Helen and Ronald Dunin Memorial Endowment Fund
Changing lives in San Luis Obispo County
Ron Dunin, former three-term mayor of San Luis Obispo, was best known for his tireless service to civic causes. He and his wife, Helen, were Polish immigrants who considered themselves fortunate beneficiaries of help and support that they needed during critical times in their lives. Their philanthropic response to their good fortune was to establish a legacy through the Helen and Ronald Dunin Memorial Endowment Fund with The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County. Their Fund assists members of our community who are trying to help themselves, and need a hand up to get started.
The Dunins trusted The Community Foundation’s judgment in identifying the needs in our community, and offered very broad parameters for their fund that allow maximum flexibility in responding to diverse urgent and critical issues in our community. So far, two initiatives have been established to honor Ron and Helen’s intentions.
Fast Forward >> Home
The Community Foundation recognized the escalating homeless crisis during the early tumultuous times of the recession as local San Luis Obispo families living on the financial edge did not know where to turn to find a place they could call home. To help focus relief efforts, The Community Foundation formed partnerships with agencies that were already equipped to deal with this very complex issue, and used support from the Helen and Ronald Dunin Memorial Endowment Fund to help establish a program called Fast Forward >> Home.
The program provided homeless families in our community who are trying to help themselves the opportunity to access services that provide them with tools to attain self sufficiency.
Please see Fast Forward >> Home for more information about how the Helen and Ronald Dunin Memorial Endowment Fund continues to touch lives in our community.
Dunin Opportunity Fund
The Dunin Opportunity Fund was established by The Community Foundation as another initiative to honor the Dunins’ intentions. The goal of the Opportunity Fund is to allow nonprofit organizations to fill gaps in service for their clients as part of a comprehensive approach toward achieving self sufficiency.
The life-changing effect of the grants made from the Dunin Opportunity Fund to the following agencies is underscored by the representative life stories from a few at-risk members of our community who were ultimately touched by the Dunins' generosity.
COMMUNITY ACTION PARTNERSHIP OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY (CAPSLO)
CAPSLO’s Teen Academic Parenting Program (TAPP) promotes the well being of pregnant and parenting teens and their children in our community. Funds granted to CAPSLO’s TAPP program targeted promising young people who could achieve self sufficiency by providing transportation and educational support.
Suzie became a teen mom at age 15. By the time she was 19, she was parenting three young children ranging in age from one to four years old. Faced with the challenges of parenting and providing a stable home and income for the family, Suzie could not return to school to obtain her high school diploma. She began work toward a diploma through the Adult Education Program, but could not meet the goal in a timely manner. Suzie then decided to focus on obtaining a GED, but due to her limited income, she could not afford to pay the costs for the study guide or test. Unfortunately, this is a common story in our community. Suzie’s determination to create a better life for her family made her a good candidate for support.
As a result, funds provided to the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo’s Teen Academic Parenting Program from the Dunin Opportunity Fund covered Suzie’s GED costs. Three weeks later, she passed the test and expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to fulfill her goal. A new sense of self-esteem and self-worth helped to give her more confidence about her family’s future. She obtained a steady job working in a photo lab, a reliable car, and enrolled her oldest child in the Head Start Program. She is a better role model, and can now provide a more stable life for her family. Suzie is grateful for the financial help she received and hopes that other teens in similar situations will be fortunate enough to have the same opportunity.
George dropped out of high school at 17 to provide for his new baby boy and wife. Education is very important to him, but his main priority is to provide for his family. George’s search for permanent employment was unsuccessful. Temporary work for little pay barely made ends meet, and he knew how important obtaining a diploma/GED would be in helping him find a permanent job. Since George could not afford to pay for the GED test, proceeds from the Dunin Opportunity Fund were made available to him pay the costs. George immediately expressed a sigh of relief and a sense of hope for a better future. He passed the GED test, and shortly after, secured a full-time position with a satellite company. George is proud to consider himself to be a responsible adult who provides for his family. He is thankful for the financial help he received and hopes to pay it forward in the future.
WOMEN'S SHELTER PROGRAM OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY (WSP)
The WSP’s goal is to stop the cycle of child abuse and domestic violence by providing crisis intervention, emergency shelter, advocacy, treatment, prevention and education.
Natasha is a 30-year old victim of domestic violence of Eastern European descent. She immigrated to the United States with a boyfriend she met online. Natasha’s boyfriend subsequently became increasingly controlling, and emotionally and physically abusive. He threatened she would be automatically deported if she left him. She remained in this abusive relationship for five years before mustering the courage to enter the WSP’s Emergency Shelter. Natasha was limited in her ability to secure adequate employment because she was an undocumented immigrant. After entering the Shelter, she was able to take advantage of agency case management services. An Advocacy Services Coordinator helped her create a self-sufficiency plan, and file paperwork with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service to gain lawful citizenship. Proceeds from the Dunin Opportunity Fund were used to pay for the filing fees. Natasha became a U.S. citizen, secured full-time employment, and is now economically self-sufficient.
Juanita is a 38-year old Spanish-speaking Latina domestic violence victim. Juanita struggled with economic self-sufficiency due to a limited employment and educational background. As the result of having been in an abusive relationship, Juanita was unable to handle financial matters or obtain gainful employment outside of the household. She used the Shelter’s services to complete a comprehensive client self-sufficiency plan with case management staff. Juanita identified a number of employment goals, including her desire to work as a beautician. She already possessed the skill, required professional training and experience. However, she could not afford to purchase the necessary supplies. As a result of the assistance Juanita received from the Dunin Opportunity Fund, she was able to purchase the professional tools she needed, and ultimately obtained employment.
NORTH COUNTY WOMEN'S SHELTER (NCWS)
The NCWS provides women and their children with a safe, confidential space for healing and recovery. Case managers also make safe arrangements for male victims and their children suffering from domestic violence.
Mary and her five children had been terrorized by her abusive husband for quite some time. She didn’t think she could leave the abusive relationship because they had no place to go. One day, she took a chance and asked for help. Mary was very depressed, had trouble sleeping, and her children showed signs of having witnessed domestic violence in the home.
With help from NCWS, Mary obtained the protection of a restraining order, which included receiving custody of her children. Mary willingly participated in case management and counseling for herself and her children. The signs of emotional healing eventually began to surface as the children began to laugh together, which was something that had not happened since the family first arrived at the Shelter.
While preparing to leave the Shelter, Mary had a difficult time finding a house that was both large enough and affordable. With assistance from the Dunin Opportunity Fund, she was able to find an appropriate house to rent. The North County Women’s Shelter continued to provide the family with case management and counseling. Eventually, Mary obtained a job at a medical care facility. She loves her job and is maintaining her housing and support for her children.
TRANSITIONS MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION (TMHA)
TMHA’s Transitional Housing for Homeless program assists homeless individuals in making the transition from being homeless into being independent and having a place of their own to call home. With assistance from the Dunin Opportunity Fund, this program has assisted ten individuals so far with the ability to purchase household goods, furniture, and other start-up expenses in order to help them take the life changing step toward independent living.
Charles graduated from TMHA’s Transitional Housing for Homeless program after one year. He now lives in his own apartment, and received support from the Dunin Opportunity Fund to purchase furniture and household goods for his new apartment that he could not have otherwise afforded.
The Community Foundation is honored to be a steward of the Dunin Opportunity Fund to ensure that it will continue to provide community leadership and support for at-risk residents of our community in perpetuity.
*Dunin photos courtesy of the History Center of San Luis Obispo County