The Pro Deo Foundation will hold a grand opening for their student shop Coastland at 768 Linden Ave. on Friday, Nov. 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. Below is a Q and A with CVN editor Christian Beamish and Coastland leaders Chris Pritchett and Dave Roberts.
CVN: What is Pro Deo’s vision for the youth of Carpinteria, and can you explain the program?
Our vision is that every teenager in Carpinteria would be able to imagine a future for him/herself as a contributing member of society. Our emerging programs for the youth of Carpinteria are designed to provide necessary resources for healthy adolescent development: a place where they are accepted within a safe community, guided by caring mentors to discover their passion, and given real opportunities to develop a sense of purpose.
Our program—called Pathways—is designed to give middle and high school students hands-on experience running micro-businesses in teams through the creation of handmade products made in our program space to sell at Coastland, our adjacent retail shop. Youth who participate are able to earn money from the products their team produces and sells.
Those who participate in Pathways are mentored by skilled makers and business professionals who care about kids and work to help run their businesses successfully. Participants will also have access to services that will help them succeed in life after high school. The launching of this program is taking place in conjunction with the after-school program that we are also running at Carpinteria High School, called CREW.
CVN: Do you consider your work to be ministry? Also, are you operating as Coastland?
The Pro Deo Foundation is a Christian operating foundation whose mission is to help create pathways for children and youth to flourish. Historically, our work as a foundation has been among some of the world’s most destitute children, addressing both spiritual and physical needs. Recently, we have expanded our work to serve the common good in our local community.
Coastland is our first local operation. While Pathways is our ministry program, Coastland, as a store and makers space, is simply the mechanism that will allow our Pathways participants to sell their products, test the marketplace, and learn to run their businesses.
Pathways/Coastland is a Christian ministry in that it aims to be a reflection of God’s heart for the students we serve. Our mentors and staff operate on the core beliefs that every teenager is a beloved child of God, and is therefore not an accident, and is therefore uniquely gifted with creative potential and purpose, and therefore deserves the opportunity to flourish in a life of joyful service to the world.
We are not a church, though we serve local churches and are considered a religious organization. While we do not proselytize and while we welcome youth from any or no faith background, we aim to display what we believe to be the love of Christ as taught in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and we are delighted to talk about our Christian faith when we are asked.
Put simply, because we believe we are loved by Christ, we love kids. And because we love kids, we want to come alongside to help them in life, especially the ones who need it most.
CVN: You mention the founders in Newport Beach first ran Pro Deo as a foundation funding programs to help people internationally. Have you worked in communities in the U.S. prior to your time in Carpinteria?
While the Pro Deo Foundation historically funded programs overseas, we have expanded into an operating foundation by adding staff who bring extensive experience (over 40 years combined) working with youth and their families in California, Minnesota and Washington state, mostly through church ministry and athletic coaching. In this new work in Carpinteria, we are finding that our previous experience translates well into the work and programs we are doing.
CVN: What brought you to Carpinteria in particular?
Chris and his wife Devon are Westmont alumni (’00 and ’01) who have held a deep love and sense of gratitude for this place for over 20 years. Some of the most influential people who cared for us during some of our most formative years are here in Carpinteria, Montecito and Santa Barbara. Partly, Chris wanted to give back to a community that helped him a great deal. Beyond that, because of the relationships we have maintained over the years (even from a distance), along with the perceived need of hidden poverty and other issues facing youth in Santa Barbara County, we felt led and drawn here.
Initially, we knew that our work would be somewhere in Santa Barbara County. Because we live in Carpinteria, we decided to start close to home to see if there were gaps in the services and programs offered to children and youth that we might be able to address. After meeting with local nonprofits, churches and school district employees, we thought that there might be room for a program geared towards middle and high school students.
CVN: You mention that CUSD Superintendent Diana Rigby has turned over the CHS after school program to you, how many children are in the program and will there be activities all year round for them?
Through CREW, the after-school program, we offer a variety of options for students. We have tutoring four days a week. We offer two different fitness programs and a culinary program. We also offer two different options for students to learn how to make the products that we will sell at Coastland. Our program attendance varies between 10 to 45 students for each offering. In October, we had 355 sign-ins for our program. At this point, we are committed to running CREW through the 2019-20 school year. We would love to consider summer offerings and are beginning to think and plan what that might look like, but as of now, there is nothing set in stone.