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Visionary focus on literacy

On Sunday, the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction shattered previous records by raising $1.4 million, including a staggering $691,250 for the “Fund the Future” campaign to improve childhood literacy. That money, more than twice the fund-a-need lot raised last year, will be divided among three county nonprofits working to raise reading levels and to lower the literacy gap that currently leaves 54 percent of county third graders reading below grade level. In the Sonoma Valley, among Enlish-language learners that figure is a daunting 88 percent.

It’s a bold campaign that will continue at least through 2018, by which time, it is hoped, third-grade literacy will reach 90 percent.

That may be a wildly ambitious goal, but that’s what the problem requires and we’re impressed by the vision of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance, in partnership with the Sonoma County Vintners, to invest a lion’s share of the auction proceeds in early childhood education.

That targeted strategy mirrors the efforts of the Todd Trust Team which spent more than a year studying the needs of people in the Sonoma Valley before investing funds from the $8.5 million Roland and Hazel Todd Trust. These examples of research-based, targeted giving inspire us to wonder what would happen if a similar effort was made to identify and prioritize the key economic, educational, recreational, social, cultural and environmental needs of the entire Valley. One result could be a more coordinated, collaborative and efficient agenda among numerous local nonprofits that frequently find themselves competing for the same donor dollars.

Such a strategy could identify and prioritize a broad range of needs and issues, from high school graduation rates, gangs, and job training to the plans for a community swimming pool, more dog parks, tennis courts and hiking trails.

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