This opinion piece by Julie Makinen Palm Springs Desert Sun originally appeared in the Desert Sun, Monday, December 19, 2022. 

Stories of giving are important. The community foundation wants to help us bring them back

The new Desert Community News Fund at the Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF) aims to restore the coverage of nonprofits lost when Desert Scene and Giving went on hiatus. Here’s how you can help.

The Coachella Valley is a can-do place with a long tradition of neighbors helping neighbors. For many years, one way The Desert Sun has tried to help our neighbors is by highlighting nonprofits, volunteers and philanthropists in our Desert Scene and Giving sections.

Last week, I announced that, unfortunately, due to budget cuts across our parent company, we were forced to put Desert Scene and Giving on indefinite hiatus and editor Winston Gieseke was laid off. In wake of that news, I heard from many people across the valley expressing how much they valued those stories and photos. Numerous charitable organizations reached out to say how those articles had connected them with incredible donors and volunteers.

In addition to the lamentations, several people stepped up with creative ideas about how we could continue that coverage. It’s touching, and a bit overwhelming, to be on the receiving end of help. But I’m pleased to report that one effort has already gotten off the ground — and explain how you can get involved.

The Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF) — an 81-year-old nonprofit that is the oldest and largest community foundation serving Riverside and San Bernardino Counties — has established the Desert Community News Fund. The purpose of this fund is to support civic journalism and preserve community news here in the desert by underwriting positions such as the editor’s role for Desert Scene and Giving and the articles that appeared in those sections.

Anyone may make a tax-deductible contribution to this fund and distribution will be overseen by the professional staff at IECF. They have great experience ensuring that donors’ contributions serve their intended purpose: In fact, IECF has about 400 individual funds supporting causes including health, education, arts, veterans, the Salton Sea and more.

The creation of the Desert Community News Fund was made possible via an initial $5,000 contribution from Ann Sheffer, an IECF board member and tireless and creative supporter of many great causes in the Coachella Valley, especially those related to the arts, education and health. Sheffer and her husband, Bill Scheffler, have a Donor Advised Fund at the foundation, through which they can direct contributions to important causes as they arise — and they believe that local community journalism is essential to supporting local nonprofits, volunteerism and philanthropy.

But you don’t have to be a board member to start a fund via IECF or donate to an existing fund — anyone can do it. They have various options for helping people make smart decisions about their philanthropic dollars that really make a difference right here in our backyard. The funds accept donations of any size — no amount is too small.

Michelle Decker, IECF President & CEO

R. Michelle Decker, president and CEO of IECF, told me: “Local nonprofits have a direct impact on the health of our communities. They create jobs, care for our children, rescue animals, and help our most vulnerable neighbors. Coverage of their important work ensures our nonprofits remain strong. IECF is proud to partner with the generous donors who enable their work to continue.”

If you would like to learn more about the Inland Empire Community Foundation, please visit

Donations to the Desert Community News Fund can be made through this link:

A full list of IECF’s funds, including the Desert Community News Fund, can be found at

IECF also accepts contributions by check. Those may be addressed to IECF, with  “Desert Community News Fund” in the memo field. The address is IECF, c/o Desert Community News Fund; 3700 Sixth St., Suite 200; Riverside, CA 92506.



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