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San Marcos Community Foundation continues grantmaking while serving the community

SAN MARCOS — The San Marcos Community Foundation continues to give back to the area in many ways beyond monetary means.

At the Nov. 19 board meeting, money was granted to four nonprofits in the area: Friends of San Marcos Parks, North County Health Services, San Diego Food Bank and Just in Time for Foster Youth.

The parks department plans to use the money to make improvements to Jack’s Pond Nature Center. A dental X-ray machine will be purchased at the North County Health Services Pediatric Dental department. It’s estimated 5,000 people will be served with an emergency food relief fund at the Food Bank. Future students attending Cal State San Marcos will receive laptops and printers through the foster program.

Unlike some grantmaking bodies, the San Marcos Community Foundation consists of volunteers appointed by City Council members.

Frequently, the group will discuss various ways they can volunteer in the community. It’s not uncommon to find board members on site visits or conducting follow-up phone calls.

“I think it’s super for the volunteers because they learn so much about the community and they can be champions for our nonprofits,” board President Colleen Lukoff said. “We look at the course of the year. Are we are serving seniors, youth, and the different kinds of populations in our area? I literally stand in front of the City Council once a year and say this is what we’ve done with the money.”

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the money has to be awarded to a nonprofit in the city limits but Lukoff says the only determinant is that the group serve the residents of San Marcos.

“We ask them what are they going to use the money for?” she said. “We have granted money for operating support. That is one of the changes that we made several years ago now, earlier on when I first joined this group.”

“The foundation was established by City Council back in 1987 from a $1 million contribution by the builders of the North County Energy and Resource Recovery Center. Lukoff said the group is tasked with awarding grants to a diverse group of nonprofit groups.

“The charge that we were given when the group was founded is that we need to serve the people of San Marcos,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a challenge.”

“For example, groups that are serving homeless people — we don’t have any homeless shelters in San Marcos, so if they apply, we ask where was their last residence before they entered that program?” she said.

An advisory group typically meets before the board votes to discuss emerging issues among nonprofits and how they can help beyond the foundations’ endowment fund. The group attempts to figure out ways to be proactive instead of reactive to ongoing issues.

Recent issues discussed at the last advisory board meeting include the Wounded Warrior project, homelessness and the importance of the census.

Approximately $61,000 has been granted this year. The group is looking for more advisory board members. For more information visit