Impact100 members see the impact

Posted on October 9, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Three months ago, members of Impact100 Sonoma awarded a $100,000 Impact Grant to the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation to support SmartStart – a program to expand early learning opportunities for children at high-risk of entering Kindergarten without the necessary social, behavioral, and academic skills.

The donation has already begun transforming a classroom at Sassarini Elementary School where, during a recent visit, Impact 100 members saw first-hand the impact of their fundraising efforts. The new preschool will soon be welcoming 24 young children to begin their education with a huge advantage.

“The needs are very high in our Valley,” Laura Zimmerman, SVEF executive director, told the group. “Preschool is the way kids get a fair chance. It’s a difference that lasts a lifetime.”

Zimmerman shared current research about the importance of the preschool experience in a child’s educational success. She also described how that success affects the entire family, who are also invested in the process.

Maite Iturri, principal of El Verano School where a preschool program has already proved successful, agreed on the importance of parent participation. Monthly meetings help parents to establish a learning environment at home that reinforces the same strategies being used in the classroom, she explained.

Those meetings were described as critical by Shelby Rico, the mother of a recent preschool graduate. She and the other parents attending such meetings participated in the same educational activities that their children experience, even “running around the classroom doing the chicken dance,” so that they could understand the importance of encouraging an inquisitive mind and how different activities support learning.

Rico said she feels fortunate that her son now loves learning, and to her it is clear that children thrive when they know that their parents are excited about their learning.

Zimmerman said the Impact100 grant will open the door for children to have success. “That’s why you are called Impact, and I want to thank you.”

Impact100 Sonoma is a philanthropic organization started in August 2009 that brings together at least 100 women to award an impact grant of $100,000 every year to a Sonoma Valley nonprofit organization that would otherwise not have access to this level of funding. Since its founding in 2009, Impact100 has grown from 110 members to 228 and has awarded grants totaling $690,000 to 32 Sonoma Valley nonprofits.

Each September, Impact100 members gather for project updates such as these from the organizations awarded Impact Grants at the annual meeting held in June. This year, members also received grateful updates from the 2013 Impact Grant finalists: the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation (SVHF) and Willmar Family Grief & Healing Center, each of whom received $20,000 from Impact100 Sonoma.

Sharon Nevins, treasurer of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, described the new bilingual services that are being made available without charge to all women within the Valley. Impact100 funding supported new furnishings, computers, printers, software, and a lending library available at the Women’s Health and Resource Center on Perkins Street.

Barbara Cullens, executive director at Willmar, described the use of their peer support group model and expressive arts for children, teens, and adults healing through trauma after a catastrophic loss. Impact100 funds will provide new cabinets, chairs, tables, and other furnishings plus art supplies and volunteer training. She described Impact100 Sonoma as “a vital and valuable part of Willmar.”

For more about Impact100 contact 939.5007 or

PHOTO:Laura Zimmerman, SVEF Executive Director, shares a special thank-you note with members Impact100 Sonoma.

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