Note: Since this story was first printed in October, 2016 in Tolosa Press for my column Then & Now, the group was able to secure a partnership agreement with the City of Morro Bay Recreation Department to continue to work collaboratively for recreation scholarships for the entire Estero Bay.
When Sarah Ketchum was a Central Coast elementary schoolgirl, she longed to play softball. “I was told over and over ‘girls need to keep their heads in the books.’ What my mom really meant was that we just couldn’t afford for me to play softball,” said Ketchum, today the mother of two recreationally sports-active children, who also serves on the board of the Community Foundation of Estero Bay (CFEB). “As a kid we grew up in poverty. We had all our needs met, but luxuries like eating out, cable and playing sports were not in the budget.”
Ketchum’s childhood story matches many children growing up in Cayucos, Morro Bay, and Los Osos. Thus, back in 1993 in order to address an obvious community need and help more children participate in youth recreational activities, the Morro Bay Recreation Department established the nonprofit Morro Bay Community Foundation, a public/private partnership dedicated to raising funds to award recreational scholarships. For years an annual spaghetti feed and auction in Morro Bay benefited hundreds of children throughout the Estero Bay communities who wished they too could play basketball, become a Junior Life Guard, attend Kids Camp or join a cadre of programs available to children who couldn’t afford the fees charged to operate the programs.
In January, 2016, a few changes have officially occurred, but the mission to provide youth program scholarships continues to be the foundation’s core mission. CFEB is now fully incorporated as a private nonprofit board of directors led by President Ron Reisner. “Janice Fong Wolf of the SLO County Community Foundation helped guide our board to reorganize our operations,” said Homer Alexander, Treasurer. “We have always served youth in Cayucos, Morro Bay and Los Osos. Our name change reflects who we serve as we reach out to help youth in organized programs already serving Estero Bay and develop financial funding support beyond Morro Bay.”
Estero Bay Youth recreation program leaders have been alerted a grant application is available on the website for children throughout the Estero Bay area that qualify for the public school free-lunch program. The grant process is already working. For example, South Bay Soccer led by Stuart Fryer received a grant; the Bay Area Football and Cheer grant will allow boys and girls more involvement in youth sports; and Central Coast Little League, gymnastics and other programs offered by Morro Bay Recreation Services all have expanded scholarship opportunities.
Morro Bay Recreation Services Supervisor Karen Sweeny wrote in an October 5 Letter to the Editor, “Because of CFEB’s contribution of $5,965.00, 38 children attended Kids Camp last summer, 48 participated in Estero Bay Youth Soccer and five play flag football.”
Alexander also noted, “Last spring we helped a boy from Los Osos attend a soccer camp hosted by one of the top English professional teams. He wrote us a very nice thank you.”
Saturday October 29, 2016 the group will presented their 8th Annual Morro Bay Sings, a major funding source for youth scholarships. Dave Peter chairs the event as a new board member interested in supporting the program – one his mother Marlene Peter has been actively supporting as a board chairman and member since its formation. “Morro Bay Sings was the idea of one of my employees, Mitch Barnett. He continues to be the music director,” said Peter, co-owner in the Galley Seafood Grill & Bar. “Each year we’ve selected the top fifteen or sixteen hits from a well known performer and area bands perform their renditions. This year we’ll feature Billy Joel. In the past it has been Joni Mitchell, Elvis, Paul Simon, Elton John, a country medley, and MoTown.
Ketchum said, “The foundation has covered over $42,000 in enrollment fees for approximately 350 children. Sports can teach children team work, tenacity and work ethic. Morro Bay Sings is a fun night out enjoying the tunes of Billy Joel for a good cause.” Call Mitch for ticket at 805-234-2980 or and for more CFEB information check www.communityfoundationesterobay.org or Facebook.