It’s that time of the summer when the California Mid-State Fair takes over Paso Robles and brings people from all over California to experience the “Biggest Little Fair Anywhere.”
Last year, the 2014 California Mid-State Fair brought close to half a million people to the 12-day event. Concessions vendors tallied more than $1.1 million in sales; the carnival brought in $500,000 in revenue; and the Junior Livestock Auction and Replacement Heifer Sale that benefits the kids in the San Luis Obispo County 4-H and FFA programs saw gains for the fifth year in a row, with more than $2.1 million in sales.
After glancing at the numbers, it’s hard to believe one auction bidder was responsible for nearly half of the sales in the Junior Livestock Auction. Purchasing approximately 90,000 pounds of meat last year, the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation has become a major benefactor to our youth and the hungry in our community.
Since 2012, the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation has been purchasing livestock sold by our 4-H and FFA programs. Not only are they helping the kids who participate in the agricultural programs, Wood-Claeyssens also pays for all of the expenses associated with processing the livestock and then donates all of the meat to our local food bank. Last year, the foundation’s total expenditure in San Luis Obispo County was close to $1 million.
In 2014, it donated more than 90,000 pounds of meat to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, which in turn distributed it free of charge to nonprofit agencies around the county to help feed those who need it the most.
According to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, more than 100,000 people in the county benefitted from the meat supplied last year by the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation.
The origin of this Central Cost foundation is a true testament to the pursuit of the American Dream. Its founders, Ailene Wood and Pierre Claeyssens, each grew up in poverty during the Great Depression. After hard work, saving and investing, they eventually found themselves in a position to give back. In 1980, the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation was born.
“I know what it’s like to go hungry, and it’s not fun. No one should go hungry, and no one should go without clothes and shelter,” Pierre Claeyssens’ said.
Today, the foundation is led by Pierre’s daughter, Noelle Claeyssens-Burkey and her family and Foundation Secretary Shelby Hughes. The foundation’s longevity lies with the abundant natural gas, minerals and oil reserves found under the family ranch in Ventura. Thanks to those deposits, the foundation is able to show its strong support for communities up and down the Central Coast.
In addition to their generosity at the California Mid-State Fair, they have been involved in donating meat from Junior Livestock Auctions at the Santa Barbara County Fair and the Ventura County Fair for more than a decade.
Not only is Wood-Claeyssens helping those who need it most, but the foundation’s generosity is also helping to teach the kids who participate in local agricultural programs the value of hard work.
With close to 800 animals auctioned in 2014, the money the participants earn is much more than just spending money — it often helps offset the costs of raising the livestock and might be put into a savings account to help with college tuition.
When it comes to giving back to the community, the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation is doing it right.
Through business sense and ingenuity, the Foundation has managed to help the most needy in our community while also helping our children learn the value of hard work and a dollar earned.
I’m grateful the Central Coast is home to such a treasure as the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation — an organization that found a creative way to make a big difference in the lives of our community.