The Small Foundation that Makes a Big Difference in Young Lives

Guest post by PVF intern Philip von Furstenberg

I was a school social worker at Cesar Chavez Elementary in San Francisco when I first heard of PVF in 2008 from one of my supervisors. We were told at a staff meeting that we could get a Teacher Resource Grant of $500 from PVF in less than 48 hours.

At the time, I had been toying with the idea of developing an afterschool skateboard program where grades and behavior determined eligibility. There were a number of students acting out and not turning in their homework, so the elementary advisor and I decided we would start a program that students would be excited to take part in. I applied for a PVF grant to fund the program. When a check for $500 came in the mail, I immediately ordered helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, and new trucks and wheels. The skateboards were donated by several skate shops nearby. My colleague and I conspicuously assembled the boards during the next lunch recess and told the kids the requirement to join: all homework turned in on time and no behavior problems. Miraculously, our program was an instant hit with some of the children who had the biggest behavior problems. Those with low self-esteem also blossomed academically once they had demonstrated mastery of an activity that drew the admiration of other students. To this day, the program is still running thanks to the startup funding PVF gave us.

I requested to intern at PVF to learn more about the world of philanthropy, and what I observed in just two days of interning is that PVF gets the money straight into the hands of some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised people in the Bay Area.

Through the Social Worker Resource Grant program, every dollar PVF gives out goes directly toward a need which either the foster parent or the county system is unable to meet. In one case, two siblings were in a situation where they would be removed by the state and put in separate homes without family members if their aunt and uncle were unable to build a wall to give the siblings separate bedrooms. The $250 PVF provided went directly to the aunt and uncle so they could create these bedrooms.

Through the Excursion Grant Program, $1,000 is given to teachers to provide their students with the opportunity to go on a field trip. One school in east Oakland wanted to take a group of children to Big Sur to explore the tide pools. The children had spent the semester completing a project on the inhabitants of the pools, and the teacher was awarded a grant for a bus to let the children spend the day exploring tide pools. The teacher stated that many of the students were visiting the beach for the first time and that it would have taken them over two and a half hours by public transportation to get there.

Since I am new to the world of foundations, I can only speak to what I have seen first-hand. With PVF, the money goes straight to where it is most needed. This lean five-person team enables just-in-time transformative interventions in the lives of young people and their caretakers which, some would say, are all of us.

Recent Posts