The Tri-Valley Community Foundation seems to have been offering more hype than help to the area. As reported earlier, the foundation is $3 million in debt and is likely to close by the end of this month.
Further investigation shows claims on the TVCF website that are either exaggerations or falsehoods. It claimed, for example, to fund "initiatives that sustain and promote the pursuit and enjoyment of the arts," listing the Alamo-Danville Arts League as one of its recipients.
There's no such organization.
There is a group called the Alamo Danville Artists' Society, however.
"We've never received anything from them," said Thomas Lemmer, the artists' society treasurer.
The TVCF also claims to support the Livermore Opera but is not listed as a sponsor on the opera's website.
The foundation did contribute, as it claimed, to the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, giving money in 2008, 2010 and 2011, according to Executive Director Len Alexander.
He said the TVCF gave $13,000 in 2010 and $25,000 in 2011, although $10,000 of that last donation was given in May 2011, and still in the foundation's 2010 fiscal year. Tax records for that year have not been made available by the TVCF.
The foundation also donated at least $11,000 to the fundraising campaign for the Firehouse Arts Center, buying a recognition brick and two $500 theater chairs in its name.
The website also claims to offer "leadership, research and grant writing assistance" to help the fundraising effort at the Veteran's Memorial Building in Danville that recently completed a massive renovation at a cost of $8.1 million.
That never happened, according to Karen Stepper, who was on the committee that raised money for the building project.
"They came to some of our meetings and gave us advice, how to follow up, how to involve businesses in the campaign. It was just one person who came. It was David Rice," Stepper said, explaining that Rice accompanied the fundraising group on a visit to one business.
"We never received research and grant writing assistance. They helped us early on with respect to a media approach," she said.
The TVCF also said it was assisting the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District "by receiving grants, contributions and contracts" to develop an iPhone app that notifies those trained in CPR when a person nearby has suffered an apparent heart attack.
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District Chief Richard Price said that didn't happen either.
"Very early on, before the PulsePoint Foundation had its 501(c)(3) status, the Tri-Valley Foundation was kind of a resource for how things worked and if we wanted to take any donations. Pretty early on we got our own status and we never dealt with them again," Price said.
The foundation also claims to offer two local programs for high-risk teens at Village and Horizon high schools in Pleasanton. Those programs are called the Youth Achievement Services Project (YAS) and Youth Employment Plus (YEP), called the Youth Employability Skills (YES!) Project elsewhere on the TVCF website.
YAS is described as a "classroom-based school-to-career program," and YEP is called "a year-round program (that) helps youth between the ages of 16 to 21 reach their educational and occupational goals."
Village Principal Greg Giglio said the two schools did get money for career and technical education from the TVCF, but it was never made clear which program was funding what.
"At Village, it's Kit Little and at Horizon, it's Karen McMann," Giglio said, estimating the two schools received less than $50,000 a year from the TVCF. Given the foundation's impending bankruptcy, he said the district is looking at other ways to get the money.
"That's one of the things we're trying to figure out," he said. "It seems like there are some offshoots and ways to get the money. We're just going to have to see what lays in our lap and pick up the pieces there."
Other questionable items on the TVCF website include the Smart Choices Prevention Early Intervention Project to keep kids out of gangs, the Marilyn Avenue School-Based Outreach Project, which was to have paid for an outreach worker to provide parenting classes and one-on-one help for parents from low-income families, and Cooking Matters, which offers school-based food training classes for parents with children at Junction Avenue School in Livermore.
Cooking Matters is sponsored by other groups, and there's no documentation that either Smart Choices or the Marilyn Avenue outreach project ever began.
The foundation also takes credit for a program called Path to Picasso, a program for teens charged with graffiti offenses, on its website.
That was actually a collaborative program of the City of Livermore's Housing and Human Services Division of the Community Development Department and Horizons Family Counseling of the Police Department. There's no indication the TVCF was ever part of it.
The foundation also claimed it was committed to creating a permanent endowment for the Tri-Valley area. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, the TVCF had put aside $61,274 for that purpose, but that fund was apparently wiped out by the next year.
The California Secretary of State links Rice to two other organizations, Tri-Valley Community Services and the Youth Achievement Program. Tri-Valley Community Services never filed with the state's registry of charitable trusts, and there's no indication that the Youth Achievement Program was ever begun.