Philanthropy Thrives in Tri-Valley

Phoebe Elizabeth Apperson Hearst was a wealthy American philanthropist, feminist, and suffragist who became a resident of Pleasanton in the late 1800s. She died, as a result of the influenza pandemic, in 1919. Perhaps best known today as the mother of newspaper businessman William Randolph Hearst, Hearst was lauded nationally during her lifetime for her intelligence, activism, and acts of charity.

The noted philanthropist made many endowments to the University of California at Berkeley beginning in 1891, according to the California State Parks department. Eventually she became the first woman to serve on the University's Board of Regents. A teacher before her marriage, she supported the kindergarten movement early on and was cofounder of the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. As author Barbara S. Lesko writes, "If any woman could be called an American Cinderella, it is Mrs. Hearst, who went from extremely modest circumstances in the backwoods of Missouri to the pinnacle of American wealth and influence."

Hearst used much of her wealth and influence to improve the lives of others and has been joined by many, many others in the Tri-Valley since. Over the years, countless Tri-Valley residents have also worked hard to make meaningful contributions to the region even without Hearst's advantages. In 1908, for example, a group of Pleasanton women established the Women's Improvement Club, according to Pleasanton, California: A Brief History by Ken MacLennan. In 1911, a group of Livermore women followed suit and organized their own women's improvement club, according to the San Francisco Call newspaper.

Building on a Tri-Valley Tradition

From these auspicious beginnings, the Tri-Valley has developed a long history of groups working together to improve the lives of residents and to better the region's cities. That sense of community spirit has continued to thrive as recently exhibited by some important new initiatives. In November, for example, Three Valleys Community Foundation (3VCF) was launched with the goal of enhancing the quality of life in the Tri-Valley and greater East Bay area by providing specialized, place-based philanthropic services. "Three Valleys'' refers to the Amador, Livermore, and San Ramon Valleys, which encompass Alamo, Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Sunol.

"Our goal is to broaden local philanthropic support, benefitting not only our local nonprofits as they build capacity and serve with strength, but also local donors by connecting them with the most immediate and pressing community needs," according to  John Sensiba, Chair of the 3VCF Board of Directors. "Three Valleys will do this via donor advised funds, direct gifts, and endowment opportunities. We will also work to support local nonprofits via agency funds and grantmaking."

3VCF joins the company of several other foundations and nonprofits focused on the region, including the Tri-Valley Nonprofit Alliance (TVNPA), which was founded in 2014. Since its inception, TVNPA has provided nonprofit organizations with industry-relevant seminars, collaborative discussions, and alliance networking at monthly meetings and organized events. But with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, regional nonprofits needed much more support. In response, TVNPA created the Tri-Valley Nonprofit Fund in March 2020 to help safety-net service providers struggling to meet the growing human service needs.

By mid-March, for example, the meal program from Open Heart Kitchen suddenly expanded from 1,000 meals per day to 3,500. By May, Spectrum Community Services was facing the inability to provide enough meals to those in need of its Senior Meals and Meals on Wheels programs. After consulting with staff from the cities of Dublin, Livermore, and Pleasanton, TVNPA identified six primary and complementary safety-net service providers best positioned to meet the increased demand.

The Tri-Valley Nonprofit Fund raised $183,000 from support in a variety of quarters, all demonstrating the depth of care and interest community members express toward the larger region. Last year a 15-year-old pianist, for example, held a three-hour concert over Zoom to raise money for the fund. Tri-Valley Nonprofit Fund grants were distributed directly to the six nonprofits with notable results. "Senior citizens, youth, families, the disabled, veterans, homeless and neighbors–some struggling for the first time–received food, shelter, healthcare, and housing support to help them get through," notes TVNPA officials.

After the success of the initial program, TVNPA realized that both donors and nonprofits benefit from unrestricted funding and decided to expand the concept. As of January 2022, TVNPA member organizations and regional nonprofit organizations serving Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Danville, and Sunol will be eligible to apply for grants of $1,000 to $5,000 four times per year.

Partnering with the TVNPA in expanding the grant program are the Community Health & Education Foundation (CHEF), Marti and John Sutton, and other local businesses and individuals. All of them were instrumental in supporting the successful first campaign and will continue to be involved as key matching funds partners. CHEF will also continue to host the matching funds portal in its fiscal management role.

Building a Better Future

"Nonprofits are a beautiful thread in the tapestry of our community," says Kathy Young, CEO, President, and cofounder of TVNPA. "Nonprofits are part of what holds us together as a community."

Many people may not understand how much nonprofits impact their lives, according to Young, who notes a small selection of the many Tri-Valley nonprofits that benefit the area. The Tri-Valley Conservancy, for example, works to protect Tri-Valley land. Education foundations help fund local schools to meet student needs. Valley Humane Society cares for animals. Arts organizations provide beauty in life, while direct services nonprofits labor to protect the most vulnerable, including the elderly and the unhoused. The Tri-Valley Air Quality Community Alliance works to improve the air in the region, and the American Lung Association also works to help residents breathe easier.

"There's probably not a day that goes by where your life isn't impacted by a nonprofit in your area,'' notes Young. "Nonprofits are instrumental in the quality of our lives. That is what their importance is, and that's why we work to help support and enable these nonprofits."

Part of TVNPA's support for existing and future nonprofits is available via the Philanthropy Institute. To help them grow stronger, this program provides free online training, grant research, and additional resources for the leaders, staff, and board members of nonprofits. This year the program is based on a collaboration between TVNPA, 3VCF, and Las Positas College and runs between December 2021 and May 2022.

Young taught the first class, which covered the topic of starting a nonprofit. Before becoming a cofounder of TVNPA, Young previously served as the Executive Director of the Hertz Fellowship Programs for the Fannie & John Hertz Foundation, which provides graduate fellowships nationally in applied physical and biological sciences, engineering and mathematics.
The second class, Intro to Finding Grants, will be held in January and taught by Susan Houghton. Houghton is Secretary, interim Treasurer, and a cofounder of Three Valleys Community Foundation. She has founded several nonprofits, including Sunflower Hill in Pleasanton. Sunflower Hill creates places and spaces where adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities can live, work, learn, and thrive as part of the greater community.

As an individual, there was only one Phoebe Elizabeth Apperson Hearst. But when it comes to Tri-Valley values, Hearst's legacy of philanthropy and community improvement lives on in the many working to aid their neighbors. "Stronger nonprofits make stronger communities," says Young. "Support your nonprofits, if you can, through time, money, volunteering, or donating. It's always appreciated, and it improves the entire community."

For more information about the Three Valleys Community Foundation, please visit

For more information about the Tri-Valley Nonprofit Alliance, please visit

For more information about the Tri-Valley Nonprofit Fund, please visit

For more information about the Philanthropy Institute, please visit

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