboration of friends and business owners in North San Luis Obispo County, this group was dedicated to improving quality of life in their community by walking alongside existing local organizations to make a greater, more focused impact through collaboration, expertise, research and financial resources.

Guided by five key values of comprehensive change, accountability, collaboration, selflessness, and sustainability, must! charities exists to bring the community together to create sustainable change.
Instead of giving charitable “handouts,” must! charities supports local organizations with financial resources, expertise and the leverage of other partnerships to create long-term, sustainable transformation within the region. Based on current community needs, must! charities employs a rigorous application and screening process to determine what project will most benefit from and have the most success in solving root problems, not just addressing the symptoms. Throughout the life of a project, the regular, comprehensive reporting and statistics are used to gauge the success of the project and determine any necessary modifications to the project.

The underlying objective is to empower local organizations to make strategic, sustainable change that carries forward after the life of a must! charities’ project with the belief that “moving the needle” on one initiative, will impact others as well.

The best part about this new way of doing philanthropy… it’s working.  A local Boys and Girls Club, went from the brinks of closing its doors on a month to month bases, to just being ranked the #2 Club in the nation for small rural clubs, and now has over a year’s worth of operating expenses in the bank.  The County food bank has tripled the amount of services they provide to youth over the past two years through our collaboration with them.  These are just two small samples of what is taking place.  Another great thing is that 100% of what you donate to must! charities is strategically invested directly into our communities because must! charities’ executive board covers the general overhead expenses of the organization.

The joy I found, once I began participating in this ‘Catalytic Philanthropy’ is the purest joy I have found through giving to something greater than myself. This county has taken a big step towards a strategic, innovative way of conducting philanthropy, and we haven’t even seen a glimpse of the beauty to come, once more people get on board.  It’s life changing.

I recently came across a song written by Mathew West, titled “Do Something”.  And the words that resonated with me were; “If not you, then who?  If not now, then when?  Right now… We all need to do something”

These are words to live by… what are you waiting for?  Join us and many others in giving back and taking care of our own neighbors right here in our own backyard.

For more information visit their

Summer Results for Real Food for Real Children

Summer means food, friends, and fun for many children. Unfortunately for others, summer vacation is the hungriest time of the year. Families who depend on school meals during the school year struggle to provide food for their children once school is out for the summer.  In San Luis Obispo County 16,000 children receive free or reduced price school meals during the school year but may spend the summer worried about how to get enough to eat.

untitledThrough the federal Summer Food Service Program, called Lovin’ Lunchbox in San Luis Obispo County, the Food Bank helps keep low-income children healthy by providing them with the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow throughout the summer months.

Summer 2014 marks the fifth year that the Food Bank has sponsored the SFSP in San Luis Obispo County.  With the help of partner agencies and volunteers, this summer we served over 33,000 meals (lunches, breakfasts, and snacks) countywide at 28 locations.  That is nearly 10,000 more meals than were served through this program last summer and more than 20,000 meals served in 2012 before must! charities came on board. The program went from serving 484 children during the summer of 2012 to 1447 children in 2014!

In North County alone (Atascadero, Paso Robles, Cambria, San Miguel, Shandon, and Templeton) more than 16,000 meals were served at 16 different locations.

The incredible growth of this program has, in large part, been due to the 2013 Real Children, Real Food  grant from must! to support staff positions and infrastructure in North County.  With help from must! the Food Bank reached more children than ever this summer.

From Wendy Lewis, COO at the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County:
“As we have seen this year through our partnership with must! Charities, by coming together as a community and combining our time, resources, and energy, programs like Lovin’ Lunchbox can make a significant impact on the health and well-being of children in San Luis Obispo County.”

From Yvette Madrigal, Children’s Program Coordinator at Acorns (youth program) at Oak Park Housing Authority, Paso Robles:
“I started working at Acorns this summer.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that free lunches were offered over the summer to students and families.  Not just a free lunch but a beautiful nutritious lunch such as sandwiches, wraps, veggies, fresh fruit and other healthy snacks.”

“It’s so important for a growing child to have that balanced meal daily for their physical and emotional growth.  I liked all the lessons I observed that were being taught at Acorns regarding snacks and lunches.  The washing of hands, the manners of saying please and thank you and donating what was not eaten to a “share table,” the communication that happened when families would sit at a table to eat together.  The cleaning up after lunch and again the communication that followed is so beneficial to the families.”
“What is really beneficial at Acorns is once a child is given a healthy lunch or snack they are able to focus better.  We do not have as many behavior problems – I see what type of snacks these kids have on their own and its sugar like marshmallows – hot Cheetos and soda.   Most kids come into the Acorns program hungry.  It’s so comforting to know we can provide one nutritious meal to a growing child so they may grow physically and emotionally/mentally with the meal, socialization, activities and homework help we provide.  We can’t do this alone so I am so thankful for the community of people that all contribute to help these children.  The kids look forward to it and they really appreciate it, for me it’s a joy to watch and a blessing to help those in need.”

About the Food Bank:
The Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County is the only countywide source of nutritious food for people in need.  Working hand in hand with volunteers, donors, corporate sponsors and non-profit agency partners, it’s our mission to work with a network of community partners to alleviate hunger in San Luis Obispo County and build a healthier community. 1 in 6 people in SLO County are food insecure, often not knowing how they will get their next meal.

must! charities Annual Report Released

must! charities released their Annual Report this month recapping the Boys & Girls Club and Real Food for Real Children projects in addition to providing financials, personal stories, and a listing of current patrons and business supporters.

fb pic 2_food bank (2)Since it began two years ago, must! charities has affected over 5,000 lives in Norther San Luis Obispo County.  Over 100,000 healthy after school snacks were served, over 1,000 lunches on the first day of the Summer Feeding Program, and 175 children are enrolled in the Boys and Girls Club of the North County.

How can you make transformational change in our community?  Easy!  Share your story with others.  If half of our population (40k people) gave $10 each, that equates to two new projects a year.  If 500 people gave $500, that would add another collaborative project.

Dr. Brenda Baker Explains Why She Chose must!