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Social Advocates for Youth meets funding goal for Dream Center

Three weeks before they expected to wrap up their financial campaign for the Dream Center, Social Advocates for Youth officials received a donation that pushed them over their $9.5 million goal.

Valley of the Moon Children’s Home Foundation board members approved Thursday the nearly $100,000 donation after an anonymous donor offered in August to match contributions up to $500,000. SAY was able to reach the last portion of that match with their donation, said Laura Colgate, the foundation’s president.

“It was pretty exciting to be part of a match,” she said. “It doubles our buck.”

Although SAY has reached its fundraising goal, future donations for the Dream Center will not be turned away.

“Because we’ve exceeded this critical threshold and continue to receive gifts from the community, we’re able to consider reincorporating project elements that we had to previously put on hold,” SAY executive director Matt Martin said.

He said the money could be used to buy equipment for the computer lab, complete a community garden project and finance the installation of a solar-energy system. Donations also could be used to hire additional clinicians and pay for a Dream Center vehicle that could get the youth around town.

“So many people have given, and have sacrificed in doing so, to make this Dream a reality,” Martin said. “It’s a bold statement of service and support that will stand for generations to come.”

The nonprofit in the spring started to remodel the interior and exterior of the Summerfield Road hospital, which was donated to SAY by Sutter Health. However, the project didn’t come without challenge.

It faced stiff opposition from some Bennett Valley residents, who worried the facility would bring troubled youth to live in their neighborhood, increasing crime and lowering property values. SAY officials scaled back the project and instituted a number of measures to address residents’ concerns.

Residents still challenged the project, filing a lawsuit over an environmental study performed by the city. The suit was dismissed in January.

As construction nears completion, Martin expects youth will be able to move into the center at the beginning of the year.

They’ll have 27 long-term apartments, including five studios with kitchenettes and accessible bathrooms, and a dozen short-term beds available once the facility opens. Officials eventually plan to offer 63 short- and long-term units available at the center for 18- to 24-year-olds previously in foster care or at risk of homelessness.

“The Valley of the Moon Children’s Foundation capstone investment is an important statement of care in the lives of Sonoma County’s former foster care youth,” Martin said.

The center goes hand-in-hand with the work done at the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home, where hundreds of kids go each year after they have been abandoned, abused or neglected, Colgate said.

“We try to do everything we can for the kids when they’re at the home,” Colgate said, noting that some of those kids end up in foster care.

“Then these kids get into the community (when) they turn 18. Where do they have to go?” she added. “The Dream Center is part of that. It’s a very important piece for former foster youth to be able to have that safety net.”

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.

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