The Cambrian

Holiday donations: Every little bit helps

This is indeed the season for giving, not only to family and friends but also to causes large and small that touch donors’ hearts.

The financial gifts come in a full range of sizes, too, and what the volunteers behind those causes want their donors to know is that every gift matters.

“They’re all so important,” said Jeri Farrell, president of Friends of the Cambria Library, which has been fundraising for more than two decades to build a new, larger facility for North Coast readers, book lovers and computer users. Friends also supports the current library with new books, volunteers and more; Farrell said the group will continue to do so.

The group has met its $1.4 million goal, which completes a contract with the county, but Friends will continue to fundraise for the foreseeable future, to cover possible cost overruns in outfitting the library’s interior, upgrade some facilities and provide some longed-for specialty equipment.

The project is in the design phase, with Friends and county officials meeting every couple of weeks to review such aspects as lighting and what sections of the library go where. Farrell said county project leaders have indicated to her that the new facility should be open to the public as early as December 2013.

Wide range of donations

Whether a donation is a multi-thousand-dollar grant or $5 in change that a single mother scraped together, “We’ve been so grateful for each gift,” a misty-eyed Farrell said.

Among those helping reach Friends’ goal were a wide range of donors, from the Hearst Foundation and the Hind Foundation, which donated $120,000 and $140,000 respectively, and hundreds of individuals, including Glenda “Dallas” Ridlen and Pat Watters of San Diego and Cambria.

They have jointly donated $25 a month for about two years, starting when the Friends group began working with the county to buy the new building at 900 Main St.

“We can’t do large amounts” at one time, Ridlen said Dec. 10. But because the avid reader goes through a lot of books each month, “I use that library a lot I read too much to buy the books.

“The library gives me a lot of entertainment,” so she figured “I should put my donations where they do good things for me, too.”

The couple also donates to the Cambria Community Council’s “Open Heart” fundraising campaign (the 2012 fundraising is under way). Ridlen especially supports the Council’s community bus, in part because “someday, that may be something I’ll need, too.”

Now that Ridlen and Watters are both retired — the former from being an accounting technician for the Department of Defense, and the latter from being a social worker for San Diego County — they’re spending more time in Cambria and figure they’ll use the library even more often than before.

Watters said that when they first bought their North Coast home in 2000, they also relied on the library for its public computer, which was, by the way, the first one in any San Luis Obispo County public library.

“We didn’t bring our computer with us until we started living here more,” Watters said. “So, we used the library’s computer to check our email.”

They say they’ll continue to donate, even though the Friends group has reached its goal.

Hearst generosity

The Hearst Foundation has donated more than $4.1 million to San Luis Obispo County causes since 1962, according to foundation records. That doesn’t include millions of dollars donated by individual Hearst family members, or some $35 million raised for various charities at events held at the Hearst Dairy Barn on the San Simeon ranch.

The foundations’ most recent local grant was $70,000 on Dec. 4 to the Cambria library fund, following a $50,000 grant in 2010.

Especially in small towns, “libraries pull communities together, parents and children together,” said Stephen “Steve” Hearst, great grandson of legendary media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who began the foundations in 1945 and 1948. Steve Hearst, who worked with Supervisor Bruce Gibson on the grant, said he was glad the foundations could help with the “rebirthing of the library” in Cambria.

Through the decades, the foundations’ grants range in size from two $1,000 gifts to the Cambria Community Hospital District (the first one in 1963) to $1.8 million toward establishing the Hearst Cancer Resource Center Endowment Fund.

According to, the foundations work “in the fields of education, health, culture and social service. The charitable goals of the Foundations reflect the philanthropic interests of William Randolph Hearst.”

The foundation has given $734,000 in 20 separate grants to Cal Poly and the Cal Poly foundation, including $200,000 toward the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Visiting Professors.

Other Hearst Foundations grant recipients in San Luis Obispo County — beyond the library, cancer center and healthcare district — span the Diocese of Santa Rosa in Cambria and Food Bank Coalition to various arts- or music-oriented groups, several health organizations, Friends of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden; Mission College Prep high school and San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation.

The Hind Foundation was begun in 2006 by sportswear entrepreneurs Greg and Jane Hind. Since then, the foundation has helped dozens of causes from Santa Barbara and Cambria to Pigeon Point Light Station, about 35 miles north of Santa Cruz.

The foundation’s website at states, “We fund community-based projects and programs that encourage people to work together to build an enduring legacy for future generations.”

On the North Coast, the Hinds supported restoring the Guthrie Bianchini house and garden (now the Cambria Historical Museum), the Greenspace Chinese Temple and the Fog Signal Building at the Piedras Blancas Light Station. They also challenged other donors to match their $140,000 grant to make sure there would be a new Cambria library.

Other recipients range from Woods Humane Society (installing a new commercial laundry center there) and the War Birds Museum to a ballet master class, honoring veterans, restoring a 1923 Seagrave fire engine and a blue whale skeleton and propagating milkweed for migrating monarch butterflies, along with many other projects benefiting people, animals, the arts, gardens, the environment, history and more.

Despite the recent death of Greg Hind, the foundation’s good works could continue under the guidance of his widow.

How you can help

There still are ways that donors can help make the holidays bright for some needy local families. Donations as small as a buck or two in a Salvation Army kettle can provide the hand up that can make such a difference in the lives of those who have little.

For instance:

Toys for Tots: In 2011, 360 children in 149 Cambria or San Simeon families received holiday gift through Toys for Tots, which collects the donations, and Cambria’s Anonymous Neighbors, which distributes.

But for that and more to happen this year, people have to donate new, unwrapped toys, preferably valued at $15 to $20 each. Collection boxes are at local banks, the Cambria Library, Cambria Fire Department’s Burton Drive station, the Cambria Business Center, Froggie’s and other local businesses.

Monetary donations also are welcome, an option designed to help people who can’t or prefer not to shop. Mail checks to Terry Farrell, 3151 Wood Drive, Cambria CA 93428-4325, or call him at 924-1814.

The Food Bank Coalition: The group's Hope for the Holidays campaign runs through Dec. 31. Go to for a list of locations where there are donation barrels. Or, make a monetary donation online. Thanks to a corporate sponsorship, all donations up to $20,000 will be matched.

United Blood Services: Blood supplies can run low during the holidays, when many regular donors travel. Schedule an appointment by calling United Blood Services, 543-4290, or go to

Salvation Army: Drop some change, bills or a check into the Salvation Army kettles at Cookie Crock Market and the Cambria Post Office.

Other charities: Donate to the Cambria Community Council’s Open Heart Campaign (P.O. Box 486, Cambria CA 93428, or call 927-4173), to Cambria’s Anonymous Neighbors (P.O. Box 1797, Cambria CA 93428, or call 927-5673) or any of the North Coast’s other worthy charities.