By Rick Cohen, Avila Beach Foundation

Greetings, fellow Avilones. Another December has arrived, and the year is coming to a challenging end.  What a strange journey it has been. And how ironic that long-suffering Lakers and Dodgers fans finally saw their beloved teams become world champions but not be able to celebrate in the customary fashion. 

As was the case for Thanksgiving, the usual gathering of family and/or friends for Christmas and Hanukkah will be placed on hold this year or may proceed with the number of attendees reduced in size. Whatever December may bring, I wish you the happiest possible of holidays that you can muster. 

Speaking of the holidays, were you aware of the early gift that arrived at our shores last month in all their glory? Some humpback whales were strutting their stuff in Port San Luis Harbor and came in dangerous proximity to a few kayakers. Videos and photos were captured by nearby onlookers, providing some exciting close-up and close-call “National Geographic” moments.  In case you missed the videos, you can find some simply by searching “YouTube whales in Avila Beach.” Please be reminded that it’s against the law to come within 100 yards of these magnificent marine creatures, so be sure to enjoy them from a safe and allowable distance whenever encountered.

You may recall my prior mention of how the “Foundation” was reacting to the situations facing several of our grantees due to the pandemic. None were going about business as usual. Some were functioning on a limited basis, and some have yet to even open their doors. 

We reached out and made some financial considerations intended to reassign funds where agencies deemed them most essential to their missions. We also decided to dispense with our traditional grant application processes this year and instead elected to provide the same level of funding to eligible agencies in 2021 that we did in 2020. 

The supported organizations include: Central Coast Aquarium, Avila Beach Civic Association, Cancer Well-Fit, Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers, Avila Beach Jr. Lifeguards Program, People’s Self-Help Housing, Port San Luis Harbor District (Mutt Mitts), Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School, the Noor Foundation, Operation Surf Central Coast, the Surfrider Foundation, PathPoint Seasonal Beach Clean-up Program, and KCBX Public Radio. 

Plus, we will continue to support the Free Avila Trolley and home delivery of the Avila Beach Life news publication. Total funding allocated comes to $62,500. 

Last month I brought to your attention the upcoming Bob Jones Trail Walking Quiz. Well, it has been officially launched. It occurs in two parts, with each quiz consisting of five questions to which answers can be found at selected interpretive signs along the trail.  One journey starts at the Ontario Road entrance, and the other at the entrance from Avila Beach Drive and 1st Street. All who answer the questions correctly will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card to the Avila Beach restaurant of your choice. Grab your smartphone, put on your walking shoes, enlist family, or friends to join you, and have some fun. Visit the Avila Beach Community Foundation website, become a subscriber, and learn how to participate – 

Please bear with me as I deliver this “commercial moment” – one that I publish each year to remind all you fellow Avilones that the “Foundation” is here to effectively and efficiently serve our community and to also draw upon the collective resources of those who live here to help our town continue to thrive. We are a small and humble organization that has invested roughly $3 million in our community since becoming established in 1998.  Most of this was derived from monies in the “Foundation’s” professionally managed investment portfolio, but some has come through generous contributions from folks who just want to help us make a difference. There are several ways to do so, such as establishing a Donor Advised Fund of your own or by contributing to any of our existing Project Funds, including the Avila Beach Public Art Development and Restoration Fund, the Emerging Needs and Opportunities Fund, the Avila Beach Trails Improvements Fund, the Richard and Kathleen Zacky Family Foundation Fund, or the Joan Sargen Avila Beach Communities Enrichment Fund. Donations to any of these funds are fully tax-deductible, and no management fees are taken by the “Foundation.” Please get in touch with me if you wish to discuss the possibilities. And don’t forget, any donation, regardless of amount, entitles you to receive one or more of our limited-edition “Proud Avilone” license plate frames! ‘Tis the season of giving.

Last but not least are two things I remind you of each December. Cal Fire Battalion Chief Paul Lee says it’s time to replace the batteries in our smoke alarms and check our carbon monoxide detectors. The seasonal changes in daylight savings each year are the perfect periods to complete these tasks. And be sure to always purchase your postage and ship your packages at our local Avila Beach Post Office to keep it financially viable. We are so fortunate to be able to avoid the long lines at busier post offices in San Luis Obispo and south county. The friendly and helpful services of Mary, Julie, and Cindy are icing on the cake. 

That’s it for now, fellow Avilones. Have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever it is you celebrate this time of year. 

See you at the beach!