December 1, 2021 | by Lisa Mattson

Just north of the picturesque wine roads of Napa and Sonoma counties lies Lake County, a mountainous area with equally beautiful vineyards that has struggled with diseases of despair for decades, from drug addiction to low college enrollment education attainment. The statistics are unsettling: only 68 percent of Lower Lake youth graduating high school, half of the students live below the federal poverty level of $25,000 or less annually per household, 31 percent of pregnant women do not receive prenatal care in their first trimester, and only 15.5 percent of Lake County’s residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.  The fact that 60 percent of Lake County has burned in wildfires since 2015 has only deepened our neighbors’ strife.   

That is why the John Jordan Foundation and Jordan Winery have decided to make a major investment in helping Lake County’s most vulnerable residents.

A non-profit called Hope Rising Lake County had a dream of creating a new program called Smart Start Bright Future to address critical issues in their community: prenatal substance abuse, access to services for new and expecting mothers, connection to recourses for families and caregivers, lack of educational attainment and a dismal outlook for the future. Since 2015, Hope Rising has been creating partnerships that support individual, collective and community health and wellness, with a special focus on addressing drug use. To realize the Smart Start Bright Future dream, they needed $1 million. To reach that goal, they’d need to create a new coalition of partners.  

Last year, Senator Mike McGuire learned that John Jordan wanted to expand our foundation’s work outside Sonoma County and took Lisa Wittke Schaffner to Lake County to learn first-hand about the Smart Start Bright Future vision. The John Jordan Foundation pledged to invest $300,000 over three years, and Lisa asked Redwood Credit Union to match our $300,000. Adventist Health joined as the third $300,000. A virtual fundraising event will be held this summer for the remaining $100,000 to reach the goal. 

Smart Start Bright Future will offer several new resources to those in need, starting with California’s first user-friendly, bilingual Eligibility Wizard. Parents of children from prenatal to five years old will be able to enter demographic information securely into a portal and receive a list of programs for which their family is eligible. Smart Start will also employ a Family Resource Navigator, who is assigned to mothers prior to birth or immediately after giving birth. The navigator helps health service providers monitor postpartum depression symptoms, provides referrals to resources and home visits and provide specialized training to those with Perinatal Substance Use Disorder. According to Faith Hornby, Executive Director of Hope Rising, their goal is to connect new and expecting mothers, as well as parents and caregivers, to essential services that will “lift up” youth up by improving their education attainment, improve high school graduation rates and increase college enrollmentThis initiative is estimated to support 500 of Lake County’s most vulnerable mothers, families and children in the first year alone. 

Investments in after-school programs, with an emphasis on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and STEM, are also core to the program. Another new pillar is establishing a 10,000 Degrees office in Lake County, California’s leading college success nonprofit organization, with which the John Jordan Foundation has had a long partnership. Since 2009, 10,000 Degrees has helped more than 25,000 young adults from low-income backgrounds get into and through college.   

There are charming wineries that make great wines that can be visited in the volcano-rich soils around Mount Konocti surrounding Clearlake, but we cannot forget who lives in their shadows. It’s the same approach the John Jordan Foundation takes to help those less fortunate in our backyard in Sonoma County. We are proud to expand our social impact as part of this ambitious movement to launch the health, wealth and wellness trajectory of Lake County’s youth.  

 Learn more about Hope Rising and its Smart Start program. Learn more about the John Jordan Foundation.