Storyteller Children’s Center (Literally) Delivers On Their 7th Annual Lunch With Love Event
Raising funds on behalf of the therapeutic school for homeless toddlers and preschoolers, Storyteller staff, board and volunteers delivered 140 lunches (serving 560 people) to the doorsteps of would-be event guests.
Storyteller Children’s Center held its 7th annual Lunchbox Luncheon this week. As a result of pandemic circumstances, this is the second time the non-profit pivoted from an in-person event to deliver lunch to patrons and donors over a four day period.
Participants received a delicious lunch by Duo and Mission Rose Pasta, which included a choice between homemade vegan soup, chicken noodle soups or fresh pasta. All lunches served a family of four and included freshly baked bread and a bottle of Grenache from Babcock winery.
“Storyteller’s Lunch with Love has been a great success due to incredible community involvement,” noted Storyteller Development Director, Adrienne DeGuevara.”With the support of volunteers, board members and sponsors, we’ve been able to engage long-standing donors and engage new ones. “
As a special bonus, each lunch purchase included an automatic raffle entry to win an original piece of artwork from Pedro De La Cruz, who created the celebrated Montecito Strong bear and whose artwork famously drew a $100,000 auction bid at the Storyteller Children’s Center Gala in 2018.
“While we’re eager to gather again, we are happy to partake in this effort for a second year,” noted Storyteller board member Erinn Lynch. “It offers a much-needed touchpoint with the people who support our Storyteller children and families. These ‘soul food’ lunches are delivered with gratitude and an acknowledged bond as we work together to take care of our community, despite pandemic circumstances.”
About Storyteller: Founded in 1988, Storyteller is a full-time, therapeutic school program that supports children ages 18 months to 5 years in achieving kindergarten readiness. In addition to the approximate 80 students served per year, Storyteller also provides assistance to the entire family unit, with an emphasis on breaking the cycle of poverty for the working poor while preparing children to successfully enter kindergarten.
New Leadership Team Implements Bold and Enduring Vision for Storyteller Children’s Center… Through the Pandemic and Beyond
New Executive Director, Development Director, and ECE Program Manager are bolstering support, partnerships, and programs for vulnerable toddlers and preschoolers.
In the midst of the COVID-19-related protocols and lockdowns, Storyteller Children’s Center hasn’t stopped their momentum in serving the social, emotional, and scholastic needs of Santa Barbara’s homeless preschoolers. In the six months since Susan Cass took over in the role of Executive Director, the organization has brought on Adrienne De Guevara as Development Director and Maria Cervantes as ECE Program Manager. They have also remained open for the large majority of the year and achieved accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
“As one would expect, it has been particularly challenging for this leadership team to step into our roles during the pandemic,” noted Cass. “The economic hardships and needs of our families and students are greater than ever, so we need to remain focused on the opportunities rather than the obstacles. While new health and safety protocols have impacted our program delivery and revenue from fundraising events has steeply declined, we are committed to finding creative and strategic ways to continue to support our children, families, and staff during this time.”
Adrienne De Guevara, previously with the Lobero Theatre Foundation, brings her combined experience in fundraising, sales, and event organizing to support Storyteller Children’s operation and program costs. As a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, she serves on the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access committee while also staying informed on the latest trends in philanthropy both locally and nationally. This year she also served on the selection committee for the 2020 National Philanthropy Day Honorees.
For De Guevara, finding revenue has been all about reaching out and reactivating relationships. She has been identifying and applying for grants, upgrading the website to support online contributions, while managing the second virtual event to replace Storyteller’s annual lunchbox luncheon, “Lunch with Love,” which includes home-delivered meals to donors for a touch-base and connection.
“This has been a challenging year for everyone,” said De Guevara. “It’s understandable that we are not necessarily top of mind with donors and funders, because we are all distracted and a bit overwhelmed. My approach is really applying the old fashion method of picking up the phone and saying ‘Hi, how are you?’ It’s incredible to me how responsive this community has been to our expressed needs.”
Maria Cervantes comes to Storyteller with 23 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Maria believes that every child deserves a high-quality early learning program and that ECE educators should be recognized for their research-based approach to development. A graduate of National University in San Diego, Maria holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and will enter into a master’s degree program later this year. In 2016 Maria was awarded Preschool Teacher of the Year by Los Angeles Universal Preschool and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Maria will be overseeing programs at both Storyteller locations.
Cervantes’ primary focus is on supporting the foundation of the Storyteller’s therapeutic-based education: the teachers and staff.
“All teachers are carrying a great deal of added responsibilities and workload this year, and that’s threefold for Storyteller’s educators,” said Cervantes. “Not only do they have the curriculum and COVID protocols to navigate, but they are also trained to provide emotional support to students who have or are experiencing a great deal of trauma. Our students benefit when our teachers are supported with resources, technology, training, compensation, and… empathy.”
Operating out of two campuses on State Street and De La Vina Street, Storyteller Children’s Center supports approximately 80 homeless and at-risk children and families per year. Beyond their year-round educational program, they provide behavioral health services, two nutritious meals and one snack per day, medical screenings and home visits. Parents and guardians must be working or enrolled in a vocational program for students to qualify. The primary objectives for Storyteller are to foster social and emotional resiliency and kindergarten readiness, the most critical markers in the scholastic success of a child.