Unique assets of the Valley

 Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Hugh Ralston


This time of year has many pleasures in driving through this rich and fertile valley, both in seeing the amazing productivity of fields and orchards, and enjoying the Spring bounty. On my way to Hanford, I noted a stunning hedge of red roses – 1.4 miles long, lined a field along Highway 43, with an occasional burst of pink flowers - a testament to someone’s vision of an effective and beautiful boundary marker.

It was a chance to visit one of the Valley’s unique assets, now in its final months of exhibition and public viewing: the Clark Collection just south of Hanford.

Literally surrounded by orchards and adjacent to restful gardens and ponds surrounding the Clark’s private residence, this gallery and space reflects a lifetime of passion for the Clarks, building a collection of extraordinary scope and beauty that will find its home at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

In a building filled with examples of a collection that spans hundreds of years of Japanese art and craft – paintings on silk, drawings, glazed pottery and bamboo sculptures, this testament to a passion is housed in a space designed to highlight and enhance the experience of viewing this collection.

It is on view until the summer months, when the facility will transition to a new purpose, as of yet undeclared.

And the Clark’s prize winning collection of bonsai will soon be unveiled in Fresno’s own Shinzen Garden, now one of three anchor collections in California, joining the Huntington in San Marino and Oakland. Expanding the Shinzen’s capacity to engage in its unique mission here in Fresno is fueled not only by this extraordinary opportunity to expand its collection, but also its efforts to deepen the unique charms of its wonderful garden here in Fresno, and explore ways to expand its present and future support.

A visit to Hanford’s popular and tasty Superior Dairy for some local ice cream, heaped in scoops of great abundance, and a walk around a downtown that has preserved its core architectural footprint, topped the afternoon. Hanford is another community in our valley anchored by its traditions, its unique contributions to civic life and its contributions to our economic bounty.

At the Regional Foundation, we understand the power of a legacy, and the passions that build businesses, collections, and communities. We are privileged to work with donors who want to translate those passions into ongoing support for local organizations or programs, who want to sustain the memory of a loved one or the contributions of those who mattered, and who see a fund here as an expression of their gratitude, belief in our future and the power of local philanthropy to make a difference.

Whether in the form of a scholarship that invests over generations, or a program that can be sustained by annual operating support, or the work of an institution that has transformed someone’s life, investing in community is an opportunity to help shape the future of this region.

Community is often built in the small ways that we engage with other people, sharing food and drink, ideas and passions and the desire to make sure this place is not only a better one, but a better one for our children.

Whether it is preserving a unique bonsai collection for the enjoyment of thousands, or some other project that matters to you, let us find a way to help strengthen community across our region. Come join us in this good work.

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston

President and CEO

Proud to serve together

 Monday, April 20, 2015
Hugh Ralston


The Fresno Regional Foundation is proud to participate with the Serve Fresno 2.0 initiative, launched this week to encourage and record 2 million hours of volunteer service to help our region over the next twelve months. Volunteer service remains the backbone of the nonprofit region. We know that hundreds of agencies would fall short of delivering their critical work, keeping doors open, clients served and programs doing tremendous service without the contributions of thousands of volunteers.

We know this is an economic contribution to our economy, which has been valued at $23.07/hour by Independent Sector. The 2 million hours is a $46 million contribution to our local agencies, funds that don’t have to be raised but upon which vital services are delivered. From the board level to the volunteer that helps with program or welcomes clients and visitors, the work of our local nonprofits is often calibrated with a warm smile and helpful hands of those most dedicated and, in many cases, most generous to the cause.

At the celebration of the annual Volunteer of the Year awards, hosted by HandsOn this past week, the wide variety of volunteers was on full display. From the youth volunteer focused on teenage drinking to the community volunteer helping at a local elementary school for a robotics competition, or from the student working at the community food bank to the dedicated volunteer who gives seniors rides to appointments and knits quilts, the 2015 cohort represents the best in our community. Whether it is working through science education at a local elementary school or businesses supporting their employees volunteering, the many partners to our nonprofit sector were well represented, and their generous contribution to our community was well recognized.

And the lifetime award was given to a couple who have dedicated countless hours to share their experiences in the World War 2 internment camps, a dedicated effort to share their view that racism, prejudice and discrimination in that episode not be allowed to occur again. It was a telling reminder that witnessing is sometimes a critical form of community leadership

As a community foundation, we believe that the work of building and strengthening community is one of the fundamental building blocks of raising charitable capital, and of providing ways for a wide array of donors to work together in common cause. From the donor advised fund to carry forth a family’s charitable passions and sustain a legacy over generations, to the agency funds supporting a local organization’s mission, a field of interest fund to gather like-minded donors to support a common cause or a scholarship fund to invest in the next generation, we have the great privilege of working with donors large and small to build community capital to sustain our San Joaquin Valley and explore new ways to make it thrive.

At the foundation, we also believe that investing in the skills and leadership of local volunteers is an opportunity that merits more attention. As we begin plans to move to our new offices this summer, which will include a Center for Community, this additional space will give us more room to partner with others to deliver workshops, trainings and convenings to help strengthen the volunteer leadership of our region’s nonprofits, not only here in Fresno but across the six counties we serve.

As the Serve Fresno 2.0 focuses on a developing a greener and cleaner Fresno, a better educated Fresno and a better fed Fresno, we also believe that a better connected Fresno holds both promise and opportunity for our local agencies, our volunteers and the many who rely on these agencies – sometimes for the basics of food, shelter and healthcare, and sometimes for job training, skill building and engaging our community more effectively.

Working together leverages not only the standard time, talent and treasure, but also creates the experience of community, especially across the many boundaries that exist in our community. We believe that two million hours of time will help connect more of us across those boundaries, and build the skills, resilience and talent that will move our community forward. You can volunteer and join these efforts at 

Time to get to work!

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston

President and CEO

Join us for Arts in the Market

 Monday, April 13, 2015
Rico Guerrero Dear Friends of the Foundation,

The Fresno Regional Foundation (FRF) is hosting Arts in the Market, a free arts fair open to the community with musical performances, community mural projects, and interactive art.

Arts in the Market embraces and advances the diverse ways we experience the arts. FRF will host a series of arts presentations throughout 2015 to promote engagement in the Arts in nontraditional places to increase the accessibility of the arts to everyone in the Central Valley. These presentations are made possible thanks to a partnership with the James Irvine Foundation.

Call or email me to learn how you can invest and support our local Arts community in the San Joaquin Valley.

Best regards,

Rico Guerrero
Donor Relations Coordinator 

(559) 226-5600 ext. 110 
[email protected]

Transforming lives

 Monday, April 06, 2015
Hugh Ralston


Over the past week, I have been privileged to see once again the power of scholarships transforming a person’s future.

They remain one of the most compelling examples of one generation staking the next, and are deeply embedded in our mission.

At the annual Renaissance Feast for Scholars presented by the State Center Community College Foundation, the historic library at Fresno City College was festooned with decorations, costumes and the good will of a community celebrating the importance of its good work. The purpose of the evening – to raise funds to support student scholarships – was brought home powerfully in two presentations: one by the foundation’s investment manager, himself a FCC graduate, and one by a current student, who shared his journey from a painful youth to that of being an accomplished student, supported by a scholarship.

The scholarship was not only a financial help but also an important validation that his work, and his journey, was worthy of support. That is a powerful vote of confidence.

In both cases, the flexibility of a community college to help students not quite sure of their pathway was highlighted, an important option for those still figuring out a pathway to success, to skill building or to their own place in the world. The student spoke movingly of a youth filled with poor choices, consequences with severe outcomes and a life seemingly on the wrong course.

And yet the redemptive power of education allowed him to focus on developing skills he wanted, with faith from a supportive spouse, drove his dedication to getting the training and opened the door to a ‘second chance’, to a life that now had actual promise. He got a well-deserved standing ovation, both for his courage and perseverance, and for faith in his now more prosperous future.

The investment manager spoke movingly of the values and talents one learns as we find our way, sometimes taking longer than others focused on a pathway that seems to them to be so clear. He made it, establishing a successful business in the Bay Area and yet is mindful of the values that he found reinforced at the college, values imbedded all across the San Joaquin Valley. In his business, he recognized the importance of those values. Helping those wrestling with choices, with the balancing act of working and getting an education, is both an opportunity and a privilege, one that he encouraged those attending to support.

And midweek, I was also able to attend a new venture launched here to expand the number of pharmacists trained here in the Valley, and who will have the chance to build their practice and lives in communities across a region traditionally underserved. The first class at California Health Sciences University’s College of Pharmacy is nearing completion of its academic year, thanks to a pioneering vision for the University and generous donors who have established a scholarship fund that has, through its distributions, provided life changing opportunity to these talented students.

Of the 72 students in this inaugural class, 40 are attending with scholarships to help them get the skills they need; many also carry student debt. Nearly half of the students enrolled are from our own valley. They understand the investments needed to build their skills, and they – and their families – are committed to staying the course. One third of these students are the first in their families to go to college, continuing a journey that has helped shape the American community, often across multiple generations.

Several students spoke to the donors gathered, sharing their personal journeys that brought them here - some from far-away lands, the need to harness tools for their future work, and of the strength needed to pursue their dreams here in Fresno. Their contributions will not only provide important primary care for our communities but will also help shape their lives, their families and the community where they will live. One mentioned the hope that she too could seed the next generation with scholarship support that helped her complete her studies.

The Fresno Regional Foundation is committed to strengthening community in the six county region it serves, and is proud to partner with donors to make investments in local nonprofits, leaders and students. Nothing demonstrates that commitment more than investing in the next generation who has the skills, talent, ambition and discipline to improve their lives. Donors understand these investments will pay dividends, not only for the student but for the lifetime of work, contributions and dedication that these new doors will open.

Students and parents understand that, as we move into a more tightly engaged global economy, getting skills required to succeed are important and worth the time. I was reminded of the impact of this work when a student wrote to me: “you have no idea the importance to me and my family to be able to say the following six words: I get to go to college. I get to do something that no one else in my family has done before. And thanks to the generosity [of the donor], I will have a chance to earn a living with my brain as opposed to my back”.

College is not the only path to a successful life and there are expanding opportunities to invest in job skills, certificate programs and apprenticeships. All are important pathways to success. 

But for those who invest in the discipline, skills and ambitions of our youth, it will have a payoff that will transform our communities for decades to come.

Come join us in this good work.

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston

President and CEO

Giving through the Foundation

Fresno Regional Foundation helps donors achieve their charitable goals, and we serve as a bridge connecting philanthropy to community-based organizations that provide programs and services throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

Learn more about giving through the foundation.

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