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SMBAS Enables Donation to Audubon Ballona Wetlands Education Program

December 31, 2009

With great pleasure we share the following letter from Cindy Hardin, Audubon Ballona Wetlands Education Program Coordinator.
This letter was received December 31, 2009

The Audubon Ballona Wetlands Education Program is the delighted recipient of a $4000.00 grant through the organization Fulbright Canada. Fulbright Canada has recently established an “Eco Leadership Program”, which is designed to support environmental programs located in the host communities of Fulbright scholars. Grant criteria includes level of community involvement and the environmental impact based on dollars spent.

Patrick Belanger, a Vancouver, Canada resident who is currently completing his doctorate at USC, was our sponsor for the grant. Mr. Belanger attended a monthly meeting of the Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, where he met Chuck and Lillian Almdale. The Almdales referred him to the Ballona program as a possible grant candidate.  Mr. Belanger then contacted program coordinator Cindy Hardin, who arranged for him to attend a presentation to students at Grant Elementary in Santa Monica regarding their upcoming field trip to the Ballona Wetlands.  Mr. Belanger and his wife Michelle also participated in several events on-site at the salt marsh, including a field trip visit from Braddock Elementary School.

The grants offered by the Fulbright Eco Leadership Program range in amounts of $2000.00 to $4000.00. There were 50 applicants for the grants; only a handful were chosen. Of those chosen, The Audubon Ballona Program was the only one to receive the full amount possible.

The money was used to acquire two new spotting scopes, two new microscopes and twelve new pairs of binoculars. These additional optics were needed, as class sizes have recently increased due to budget cuts, and we now have larger groups visiting Ballona with each field trip. The remainder of the award was set aside to help fund bus scholarships for cash strapped schools.

The Audubon Ballona Program is thrilled and most grateful to receive this support and recognition. Special thanks are also in order for the continued support of the Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, to the Almdales for their referral and to Mr. Belanger for his efforts in seeking us out and administration of the grant.

Since the inception of the Audubon Ballona Wetlands Education Program well over a decade ago, SMBAS has supported it with member volunteer time and money. We feel it is an exceptionally worthy project. Every year, classes from dozens of elementary schools are able to experience Ballona salt marsh and learn about its wildlife, plants and ecology. If are looking for a local organization into which to put your volunteer time or dollars, they’re hard to beat.

The project gets a lot of thank-you letters and drawings from the kids. These and more can be seen on our website. —  Chuck

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