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Building a bridge to the future

Sonoma County philanthropists and LBC Honorary Board Members and winner of best business leader in the 2018 NorthBay biz magazine’s Best Of Readers Poll, Marcia and Gary Nelson, gave a $1 million commitment to the Luther Burbank Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit that owns and operates Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. The funds will contribute to the completion of a multi-phase renovation project of the center—Bridge to the Future. The 18,000-square-foot courtyard will be named the Marcia and Gary Nelson Family Grand Plaza, in recognition of the family’s generosity to the LBC. The new plaza will increase accessibility, enhance patron experience, and improve safety and security to the facility.

“Marcia Nelson and I were early investors in the Green Center, when the goal was just a $10 million building,” says Gary. “At the time, we were parents of children who studied violin and piano through the Suzuki method. When our children were teens, we looked to the Green Center and our local youth orchestra as options for where our children could grow with their music into potential professional musicians. Although they’ve chosen other professions, we still feel that children in our communities need music education, arts education, and stepping-stones into the professions of music and live performing arts. We see the potential for Luther Burbank Center to also provide stepping-stone opportunities for professional development.”

The Nelsons believe critical traits and attributes necessary for success in both life and learning are provided by performing arts. “The arts require discipline, patience and perseverance to master them or become proficient,” says Gary. “If every child had the opportunity to participate as a music or dance student and or to experience the joy of live performances, they would enjoy a richer and more fulfilling adulthood. Supporting organizations that address this need and generate programs for our youth is essential.”

The project is an $11.5 million multi-year, multi-phase project to upgrade the 44-year-old facility, and the new plaza is said to open in early 2019.

Students helping nonprofits

Local nonprofits give back endlessly to the community, and now, the community is helping return the favor. Each spring semester, Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) web certificate students build websites for local nonprofits at no expense. This year, students built websites for The Petaluma Museum, SOS Counseling, and SNAP Cats, a local nonprofit that seeks to house and find homes for cats with special needs.

With a value of up to $30,000, these websites offer students the opportunity to build a portfolio, client list and gain valuable real-life experience while yielding thousands of dollars worth of value to the community’s non-profit sector.

SRJC’s web and digital media programs open a public submission process before the spring term begins, and nonprofits apply for the opportunity. The selection process for nonprofits is based on available students and the alignment of non-profit client needs with student availability.

“Teams develop a project proposal and meet regularly with the clients,” said computer studies faculty member, Ethan Wilde. “The nonprofit organizations provide direction and copywriting for site content.”

“Working with our website development team at SRJC was a wonderful experience!” said Darryl Roberts, founder and executive director of SNAP Cats. “They were professional, courteous and extremely innovative in creating the website we envisioned. If they were a local website development company, we’d hire them in a second.” These courses will be offered in 2019.



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