The Common Good

As the Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation gears up for its annual Thanksgiving Luncheon on Nov. 22, 92128 Magazine spoke with RBCF President Debbie Kurth to learn more about how the nonprofit organization supports Rancho Bernardo. Through fundraising and memberships, the RBCF directs resources to other organizations making a difference right here in RB. Last year, over 19 organizations received over $70,000 in grants from the RBCF. There’s more, too – from the Pathway of Pride at Webb Lake Park to the Hats Off to Volunteers recognition night, the RBCF is all about celebrating philanthropy in our community.

Q&A with Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation President Debbie Kurth

cv_rbfoundation1What is the history behind the Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation (RBCF)?
The Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation (RBCF), a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1988. The RBCF provides assistance to the Rancho Bernardo community through funding for projects and programs focused on senior services, youth activities, recreation, promotion of the arts, educational enhancement, civic enhancement, and community protection. The foundation has established a permanent, growing endowment fund to meet Rancho Bernardo’s changing priorities and emerging needs.

How has the foundation grown and evolved over the years?
Since inception, the foundation was based solely on a fundraising model. However, two years ago the board decided to adopt the membership model used by the other eight community foundations of the San Diego Foundation. Individuals donate $500 annually to become members. Each year as members, they participate in choosing the focus for the grant process and vote for the applications they deem the most valuable to the Rancho Bernardo Community. Corporate membership is also available.

Is the RBCF associated with a larger umbrella organization?
Yes, in 1996, the RBCF became a proud affiliate of the San Diego Foundation, which invests our endowment, assists with managing our grant application process, manages our funds, and supports our events. However, the RBCF is completely run by a group of dedicated RB volunteers. All of the money raised is used only to benefit Rancho Bernardo. The use of the funds and how the grants are distributed is totally determined by the RBCF board of directors and its members.


Who has been instrumental in the development and execution of the RBCF?
The foundation was initially started by a number of individuals including: Woody and Dorothy Beard, Harold and Penny Dokmo, Ted Gaasch, Eileen Haag, Larry and Joyce McIntyre, Matt McLaughlin, Don McLean, Bob and Gena McMillin, and Bob and Darlene Wells. In more recent years, others who have contributed are Nick Anastastopulos, Dave Brooks, Steve Dematteo, Debbie Kurth, Scott Lawn, Kevin Martin, Brian McLean, and Jeff Shea.

Can you tell us about your current role with the RBCF?
I have been involved with the RBCF for several years and began my two-year term as president in January of this year. The foundation is a wonderful organization and I am fortunate to be a part of this group. It is so satisfying to help raise money for funding and then be able to grant this money to various worthy organizations within the Rancho Bernardo community to help them prosper and watch them meet their goals.

At-A-Glance | President

Name: Debbie Kurth
Profession: Founder and President, Business Services International, Inc.
Community: Rancho Bernardo
Education: B.A. in Psychology/Speech; M.B.A. in Health Care Administration
Hobbies & Interests: Golf, biking, tennis, SCUBA diving, travel, and spending time with friends and family
Favorite Moment with RBCF: Receiving my commemorative plaque on the Pathway of Pride

cv_rbfoundation7What is the foundation’s mission?
The foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Rancho Bernardo community by providing leadership for effective philanthropy, building enduring assets, and by promoting community solutions that advance the common good.

How does the foundation go about investing donated funds?
The San Diego Foundation Board of Governors’ Investment Committee drives asset management and investment growth to meet the RBCF fund objectives. The principal balance of the endowment fund is not spent, which protects the earning power and enables donors and nonprofit organizations to continuously donate earnings or grow endowments by reinvesting them in the principal. The RBCF Board of Directors advises the use for both the endowment and non-endowment funds.


What are some past examples of projects funded by the RBCF?
A great example of a past project centers around the 2007 RB fires. In November 2007, the RBCF brought together community and business leaders to assess the recovery and rebuilding needs of RB. Out of this meeting, RB United was formed and now serves as a coalition dedicated to meeting the needs of fire survivors within and around Rancho Bernardo. At the same time, the RB Community Foundation asked the San Diego Foundation Regional Disaster Fund Board to create a fund that would enable individuals and corporations to send money specifically to meet the needs of Rancho Bernardo. Individuals and corporations contributed more than $200,000 to the Rancho Bernardo After-the-Fires Fund. In addition, the RBCF received $100,000 from the San Diego Foundation Regional Disaster Fund Board to allocate in a manner the community deems appropriate.

Another project the foundation recently played an important role in was saving Webb Lake. The RBCF collaborated with the Rancho Bernardo Business Association to assist in raising funds to dig a well to supply water for the lake. The project was started by Scott Lawn and the foundation became the nonprofit sponsor needed to establish the fund. Donations were received from individuals and businesses throughout the community, along with grants through our elected officials.


How can local organizations apply for grants from the RBCF?
Grants are given out on an annual basis at our Thanksgiving Luncheon. Local organizations may apply online through the San Diego Foundation website. An informational meeting is held in April where the guidelines are presented by the grants committee. Applications must be completed online and are due in May. Site visits are conducted in June with all finalists. In September, the grants committee and members review the information and the final selections are made. Once the checks are distributed, the start date for program funding is December.

Board of Directors

Debbie Kurth, President
Scott Lawn, Vice President
Jeff Shea, Treasurer, Immediate Past President
Shirley Napierala, Secretary
Steve Dreyer, Grants Chair
Nick Anastasopoulos
Dave Brooks
Bonnie Ann Dowd
Kendra Jeffcoat
Mary Karscig
Bob Reeves
Maureen Rouleau
Michael Stelman
Larry McIntyre, Emeritus
Trudy Armstrong, San Diego Foundation Director, Regional Affiliates


Can you tell us about the upcoming Thanksgiving Luncheon?
The Thanksgiving Luncheon has become an annual tradition and is considered by locals to be the official kick-off for the holiday season. This festive occasion takes place the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and this year’s date is Tuesday, Nov. 22. The luncheon not only serves as a fitting occasion for our community to be thankful for the wonderful place we both live and work, but also is the setting for our grants ceremony. This year’s master of ceremonies will be Assembly member Brian Maienschein. The event typically draws between 400 to 500 community members.

cv_rbfoundation5The luncheon is one of the Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation’s signature events and raises money for its community grants program and Rancho Bernardo’s endowment fund. This is an excellent opportunity for both individuals and businesses to be sponsors for the foundation and receive recognition for their generosity. Last year, more than $70,000 was presented to local nonprofit organizations.

How has the Thanksgiving Luncheon evolved over the years?
It was originally a Rancho Bernardo Chamber of Commerce event brought to Rancho Bernardo by Larry Foster, who was involved in a similar project in Chicago. After the RB Chamber was dissolved, the event was given to the Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation as a perfect celebration for the awarding of community grants.

cv_rbfoundation3Do you have any other upcoming events or fundraisers?
The Pathway of Pride is the signature fundraiser for the foundation’s endowment fund. This ceremony recognizes those who contribute $1,000 or more to the foundation. Each donor or family member is honored by an engraved granite commemorative plaque installed on the walkway around Webb Lake Park. The event was held on Aug. 25 this year. Councilmember Mark Kersey has presided as master of ceremonies for the past several years. Donors received certificates of appreciation from both his office and the office of Assemblymember Brian Maienschein. To date, we have 278 plaques along the walkway.

The RBCF Cruise is an event that combines a relaxing vacation with charitable giving. In collaboration with local travel agent Maureen Rouleau, the RB Community Foundation receives a portion of the proceeds from each cabin sold on this annual cruise. The next cruise will be in April 2017 to Cabo San Lucas.

cv_rbfoundation4The Hats Off to Volunteers is an annual RBCF event that recognizes volunteers from various local organizations. Deserving individuals from each group are nominated for their contribution to the RB community and are recognized in a special Volunteer of the Year Ceremony. It is incredible to have all of these groups together at the same time. Last year, we paid tribute to over 70 volunteers.

How does one go about donating to the RBCF?
In addition to the Common Good endowment and non-endowment funds that are advised by the RBCF Board of Directors, there are other funds that were set up with a specific purpose for the RB community. These funds are the Kathryn Staab Fund, Rancho Bernardo Emergency Reserve Fund, Rancho Bernardo Symphony on the Green Fund, and the Rancho Bernardo/Smith Scholarship.

Information regarding donating to the RBCF may be found online at

If you could grant the community one wish, what would it be?
I would wish that Rancho Bernardo remains the wonderful community it is today and continues to thrive for many, many years to come. I can’t think of a better place to live. It has that small-town feel, but with immense charm and sophistication.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Through the years, the Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation has granted over $700,000. I am so very proud to be a member of this organization. With ongoing community support, the foundation will continue to be an important lifeline for Rancho Bernardo.

At-A-Glance | Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation

President: Debbie Kurth
Facebook: The Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation
Phone: 619-206-2569