The Friendship Club recently received a $6,000 grant from the Charter Oak Foundation, a private foundation headquartered in Palo Alto.
The Friendship Club, which seeks to engage, educate and empower Nevada County girls from challenging backgrounds throughout their middle and high school years, has received three grants from the Charter Oak Foundation. Previous grants supported The Friendship Club’s academic year and mentoring programs.
The most recent grant will partially fund the organization’s College Knowledge and Career Program, designed to ensure that girls in The Friendship Club have the opportunities, resources and support to pursue education beyond high school. The program also focuses on job skills such as resume writing, interviews and personal grooming.
Local residents Ed and Barbara Thomas played a significant role in introducing The Friendship Club to the Charter Oak Foundation. Former residents of Palo Alto, the couple moved to Nevada County in 2005. Even though they were nominally retired, neither Barbara nor Ed stepped back from involvement in the community that had marked their years in the South Bay.
Ed joined the Grass Valley volunteer police force and Barbara volunteered for The Friendship Club, first as a mentor and Friendship Angel, subsequently joining the board and serving as president for two years.
However, the couple didn’t forget their Palo Alto friends when they made their move to Nevada County. When Ed participated in The Friendship 100 as a mini race-car driver, he solicited donations for the nonprofit, and he was surprised at how many of his Bay Area neighbors and friends responded to his call for help. One of those friends was Betsy Lane, the director of Charter Oak Foundation.
Lane is the granddaughter of Mary Gould, founder and president of Charter Oak Hospital, located on 10 rural acres outside of Los Angeles, which served adolescent girls from high-risk populations, providing them with enhanced life skills and realistic, positive options for turning their lives around.
“When the hospital closed in the late 1970s, shortly after my grandmother passed away, the board of directors sold the facility and used the money to launch Charter Oak Foundation,” Lane recently told The Friendship Club, “Our goal has always been to continue to serve the same population — girls in high risk situations — through small grants. The more I learned (about The Friendship Club) the more I came to believe that there might be real possibilities for us to help out,” she added.
The obstacles that The Friendship Club program participants must overcome to realize their dream to be the first in their family to attend college can seem overwhelming. Club staff devised a program to ensure these girls get weekly help with academics during after-school sessions at the club and are guided through the application, scholarship and financial aid process.
Participants also have a chance to visit colleges and vocational schools in Northern California.
“The residents of Nevada County have been amazing in their support of The Friendship Club over the last 18 years,” said Executive Director Jennifer Singer. “We are proud that our program attracted the attention of the Charter Oak Foundation, and for that, we have the Thomases to thank. People may assume that their connections with neighbors and friends don’t extend very far,” she added. “But in reality, those community connections literally can make a world of difference for those in need.”