By Louis Medina, Director of Community Impact
Kern Community Foundation
Give Big Kern, “One Day to Celebrate the Giving Spirit of Kern County!” is almost here. Throughout April, the Bakersfield News Observer has helped spread the word about Kern’s Official Giving Day, which, since 2016, is observed on the first Tuesday in May—May 4th this year. Hosted by Kern Community Foundation, this online fundraising event is benefiting close to 130 nonprofits that have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the years, the Bakersfield News Observer has been a key partner is helping Kern Community Foundation fulfill it’s mission of “Growing Community. Growing Philanthropy.” through Give Big Kern, which has raised more than $1.7 million dollars for Kern County charities since its launch.
We are growing community together with the BNO by highlighting in these pages a wide range of nonprofits that are working hard to make Kern a better place for all. Some of them may even be nonprofits that have offered services to you or someone you know free of charge.
We are growing philanthropy together by inviting you, the readers of the BNO, to become involved in giving back to local charitable causes. Give Big Kern is a true community event. Won’t you be a part of it?
Please consider the charities featured in this monthlong series of articles submitted by the nonprofits themselves. Their appeals are timely and from the heart. Or give to any of the other agencies participating in Give Big Kern. Simply go to givebigkern.org, use the search bar to find a nonprofit you care about, and give. Find your passion! The minimum donation is just $5, and the Give Big Kern campaign continues till May 4th. Thank you! For more information, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bakersfield City Ballet
By Milissa Ackerley, Board Member in Charge of Fundraising
In 1993, Bakersfield Civic Dance Company, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded with the artistic vision to provide an opportunity for local dancers to further their training and extend their passion for the arts to the community. Twenty-eight years later, that same company, now known as Bakersfield City Ballet, remains dedicated to that vision.
Bakersfield City Ballet is unique: We are not a dance studio, but rather a nonprofit pre-professional ballet company consisting of members dedicated to refining their ballet technique and polishing their artistry. BCB acts as a stepping-stone between studio training and a professional career. Dancers do not pay dues or a participation fee. As a nonprofit, we are funded by personal and corporate donations, grants, and the fundraising efforts of our dancers and board members throughout the year.
As COVID-19 shut down theatres and venues, we did what dancers do and pivoted. We traded in pointe shoes for tennis shoes and created Curbside Ballet, which brought our performances to neighborhood streets and parks, allowing hundreds of community members—from children to grandparents—to see ballet live when stages were closed. Our two runs of Curbside Ballet last November and February featured original choreography by two Bakersfield natives.
BCB contributes to the development of our community’s rich culture by bringing the beauty of dance to more lives through annual performances. Company members and artistic faculty participate throughout the year in community outreach efforts with the intention of inspiring and cultivating a love for the arts through dance. We believe anyone should have access to the performing arts as a participant or patron, knowing that exposure in any capacity can leave one feeling inspired, awed, and perhaps aspiring to become the next Misty Copeland!
Consider donating to us through givebigkern.org now through May 4. Search for “ballet.” To learn more about us, visit our website, bakersfieldcityballet.org.
Special Olympics Southern California
By Veronica Smiddle, Development Coordinator
Special Olympics Southern California empowers more than 550 athletes in Kern County, but for every person we lift up, there are many more people with intellectual disabilities who need our programming.
By joining the Special Olympics team, you can help prepare people with intellectual disabilities, one of the most vulnerable populations in the world, to succeed at life.
We reduce bullying in schools, combat physical and mental health issues by providing free wellness programs, and train people with intellectual disabilities to live independently through sports and leadership programming.
Our sports, health, and leadership programming is vital for the athletes, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether in-person or virtual, we are giving people the tools, training, and skills to break down barriers and shatter stereotypes.
Please donate to us today through May 4 on givebigkern.org (search for “Special Olympics”) and help us raise $5,000 to empower athletes to overcome the challenges of life, fight against oppression, and spread inclusion for all.
You can learn more about Special Olympics Southern California at www.sosc.org/kern, or by calling 661-383-2905. Thank you!
The Cat People
By Barbara Hays, President & Ranae Harrer, Secretary
Founded in 1990, The Cat People has worked to serve cats and assist cat owners in Bakersfield through education, spay/neuter programs, the monitoring of cat colonies at Hart Park, food and senior assistance, and the management and operation of a sanctuary for rescued cats.
In 2017, The Cat People opened our Pawsitively Cats rescue sanctuary for rescued cats that were previously fostered. Currently, close to 100 abused, emergency-rescued and senior cats are cared for by volunteers.
Efforts are made to adopt out those without medical or behavior issues while senior cats will live out their lives in beautiful settings and surrounded by love. As space permits, cat owners, through bequests, can entrust The Cat People to care for their beloved cats to live out their lives at the sanctuary.
Since 2019, The Cat People has hosted six mobile spay clinics designed to offer free spay/neuters for both domestic, feral and community cats. Thus far, at a cost of $42,000 raised through fundraising and private donations, over 1,000 cats have been altered, preventing thousands of unwanted litters.
Contributions to The Cat People fund several programs:
· The Food Assistance Program helps low-income residents with monthly allotments of cat food and litter.
· Low-income cat owners are also helped through the Spay Today Program designed to prevent needless breeding of companion cats.
· The Voucher Program provides financial assistance to good Samaritans in efforts to alter feral or unowned community cats.
· Finally, the Park Program involves teams of volunteers trained to monitor, feed and rescue abandoned cats or trap, alter and return feral cats.
Won’t you donate to us on givebigkern.org through May 4th? Search for “the cat people.”
For more information on The Cat People’s programs, visit thecatpeople.org, and follow us on Facebook (@TheCatPeople) and Instagram (@bakersfieldcatpeople).
The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity
By Cindy J. Smith, Past-President
The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity is celebrating its 10th anniversary in Bakersfield. Originally founded by a grass-roots effort of a dozen LGBTQ+ community members in 2011, The Center has grown to two locations and full-time staffing. A multipurpose outreach center at 902 18th Street provides a safe space for gatherings, with a second location in the southwest housing administrative offices and counseling services.
The Center serves a diverse and varied Kern County LGBTQ+ community who identify along the entire spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. Its primary mission is to provide services to support LGBTQ+ people living happy, productive, fulfilling lives in a safe and supportive community. Additionally, The Center offers education for the wider community to increase acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ+ people. Executive Director Anne-Natasha Pinckney explains, “The Center is a place that helps you celebrate who you are…a place to be authentic and just comfortable.”
Group meetings are currently being offered virtually due to COVID restrictions, and include programs for youth and adults, with a recent new addition directed to QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous and other People of Color) individuals. Visitors regularly enjoy events ranging from “Know Your Rights” forums to the highly popular “LGBTQ Black History Month Celebration.”
We invite the LGBTQ+ community, family and allies to partner with us through volunteering and financial support. We need your help in ensuring that The Center can continue to add quality to the lives of all LGBTQ+ people in our community.
The Center is currently participating in Give Big Kern to gain visibility and raise funds. Donate to us by visiting givebigkern.org, then searching for “The Center” or “LGBT” to find us. For more information about The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity, visit TheCenterBak.org.