July might as well be the official Dennis Agnos month. Last week, the Healdsburg resident and LGBTQ activist was the subject of a feature article about foster parents and the benefits of building a family through foster care. This week, Agnos is in the spotlight again — for his work as president of the volunteer board of directors at the Healdsburg Education Foundation (HEF).
Agnos recently was at the center of HEF’s recent push to raise $45,000 to fund Project Success at Healdsburg High School — a program that comprises mental health services for students in need. County funding for the program had been eliminated in the wake of the October wildfires, and HEF mobilized donors in a matter of weeks to save the important counseling services.
He also is the man behind HEF’s five-year goal to triple the amount of money the organization fundraises per student each year; currently HEF pulls together roughly $300 per student per year, and the organization seeks to bump that number to upward of $1,000 per student per year by 2023.
“We all know Healdsburg is a caring community with lots of very generous people committed to making a difference,” Agnos says. “With increased funding per student we can really move the needle.”
Agnos, 47, certainly is no stranger to the world of education. He and his partner, Christopher Palacios, moved to Healdsburg from San Francisco seven years ago when Agnos got a job as the director of development at The Healdsburg School. Before that, Agnos worked in similar capacities at the Anti-Defamation League, Stanford Graduate School of Business and the San Francisco Symphony.
Today, Agnos’ role with HEF actually is a side (and volunteer) gig — his day job is director of development for Face to Face, a nonprofit in Santa Rosa with an annual budget of $1.3 million for HIV prevention education and care services.
If you’re doing the math, that means Agnos has spent more than 20 years in nonprofit work.
Still, considering that he and Palacios have two daughters (first- and third-graders) in the Healdsburg Unified School District, Agnos says his work with HEF is important for a variety of reasons.
“As strong as HEF is, we’re in a unique position to do more,” says the Chicago native. “We’ve always provided the district with money, but we don’t want to exist in our own little silo. There are a number of strong and wonderful nonprofits in Healdsburg that also wrap their arms around Healdsburg’s children. We need to work together.”
According to Agnos, the first step toward achieving this goal is pursuing a collaboration with Corazón Healdsburg, Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County and other local organizations to increase access to programs across the board.
Of course the second step is fundraising, and HEF plans to kick off its annual fund campaign in September. All of the funds that HEF raise are important; the money adds to chronically depleted funds for public education.
But this money also serves another important purpose. It supports programs and services the district would not be able to offer without supplemental assistance.
Ultimately, Agnos is all-in for helping HEF achieve its goal of securing funds that provide enrichment programs district-wide, resources for staff and professional development and programs that can prepare kids for college and career.
Now it’s up to us to empower the man and his board of 13 volunteers achieve this goal. To donate, visit hefschools.com.
Matt Villano is a writer and editor based in Healdsburg. His column spotlights good people in the community doing great things. To learn more about him, visit whalehead.com.