Volunteer Finds a Way to Award More
Scholarships to Deserving Students
In January 2012, when Ted Jensen and others were reading VCCF scholarship applications, fellow volunteer Berta Steele mentioned the idea of endowing the Ventura County Community Foundation Scholarship Grant Fund to allow the scholarship committee to award more aid to deserving students who may not have made the cut.
"Every one of us in the room has been touched by someone's story, and we're an advocate for them," Jensen said. " One year, we had a student who needed a scholarship. It was 10 minutes where we contemplated what to do, and we all reached in our pockets and made sure we had a scholarship for them.”
In early 2012, Jensen went to Hugh Ralston, CEO and president of VCCF, to suggest the fund become endowed and to make sure the process moved along.
A VCCF volunteer for a dozen years, Jensen remembers when the scholarship program at the Ventura County Community Foundation was a small corner in the foundation's office -- literally.
Tucked in a tiny office on the second floor, Jensen and two to three other volunteers sifted through a few student applications to assess their qualification.
Now, nearly a $1 million or more is awarded annually to students in Ventura County and thanks to Jensen, the endowment of the VCCF Scholarship Grant Fund will continue to help deserving students in need.
Jensen became involved in the Community Foundation while he was looking for a home for his charitable fund as part of his estate plan. He had a particular set of criteria that didn't appeal to other community foundations. He wished for the organizations or individuals that received the grants to be chosen by his children and grandchildren. So the process needed to be relevant to the youngest generation.
"The biggest piece for my charitable fund was that there had to be an educational component in there about philanthropy and how to teach it to my children and grandchildren," Jensen said. "Then, a college scholarship wasn't relevant for a 6- or 10-year-old, but wagons for a preschool were.”
Now that the grandchildren are nearing college and high school and have heard about their grandfather's work in the Scholarship Committee, they decided donating to the Scholarship Grant Fund would be the perfect place to invest.
"It was by the kids, really, not me," Jensen said.
Former VCCF President and CEO Kate McLean encouraged Jensen to donate volunteer hours reading student applications with the budding scholarship committee in the early 2000s.
"One thing lead to another and I got more involved and more involved," he said.
Jensen then began to donate his time to other aspects of the Community Foundation including the Center for Nonprofit Leadership where he talked about his volunteering with the scholarship committee on different panels. He was even honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals as Philanthropist of the Year for his work with VCCF and other nonprofits.
"Of the machine that makes us work, some of us are volunteers and some of us work here, but Ted's definitely part of the family," said Dena Jenson, vice president and director of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership.
In 2013, when the scholarship committee is spread out across the long boardroom table at the Ventura County Community Foundation with hundreds of scholarship applications to be read, analyzed and judged, the committee will have the opportunity to award more scholarships to students in need.
"In the scholarship trenches, the kids have no idea who we are and that's OK with me," Jensen said. "It's about them.”