Four local nonprofit organizations were each surprised with a $10,000 grant from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation and News Channel 3. The grants were presented to First Tee – Coachella Valley, Soroptimist House of Hope, Variety – the Children’s Charity of the Desert, and The Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) for its Musical Theatre University (MTU) program. The surprise grants are a supplementary component of a 13-year partnership between the Berger Foundation and News Channel 3, where each month, a local nonprofit organization receives a $25,000 grant and media exposure.
“It’s rare for David and me to be speechless, but in that moment, that’s exactly what we were. I couldn’t believe it!” said Ellen Goodman, Foundation Director of The Foundation for the PSUSD, moments after she was handed a large cardboard check to represent the surprise $10,000 grant.
“We are just so thankful. The women are so thankful. This grant will help out a lot,” said Lupe Stoneburner, Director and Program Manager of Soroptimist House of Hope, after she was presented with the grant unexpectedly from Catharine Reed, Vice President of Charitable Programs for the Berger Foundation, and Jerry Upham, General Manager of Gulf California Broadcast Company, which owns and operates KESQ News Channel 3 and KPSP CBS Local 2.
Each of the four recipients were surprised on different days and in different ways. MTU was surprised at its rehearsal location, Rancho Mirage High School; Soroptimist House of Hope was surprised while waiting in the News Channel 3 lobby; First Tee – Coachella Valley was surprised while taping an interview with Patrick Evans in the Eye on the Desert studio; and Variety – the Children’s Charity of the Desert was “pleasantly” interrupted during a Zoom interview with Evans.
“It was really fun to mix up the surprise circumstances this year,” said Upham. “The results were captured with some very entertaining video.”
“It’s always rewarding to present grants, but to see people’s reactions with these surprises is priceless, and we know instantly how meaningful the funds are to them,” said Reed.
Recipients of the surprise grants applied previously to the Coachella Valley Spotlight program, but were not selected for one of the 12 annual $25,000 grants. First Tee – Coachella Valley plans to use the grant funds “to put a golf club in the hands of any child in the Coachella Valley, who wants one,” according to Teal Guion, Executive Director of the nonprofit. First Tee offers golf and life skills education at various local courses and also brings its curriculum to elementary schools during physical education classes. Soroptimist House of Hope, which is celebrating 40 years helping women navigate substance use recovery, will use the grant for its program and facility expenses. Variety – the Children’s Charity of the Desert plans to use the funds for its Care Program, which provides financial assistance to children with special needs and families who might otherwise be unable to secure vital services and equipment.
“This generous support allows us to improve quality of life for more vulnerable children across the Coachella Valley, and we are truly grateful,” said Heidi Maldoon, Executive Director of Variety.
MTU was one of many youth theatre programs that had to pivot during pandemic closures in 2020. Rather than move its acting, singing and dance lessons entirely to Zoom and cancel all performances, the valley-wide program creatively produced 24 episodes of a variety program called Front Row Center. The 30-minute television show was recorded under strict Covid-19 protocols, while still offering its students an outlet for performing. The program received viewer acclaim and still airs on News Channel 3. MTU Founder and Executive Director David Green says the $10,000 grant will help support a movie musical that will begin recording this fall and then screen in local theatres in December.
The surprise grants were awarded during the annual application period for the Coachella Valley Spotlight. Applications are now available at www.kesq.com; click on the Coachella Valley Spotlight logo on the home page. An online application and a video submission must be received by Noon on Monday, September 20, 2021. Recipients will be notified by December. For more information call (760) 773-0342.