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Delivering Impact for the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation

California Local is helping a powerful organization tell a big story about confronting problems that threaten the soul of the North Lake Tahoe community.

PUBLISHED SEP 26, 2022 12:00 A.M.

I feel fortunate that I’m able to make a living doing work that I love. The best part is that every so often, I get to do something that helps make a real change in the real world. Most journalists will tell you the same thing: we do the work in order to have an impact.

When I spoke with Stacy Caldwell, CEO of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, about helping them with a report to their members and donors, the first thing she talked about was impact. In her introductory letter in the TTCF Impact Quarterly report, she defines what the term means for her organization.

“We zero in on the specific areas where we have determined change is needed, and then work together to decide how to best affect that change,” Caldwell writes. “That, to us, is impact. It’s about finding holistic, inclusive, systemic opportunities to create a better community.”

While putting the Impact Quarterly together, I spent a couple of weeks studying up on what the organization has been doing in recent months. That process was, as we say in California, mind blowing. The Impact Quarterly focuses on four areas: Scholarships, Families, Forests and Housing. In each of these areas, TTCF has mounted ambitious campaigns confronting real problems—in each case working closely with the communities they serve. 

I was proud to be able to help Stacy and her colleagues tell their story, and I want to briefly talk here about some of what we shared.

Inspiring Scholarship Recipients

Portraits of a man and a woman stacked vertically
Angel Barajas (top) and Iran Martinez
Photo courtesy TTCF

When you hear “quarterly report,” you probably don’t go straight to “inspirational.” But when you read about two of the 121 students who altogether earned $1.35 million in scholarships from TTCF and its member organizations this year, you will be inspired. Some young people can just make you feel hope that maybe things are going to be okay after all. 

Iran Martinez, recently graduated from North Tahoe High School, talks about  finding confidence and ambition within herself on a month-long outdoor education retreat in Yosemite.

“It was like a switch went off in me and I was like: This is going to happen because I want it to happen,” she recalls. “And because there are people that are willing to help me.”

Angel Barajas, whose final years in high school were marred by the pandemic, financial troubles, and the death of his beloved grandmother, describes a comeback fueled by his own determination.

Angel says he was stunned to receive a phone call (on his birthday!) informing him that he’d earned a scholarship. Just a year ago he was forced to miss classes because he was working two jobs, and figuring he would never graduate. Now he’s on his way to Truckee Meadows Community College, where he plans to get a degree in diesel mechanics. 

Helping Families in Need

All community foundations serve a county or region by gathering nonprofits that address a wide variety of community needs, as well as agencies and private-sector stakeholders, under one umbrella. For that reason, they are uniquely able to address big problems that require a big-picture approach.

The Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee, a program of TTCF, is doing just that with its Family Strengthening initiative. The Impact Quarterly contains data from a recently released survey about behavioral and mental health in North Lake Tahoe. The survey’s report reveals some troubling issues, including the fact that almost half of respondents reported struggling with their mental health. 

The report also contains a detailed Behavioral Health roadmap that lays out a hopeful path.

The Forest Futures Campaign

From a TTCF strategy paper: “The forests of Tahoe are not in good health and are in grave danger. They are choked with undergrowth, and impacted by drought and bark beetles. They are tinderboxes waiting to explode.”

Aerial view of a forest under blue skies
Tahoe’s forests: “tinderboxes waiting to explode.”
Photo courtesy TTCF

Forest Futures is a $30 million campaign designed to protect North Tahoe communities from wildfire by investing in forest management and restoration. By focusing on market-based solutions, it hopes to create jobs by training a workforce of firefighting and forestry professionals, and help build a “forest economy.”

By the end of Q2 2022, TTCF had raised $5.4 million to fund Forest Futures, and granted nearly $2 million to local organizations. There are projects underway to do the following: 

  • Provide grants to local fire districts to support defensible space and fuel reduction efforts
  • Encourage workforce development by providing field equipment and scholarships for students in Community College Forestry and Fire Programs
  • Build infrastructure by funding green waste wood fuel processing programs
  • Accelerate market solutions through a business strategy prize to help entrepreneurs scale small businesses

If this huge wildfire prevention, forest restoration and economic-development effort were the only thing the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation was up to, that alone would be big news. 

California’s Worst Housing Crisis

This is directly from the Impact Quarterly report’s section on Housing.

As many of you know, Mountain Housing Council (MHC) is a coalition of 29 community partners brought together by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation to accelerate solutions to a housing crisis that threatens the soul of our community.

 Families who have lived here for generations are being forced out. Workers in the hospitality and recreation industries are sleeping in their cars. Local businesses, unable to hire enough help, are cutting hours and losing money.

Thankfully, this community began to gather the resources necessary to confront this challenge years ago, and that allowed MHC to respond quickly. 

North Tahoe had a serious housing problem long before the pandemic and resulting business closures brought hordes of remote workers into what some have called “the Zoom capital of California.”

The housing crisis in Tahoe Truckee has made national headlines and may not be news to you, but I have learned that it's a much bigger problem than I knew. Again, TTCF is bringing both significant funding and innovation to bear. 

For example, they helped fund the startup Landing Locals, an Airbnb-style platform that connects local tenants with homeowners who have underutilized properties, and works with local governments to incentivize the homeowners and keep the rent prices in check.

California Local’s First Impact Quarterly Report

Because this is a blog channel that is primarily about California Local, I want to inform you that one reason this was a big deal for us is it is our first such report. One element of California Local‘s business model involves delivering storytelling tools for organizations we love. 

If you are part of an organization that is doing good work, and you could use our help delivering your story to your stakeholders and friends, as well as our network of community groups, public officials and engaged citizens, follow this link to find California Local’s storytelling products!

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