Special to the Post
It was Jan. 3, the first day back from a week off for the holidays for Romeo Garcia, the new executive director of the Peralta Colleges Foundation,
Going through his mail, Garcia opened an envelope from the San Francisco Foundation that contained a check for $250,000. He was astonished.
Peralta Colleges Foundation had not even submitted a formal request for funding.
When he read the accompanying letter, he learned an anonymous donor decided to support the foundation with a quarter-million dollar gift for “general support.”
Because he was active in raising funds before, Garcia was aware of the practice of anonymous giving but never had received a gift of this magnitude.
He remembered that in mid-December three Peralta Colleges Foundation board members met with the San Francisco Foundation to discuss how the Peralta foundation helps with student scholarships and other awards for students at the four Peralta Colleges – Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, and Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland.
They discussed goals for 2013 and the challenges the foundation faced in fundraising. No money was requested. The speakers simply wanted to begin the conversation about the need for funds to support community college students.
After happily celebrating this windfall, Garcia called Karen Friedman, co-president of Peralta Colleges Foundation.
“That’s a mistake, right?” she asked. Garcia said, “No, it’s the real thing.”
Garcia then called other foundation board members, including Gay Cobb, and Co-President Gary Foss, who had met with the San Francisco Foundation.
Board members thought gift might be the result of a long-standing relationship that Cobb has with the San Francisco Foundation, including as a member of their Board of Directors for 10 years. But no one really knows who donated the money.
The happy mystery remains, although Friedman is sure that “Gay (Cobb) was instrumental in our getting the grant from the San Francisco Foundation.”
The badly needed funds will be used to build the capacity of the foundation to help students in need.
The money will help create an alumni database to encourage tens of thousands of former students to help today’s students with the high cost of education.
“These funds will help us … increase funding for scholarships and initiatives that promote student success,” said Garcia.