Claremont Community Foundation nonprofit closes operations

After 30 years, the Claremont Community Foundation (CCF) is shutting down.

One of Claremont’s premier nonprofit organizations ceased operations last week, capping off decades of giving back to the community through grants and fundraisers.

CCF Executive Director Aurelia Brogan said there were a “variety of reasons” why the decision was made to close. One was the proliferation of nonprofits that have flourished in Claremont over the years.

“There’s so many new nonprofits that have popped up since our foundation started 30 years ago,” Ms. Brogan said. “The whole nature of giving has changed—you can give to anyone at any time to anywhere indirectly.”

Cynthia Cervantes McGuire, co-chair of the CCF board, said the current climate was “no longer sustainable” for the foundation.

“It took a lot of discussion to come to this decision as a board, but we recognize that peoples’ ways of giving have changed over the years,” Ms. Cervantes McGuire said.

The decision was made in the summer to shutter at the end of the year, Ms. Brogan said. Reactions from people were sympathetic, she added.

“We were obviously concerned about that, but a lot of people were really understanding,” Ms. Brogan said. “So many people in Claremont are connected, it’s such as small community, and so many people have been connected to this foundation over the years, so they understood.”

CCF’s history is strongly intertwined with the recent history of Claremont. Founded in 1989, CCF was seen as a way to provide funding for community groups that needed it. The founding members are a who’s who of Claremont history, including Judy Wright, Mary Weis, Diann Ring and Alex Hughes.

The organization flourished under the leadership of Nickie Cleaves, who served as executive director for 17 years before her retirement. At the organization’s 20 year anniversary, as reported by the COURIER, by 2009 CCF had given out more than $500,000 in scholarships and funding to support more than 175 projects and initiatives.

Some of CCF’s more visible endeavors include public art projects like the John Fisher sculpture in Shelton Park.

Other notable community members involved with the foundation included Beverly Speak, Helaine Goldwater and Paul Steffen, who stayed on and became an emeritus board member and whose Wheeler-Steffen Sotheby’s real estate business was always a good benefactor, Ms. Cervantes McGuire said.

They were known for party parades—fun get-togethers that celebrated and raised funds for various nonprofits around the city. And CCF often partnered with other groups, like the Claremont Educational Foundation for its annual Mi Casa, Su Casa event.

But, ultimately, “It was just one of those things whose time has come,” Ms. Cervantes McGuire added.

Marketing was another concern, Ms. Brogan noted. When she began leading the foundation in 2017, her goal was to rebrand and push marketing forward, working to help the community be aware of and understand the foundation.

She acknowledged it was “very difficult” to achieve that goal.

“I think we achieved that goal of rebranding and trying to modernize a little bit,” Ms. Brogan said. “We changed up our board some, we did a lot to try to move it forward, but I don’t know that the marketing did everything we hoped it would do.”

Ms. Cervantes McGuire said that as time went on, CCF shifted focus to “kind of be the hub for other nonprofits,” helping them out along the way. That didn’t seem to take, she said.

Rather than compete with the nonprofits they were trying to help, Ms. Brogan said, “we just thought it was better to step back and gift the rest of our money.”

That money totals over $210,000, Ms. Cervantes McGuire said, which was doled out to various nonprofits throughout the city. Those nonprofits include Claremont Canopy, which helps to resettle recently arrived refugees; Claremont Heritage; Meals on Wheels; the Claremont Museum of Art; the Girl Scouts; and Project Sister Family Services, which aids victims of human trafficking.

The total number of those who applied for a piece of that pie was 43, which struck a chord with Ms. Cervantes McGuire—even now, after 30 years, there are still 43 nonprofits looking for help.

“We wish we could have given even more to more people,” Ms. Cervantes McGuire said.

After the week ends, Ms. Brogan will stay on for a little while longer and tie up any loose ends before shuttering the foundation permanently.

“I think we’re going out in a very positive way,” Ms. Cervantes McGuire said. “And it’s been a very good run, and we all worked hard to sustain the program and the foundation. But as we make our exit, we feel good about it.”

When asked about the CCF’s legacy, Ms. Brogan pointed to all the grants given to the community and various groups that helped children, the homeless and other different groups of people throughout Claremont.

 “I think you can’t look at something that hasn’t been touched by the group in some way,” she said.

—Matthew Bramlett




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