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The Wonderful Community Grant Initiative is offering a collective $1 million to nonprofits with projects that serve rural communities. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Yates.

published on August 30, 2021 - 12:54 PM
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The Wonderful Company has invested in the Central Valley for the past six years through its Community Grants Initiative, giving $4 million to nonprofits and schools.

Applications opened Aug. 1 and will close Aug. 31. Recipients will be notified Oct. 15.

Kaitlyn Yates, director of philanthropy, FIJI Water Foundation, said the greatest candidates are ones that are dedicated to serving the rural communities in the Central Valley.

The Wonderful Community Grant Initiative was started by Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who own The Wonderful Company based in Los Angeles. The Resnicks have historically invested in the Central Valley, and with the grant program, the company has invested in local schools, nonprofits and community organizations.

“The purpose of it is really about giving back to the communities where our employees live and work, and supporting the infrastructure that they go home to every single day and making sure that that infrastructure of schools, nonprofits, community organizations can thrive through our support,” Yates said.

In the past six years the program has been operating, it’s given a total of $4 million. This year alone, it plans to give $1 million. The $1 million grant amount started in the middle of the pandemic. The company is able to continue giving this amount for the coming year’s recipients.

“Due to Covid last year, we wanted to show up for community and for the communities where our employees live,” she said.

Area nonprofits, local governments, schools and faith-based organizations can apply for grants in the categories of health and wellness, family support, COVID-19 recovery efforts and community beautification for amounts between $1,000 and $100,000 or until the funds are exhausted. Funds are available for program development and expansion, innovation, technology and equipment.

Over the years, the program has expanded and supported more organizations to make an impact in their communities. Yates said the company doesn’t dictate what the projects are, but is a listening ear and collaborator with the nonprofits.

It’s one pot of money, Yates said, to be used on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of project and resources needed.

She said past projects have funded shade structures for parks with little to no trees. Some of the biggest projects have been health, sports and art programs.

The premise of the grant is to support families and their wellbeing, Yates said.

The City of Sanger received help in their parks and recreation division.

Joaquin Zamora, recreation supervisor for the City of Sanger, spoke of the workout stations surrounding John F. Kennedy Park and Jenni Park as a result of the grants.

The grants also helped the community pool offer swim lessons at a steep discount, $5 per month, to encourage fun and safety. Zamora felt that the pool’s use could be maximized as it’s an oasis for many people in the community. The city was awarded twice for the grants in 2015 and 2017. Part of the money also helped bolster the city’s workforce when it offered courses to become a lifeguard, which further benefitted the community pool.

The Resnicks have been gracious toward our area, Zamora said.

Diane Carbray, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Club in Fresno County, said the club has received the grant yearly since 2017 for learning and wellness programs. While Sanger and Del Rey locations have previously received the grant, this past year the grant was for the Mendota location to become a learning hub.

Boys & Girls Club emphasizes nutrition and exercise and educates youth on different habits to avoid, which helps to reduce diabetes and obesity rates.

These grants have helped rural communities get noticed because they often feel forgotten, especially when it comes to large grants, she said.

“Families in these areas — Del Rey and Sanger and now Mendota — are all small, rural yet important cities where the kids need more services and more resources than they would get in a city the size of Fresno,” said Carbray.

“Frankly, our Boys & Girls Club there was positioned to become a learning hub,” Carbray added.

Because of Covid-19, this space in Mendota became a prime location to socially distance children because of its layout.

“We have been working specifically with the Wonderful Company in Sanger and Del Rey and it’s really about nutrition education,” Carbray said.

Many parents were thankful, she said, especially because these children continued to receive hands-on education.

“Our kids were getting one-on-one attention instead of sitting in front of a screen with 10 other kids,” Carbray said. “It basically became that we were essential as far as providing a safe place for kids.”

Carbray said the Wonderful Company excels at investing in the health of youth in the Central Valley, and health is a determinant of future success.

“They basically try to create opportunities for youth to better themselves and that’s what we do that the Boys and Girls Club,” said Carbray.

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