Building Community

Community is the cornerstone of the Coastal Community Foundation (CCF). For over 30 years, the Foundation has been supporting nonprofits, students, and other local projects in the North Coastal communities of Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carmel Valley, Cardiff, Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. Various charitable funds allow the Foundation to award scholarships and grants that support everything from the arts and music, social services, and animals, to the environment, veterans programs, and youth and community projects. Read along as we speak with CCF Executive Director Sharon Omahen about how the organization helps connect donors to important community needs.


Q&A with Coastal Community Foundation Executive Director Sharon Omahen

Please give us a brief history of the CCF. When was it started and why?
Coastal Community Foundation was founded in 1987 by local leaders and community members that included Bill Dean, Anne Omsted, Margaret Schlesinger, and Liz Ferguson. These residents wanted a local community foundation that would keep resources here to benefit the community. For over 30 years, CCF has been supporting nonprofits, education, and community projects in the North Coastal area.

Which communities does the CCF serve?
The Foundation primarily serves Carmel Valley, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. In 2017, 62 percent of our grants supported San Diego nonprofits and nine percent of the grants funded scholarships for North Coastal high school graduates.

What is the overall mission of the CCF?
The mission of Coastal Community Foundation is to enhance the quality of life in the San Diego North Coastal area by directing philanthropic efforts toward community needs. We fulfill our mission by:
• Helping individuals and families with their charitable goals today and in the future
• Making grants to support nonprofit programs, education, and community needs
• Providing support and guidance to nonprofit organizations


At-A-Glance Coastal Community Foundation

Executive Director: Sharon Omahen
Year Established: 1987
Phone: 760-942-9245

Please explain how charitable funds and donations work. Who is eligible to establish or give to a fund?
Each charitable fund tells a story about how residents want to make a difference in their community. One family may want to honor a loved one through a memorial or a scholarship fund, or residents may choose a donor-advised fund that provides them with the ability to support a wide variety of nonprofits over the years. It’s simple for anyone to establish a charitable fund with a minimum of $5,000. Determine what you want to donate (cash, stock, or other assets) and select the name of your fund. Then, you have the flexibility to invest in causes you care about most over time. The Foundation takes care of all the administrative details.

Anyone can contribute at any level to an existing fund or make a gift to one of the giving circles (Solana Beach, Encinitas, or the women’s fund, Hand to Hand).

cv_coastalcm4Are there other ways to give to the Foundation?
People can give their time by serving on a committee or volunteering at the Foundation’s office.

Please tell us about the Foundation’s grant and scholarship programs. Who is eligible to apply for them?
Each grant and scholarship program has specific guidelines outlined by the donor(s) who established the fund. Some grants like Mental Health only support nonprofit programs that serve our North Coastal communities. Solana Beach Fund grants support programs that any nonprofit provides for Solana Beach. Hand to Hand grants are available to nonprofits in San Diego County. Scholarships are available to students from the San Dieguito, Carlsbad, and Oceanside school districts. Additional scholarships are available at the collegiate and graduate level.

What are some examples of past projects the CCF has been involved with?
The Foundation’s Ed Ventures program has granted over $250,000 for education programs over the past five years. In 2017, grants supported the Pathway programs at San Dieguito high schools for technical education, including the purchase of professional culinary equipment for San Dieguito Academy’s culinary classes.

In January, Hand to Hand, our women’s giving circle, granted $39,500 to nonprofits that help women in San Diego County who have been victims of trafficking and that support women and girls who have been released from prison. Over the past nine years, the fund has granted $274,258 for women’s and girls’ programs.

Mental Health grants have supported counseling for children who have witnessed domestic violence, counseling and mental health programs for children who are homeless, and grievance programs for children who have experienced the loss of a loved one.


At-A-Glance Sharon Omahen

Name: Sharon Omahen
Community: Encinitas
Education: B.A. in English, teaching credential
Family: Husband – Jim; adult son – Spencer; two cats
Hobbies & Interests: Hiking, walking on the beach, reading, giving back to the community
Favorite Local Spots: Taco shops, Third Corner, Torrey Pines, Cardiff and Moonlight beaches

How does the CCF support the Carmel Valley community specifically?
Education grants in arts and science are made for elementary schools. In 2018, $19,350 was awarded to Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest Academy for career education and training programs. In June, eight students from TPHS and CCA received scholarships.

Recent grants have been made to San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and the Del Mar School Education Foundation. Residents from Carmel Valley also contribute to a number of funds at CCF.

cv_coastalcm5What is your role within the organization? Please elaborate on your specific responsibilities.
As executive director, I oversee the administration of the Foundation, donor relations, and community outreach. I work closely with donors to help them establish their funds and fulfill their charitable goals.

Who is on the CCF leadership team? How are officers and board members chosen for their positions?
The board leadership includes Alice Jacobson (President), Eric Hall (Vice President), John Kelting (Secretary), Sherry Mesman (Treasurer), and members Ed Blodgett, Marion Dodson, Nancy Giberson, Peter Iverson, Gabe Koff, Alex Kwoka, John Osborne, and John Runager. The board is chosen for their expertise in a wide variety of areas and commitment to building philanthropy for the community. The Foundation’s staff includes Program Officer Laura Fleming, who manages the grants and scholarship programs.

Tell us about the different committees within the Foundation and the responsibilities of each.
The Foundation has scholarship committees that select award recipients, grant committees that review grant applications and recommend nonprofit grantees, an education committee that reviews all education grants, an audit committee and investment committee that oversee each of those areas and a board nominating/development committee.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do? The most challenging?
The most rewarding is helping donors make an impact for their favorite causes or nonprofits and seeing the results of those grants in the community. The most challenging is that there are so many worthwhile programs and limited grant funds.


What’s in store for the future of the Foundation?
The Foundation continues to grow with new charitable funds and increased grant-making. Our goal is to work with more residents who want to make an impact in the community. Our new Encinitas fund is an exciting opportunity for local residents to make a greater impact locally through pooled philanthropy.

How can interested community members get involved with the CCF?
People can be involved in a number of ways: Donate to an existing fund or giving circle like Solana Beach Fund, Encinitas Fund, or Hand to Hand women’s fund; start their own fund; volunteer; share our information with nonprofits and others in the community.

Is there anything else you’d like for our readers to know?
CCF is a resource for the community for residents and nonprofits. We welcome everyone to get to know us better.