Donor Desk: Deborah Santana

At the White House September 2016, opening of the Smithsonian NMAAHC

August 26, 2019
Source: San Francisco Foundation

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in San Francisco in a small house on Majestic Avenue in the Ingleside neighborhood. From our living room window, we saw the Bay Bridge stretch to the East Bay where our family church had been built by my grandparents.

Family values first taught me about philanthropy. We shared what we had with those less fortunate and performed service through Girl Scouts and our church. We cared how others lived and fared with a humanitarian conscience.

My first nonprofit was the Milagro Foundation, started in 1998. Our mission was to serve children in the areas of art, education and health. For nine years, I was Vice President, reviewing every grant request and visiting many of our grantees. Our first grant was to the Albanian Adoption Committee, providing cribs, blankets, toys, and necessary items for sustenance. One of the little baby girls was named Deborah on my behalf. Milagro funded music programs, camps for homeless children, an art bus, diapers to a Diaper Bank, afterschool programs, Latino college prep courses, Cinnamon Girl for brown and black girls in Oakland, theater for hearing impaired youth, and hundreds more.

In 2007, I created Do A Little as a Donor Advised Fund with the San Francisco Foundation, changing my mission to serve women and girls in the areas of health, education and happiness. I had been introduced to SFF as chair of the Community Leadership Awards Committee, given the rewarding opportunity to work with Dr. Sandra Hernandez, Tatwina Lee, Belva Davis, and Sheryl Wong. My time on the committee was a phenomenal education in the graciousness of being of service and I learned about Bay Area community needs and organized efforts to serve diverse populations.

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Tags: philanthropy education