Nonprofits work to replace typical spring fundraising

by Steven Felschundneff |

Claremonters are generous people. Whether it’s volunteering time or writing a check for a worthy cause, we are pretty good at working together to make this town a better place.

So, as we stay at home for the greater good, don’t forget that our local charities could use a boost.

Claremont Educational Foundation’s tenth annual Prius Raffle ticket sales end on April 26 but the organization is well behind last year in proceeds. Under normal circumstances, CEF would sell tickets through school booster groups and public events such as Earth Day and the Pie Festival. But, of course, those celebrations have been cancelled, and all public schools are closed, so like many other organizations CEF is relying on ticket sales online.

“Due to the current COVID-19 health crisis, ticket sales have been limited to in-person transactions directly from CEF,” the organization posted on its website.

“Spring is our the powerhouse time for fundraising,” according to Brianna Miller, development manager at CEF.

The group raises 45 percent of the money it grants to schools during this time of year—the Prius raffle, the Spring Event, (formerly known as Mi Casa Es Su Casa then Casa de Amigos), a direct mail solicitation and the Summer SLICE program—all four of which have been impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.

Individual donors make up the largest portion of CEF’s budget, so it remains unclear how that will be affected. Last year the group gave just under $175,000 to education in Claremont, including community partnership and teacher innovation grants, as well as block grants for schools.

“We don’t know what the outcome will be at a time when the schools are going to need our support the most with their own budget cuts,” Karen McMillen, president of CEF’s board said. “The funding that CEF grants is going to be needed more than ever, we will have to rethink how we approach fundraising.”

CEF got a huge boost recently when local real estate broker Laura Dandoy purchased $2,500 toward the Prius raffle and donated the tickets back to the organization to be distributed. So now if someone buys a six-pack of tickets, CEF will bump it up to seven tickets.

The Spring Event, which Ms. Miller describes as a low key gala, was going to honor longtime theater teacher Krista Elhai but has been postponed until summer and will possibly have to be a virtual event.

The Prius raffle itself will not take place until August because Claremont Toyota, which provides the car, is closed. However, ticket sales will cease at 2 p.m on April 26, which was the original date for the drawing. Tickets are $20 each or $100 for six (now seven), and can be purchased by email at or through the CEF website

Spring is a big time for fundraising at Claremont Heritage with its gala at Padua Hills Theatre and revenue from renting out the Garner House for events such as weddings. Both of those revenue streams have now vanished.

“We are kind of scrambling,” Claremont Heritage’s executive director David Shearer said. “We have applied for the SBA (Small Business Administration) paycheck protection to get some funds coming in, and cut back on staff.”

Heritage got the word even before the governor’s stay-at-home order went into effect that the roughly $10,000 they receive from the city of Claremont may not be coming in this year.

“We’re making the spring gala a virtual event with Zoom as the platform and streaming live on YouTube as well,” he said. “There are a lot of fun things we can do.”

Without the expense of caterers and renting the Padua Hills Theatre, Heritage’s gala will have significantly lower overhead. The virtual event will still have silent auctions similar to those offered at the physical gala, which could include partnerships with local restaurants for gourmet food deliveries.

Mr. Shearer is also digging into Heritage’s significant archive for interesting historical treasures to share online. The theme for 2020 is “Our Town,” which includes biographies of Claremont women and a then-and-now series on Claremont architecture. A recent installment covered the Sugar Bowl, which was a popular soda fountain in the ’50s and ’60s at the corner of Bonita and Yale avenues. That storefront has gone through many changes over the years and is now home to Pepo Melo, which offers fresh cut fruit.

“This is kind of good because it forces us to come up with other ways to reach out to our constituency,” Mr. Shearer said. “We sent out a clip from our YouTube channel about some of the films and TV shows shot in Claremont and got a pretty substantial response. We will be adding more and are trying get more YouTube subscribers.”

To find out more about the virtual gala or to support Claremont Heritage directly, visit

Shoes That Fit operates a bit differently than other local charities because they deal with a physical object, namely the donated shoes. Since the inception of the “stay-at-home” order, they are working remotely and have temporarily shuttered their two physical locations.

Requests for shoes have dwindled significantly since schools closed last month. However, they continue to get requests, which means a staff member must open the Claremont warehouse, collect the shoes and leave the package in a safe place to be picked up by the requesting group.

“We are expecting an incredibly demanding fall,” said CEO and executive director Amy Fass. “We just know the need has not gone away, but is building up.”

Shoes that Fit has 437 chapters across the United States that provide shoes to more than 127,000 children annually. Southern California remains the largest region and the local chapter typically gives 500 to 800 shoes and socks to children in Claremont.

Nordstrom’s Back To School campaign through Shoes That Fit has set a national goal of donating 25,000 pairs of Nike shoes. People can buy giving tags for $10 at Nordstrom, every penny of which goes toward providing a new pair of shoes to a child in the community where the tag was sold. Shoes that Fit will deliver the shoes to the school.

The organization’s biggest fundraising event, Magic of Shoes, is still on for November 15 at Padua Hills Theatre. Right now everyone involved is on “pins and needles” just waiting to see if large gatherings will be permitted in late 2020.

“We’re still planning on it, but are watching the situation closely and will decide this summer,” Ms. Fass said. “We are not seeing a big drop in individual donors, but we are concerned about business donors, because they are hurting right now.”

One of Claremont’s biggest fundraising events of the year, The Rotary Club of Claremont’s Taste of Claremont, has been rescheduled to October 3.

“We’re hoping by that time people will feel more comfortable at a public event,” said Cameron Troxell, club president. “For better of worse its our biggest fundraiser. So all of our eggs are in one basket.”

So far sponsors have indicated that they will support the rescheduled event and the club is reaching out to vendors to see if they are still willing to participate.

Rotary encourages its members to support the event’s vendors, many of which are local restaurants, by continuing to shop at their locations throughout the shutdown.

“We know they [vendors] are hurting and we hope that they will be in a position to participate in the event,” Mr. Troxell said.

Last year Taste of Claremont raised $55,000, which goes into the club’s foundation account for local and international causes.

Locally, The Rotary Club of Claremont is the largest contributor to the Best Bet teacher grants and funds high school scholarships. They recently donated $1,500 to Little League for defibrillators, and they also support foster youth at Cal Poly Pomona.

International causes include water projects in Africa and the exhaustive effort by Rotary to eradicate polio worldwide.

The list of charities in Claremont is long and includes a wide range of good causes that could not be covered in just one story. So The COURIER has provided links to other charities in the online version of this story.

Be Perfect Foundation

Crossroads Inc.


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