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Sunriver Women’s Club giving $55,000 grant to new South County Collaborative for educational initiative

South County Collaborative

La PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Later this week, the Sunriver Women’s Club will award $55,586 to the recently formed South County Collaborative, an exciting new initiative to support and empower youth in south Deschutes County.  

The funds will be dedicated to expanding opportunities to help La Pine and Sunriver students stay engaged in and connected to school, address critical mental health needs, and stay on course to graduate. 

The Sunriver Women’s Club created the Power of 50 Education Fund in 2022, in honor of the club’s 50th anniversary. Within a year, club members raised $55,586 for the fund, which will be provided as seed money for the South County Collaborative.  

“Many club members discussed what we could do to help students in South Deschutes County,” said Val Stensland, a retired teacher and member of the women’s club, “but we needed the full community’s input. Over several months, the club met with lots of community stakeholders about the concerning attendance and graduation rates and what could be done to engage students and keep them in school.” 

The community stakeholders – school representatives, multiple youth service organizations and agencies, and Deschutes County – came together in a highly collaborative way and identified four areas they believed would most effectively support student engagement in school: 

  • Mentoring 
  • Programs and activities outside of school 
  • Opportunities for parent engagement in school 
  • Youth-led activities 

Ongoing community conversations will be an important part of the SCC’s work, with a focus on understanding the barriers that keep students from graduating and effectively planning for the future.  

Bruce Abernethy, grant writer for Bend-La Pine Schools and coordinator of the SCC, summed it up" “Compared to the more urban centers like Bend, students in Sunriver and La Pine don’t have nearly the same resources or opportunities. The South County Collaborative is uniquely positioned and set up to advocate for and attract needed youth services.”

According to Rutila Galvan-Rodriguez, executive director of Better Together, which is serving as the fiscal agent for this initiative, “Many agencies, including La Pine Park and Recreation District, La Pine Library and Deschutes County, already provide valuable youth services in the community and have the potential to expand with additional funding. Other organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Friends of the Children, are expanding their mentoring programs to South County communities and are looking for volunteers and sustainable funding.” 

“The SRWC and the SCC share the common goal of strengthening the network of services benefiting our youth in South Deschutes County, supporting their school engagement and increasing the graduation rate in the region,” said Debbie Baker, SRWC President. 

Abernethy said the SCC is a transformational initiative for the community.

“With the generous SRWC funding, this allows us to show the community and potential supporters what can be done with an increased investment in our youth,” he said. “As the SCC works together to share resources and ideas, make referrals, and support students and families, people will see real value and will be invited to provide financial and volunteer support.” 

About the Sunriver Women’s Club: The SRWC is an organization of over 300 actively engaged women. Since 1999, the club has awarded grants to benefit community members in South Deschutes County. The SRWC has given away more than $900,000, including the $55,586 grant to the SCC. SRWC’s Community Grants Program supports organizations and programs providing services focused on improving the lives of the most vulnerable citizens in South Deschutes County. Visit to learn how to participate in the club’s fundraisers and activities.

About the South County Collaborative: The SCC is a comprehensive group of community stakeholders advocating for expanded opportunities for La Pine and Sunriver youth that will ultimately help students stay engaged in school. The SCC convened the community stakeholders that now work across multiple sectors, including schools (principals, counselors, FAN Advocates, Student Success staff and teachers), community and government agencies, area nonprofits, law enforcement, health professionals, parents, business owners, and most importantly youth representatives. The SCC plans to secure additional funds to ensure this initiative is sustainable. 

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