Youths from low-income families are getting exposed to art, athletics and education — and are also fulfilling their dreams — thanks to the San Francisco-based Good Tidings Foundation.
“We catch all age groups — kindergarten to high school — with programs,” commented Good Tidings founder Larry Harper.
Good Tidings, at Pier 9 in San Francisco, operates an in-house art facility, the LeRoy Neiman Art Center, for students in fourth through eighth grade, according to Executive Director Stacy Wong.
“We really believe art should be part of school,” Wong explained. “We want the focus to be as much on art as it is for math or reading.”
Wong added, “Low-income students are the ones who can benefit from the art classes the most. The kids love it.”
The students come once a month during the school year and spend anywhere from 2–5 hours each visit working on different projects, including painting on canvas, landscapes, sewing, watercolor paining, glass mosaics and clay sculptures.
“It really runs the gamut,” Wong explained. “They’re learning skills that they use outside of art.”
A lot of the students have said the art center is the nicest they’ve been to, Wong noted. The center serves 600 youths per month — or 900 in a calendar year — according to Wong.
In addition to art classes, Good Tidings partners with the San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors, San Jose Sharks, Oakland Athletics and a number of professional athletes — including three-time volleyball Olympic Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh; CC Sabathia, a pitcher for the New York Yankees who grew up in Vallejo; and Brandon Jennings, point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks — to build or refurbish facilities that benefit youth from underserved communities.
Facilities include basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball fields, street hockey courts, football fields, fitness centers and volleyball courts.
Good Tidings partners with the San Francisco Giants Community Fund — which operates a Junior Giants program for youth in underserved communities — to rehabilitate Junior Giants fields, according to Executive Director Sue Petersen.
Harper “is there leading the way to make sure our project is on-time,” Petersen explained. “He makes sure that everything is being done properly, that the renovations will be done perfectly.”
Stating that Harper is “our hero,” Petersen added, “We couldn’t do it without him. We marvel at the things he can get done in a short amount of time.”
The San Francisco Giants Community Fund and Good Tidings are both nonprofits, and both are interested in baseball and focused on character development and education, making it “a perfect marriage,” Petersen pointed out.
“Our missions are very much aligned,” Petersen explained. “The partnership was very easy because our missions were aligned.”
Good Tidings also provides scholarships to high school seniors from low-income families who have done community service.
Every year, Good Tidings receives 500 scholarship applications and of those, a committee selects 20 people to actually receive scholarships. “It’s a pretty thorough review,” Harper said. “Everybody gets a fair shot. We end up collecting a great group every year.”
Each scholarship is worth $5,000. The scholarship can be used to help pay any college-related expense. It can be used to help pay tuition at a junior college, four-year university or trade school, or it can be put toward the cost of books at any of these schools.
This past December, Good Tidings hit the $1 million mark in scholarships awarded.
Wong, who has been involved with Good Tidings since 2003, wears many hats. She assists with fundraisers, grant writing and development programming. Additionally, she is in charge of getting scholarship applications on Good Tidings’ website, and when students receive scholarships, she is the point of contact.
“I’ve never run across a better organization,” Wong said. “We work with extremely low overhead, but with our partnerships and friendships Larry has formed over the years, we have so many people on our side. We are able to take donations and turn those donations into something that is much more valuable than what we received.”
Founded in 1995, Good Tidings operates on a budget of a little more than $1 million per year, according to Harper.
One of the ways in which Good Tidings generates revenue is its auction catalog of 150 items. People bid on the items. In October 2012, the auction catalog generated $250,000 for Good Tidings. There is both an online and print copy version of the catalog.
Good Tidings also generates money by holding fundraisers. One of its fundraisers is the Stadium Stampede at AT&T Park, held each spring. People go up and down the stairs at the stadium and go around the stadium, and there are music and food. “People love that ballpark and it’s a great day,” Harper said.
Additionally, Good Tidings holds a golf tournament in Daly City in the summertime.
Good Tidings also receives money from private and corporate foundations and individuals.
Good Tidings has received numerous awards from local sports teams and state and local governments, according to Harper. In addition, “Good Tidings Day” has been held in San Francisco on two different occasions.
How did Harper choose the name Good Tidings? His first choice was the Robin Hood Foundation, but that name was already used on the East Coast, he said. He also liked the Saint Nick Foundation, but that name was also taken. He ended up choosing the name Good Tidings Foundation, a pull from Christmas songs. “It ended up being the right name for us,” he said.
For more information about the Good Tidings Foundation, visit www.goodtidings.org
, or call 415.283.1811.