Familiar Faces Making A Difference in the Community

Our community is everything. And the vision for must! charities began with top industry leaders who saw the local need for support and wanted to do something to make a difference. Many band together to create the perfect channel for giving back. must! charities all started as a very small idea that formed from a group of business owners and friends that had a conversation about philanthropy, specifically in San Luis Obispo’s North County. Together they realized that they were a large and economically powerful industry but were disappointed that they were not focused on philanthropy and what they were giving back locally. They saw a need that wasn’t being filled and decided to take the opportunity to make something that will further benefit the community.


Today they find the greatest needs in the community and help to make the organizations supporting those needs more sustainable. By partnering with local businesses they not only create relationships and unity but raise funds that make an impact to those around us. must! charities was created as a way to bring the community together to help strengthen and build up key aspects we already have.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments towards organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie

Along with the incredible executive board that is made up of Andy Niner, Don Witmer, Michael Bickel, Heather Smith, Doug Kruse, Kelli Law, Bill Grant, Lisa Jensen, and  Becky Gray, there are thirteen high school students, nine are from Templeton High, that work alongside the executive staff and help make a difference in our community. These students are Max Chalekson, Ava Gray, Ella Hanchett, VIvi Jensen, Ashley Pascual, Lila Lee Peshong, Grace Ralston, Reina Dronen and Taylor Schoenthal. The Youth Board is a group of local high school students that volunteer their time serving others while encouraging others to make changes to improve and better our community.

One of the local projects the Youth Board has recently worked on is contacting different schools in our area to collect the jackets from their lost and found to donate to Coats for Kids. Over 400 families were served on distribution day! The students involved volunteer and dedicate many hours of their time, from collection to working the front line on distribution day, and are great leaders and examples that show their eagerness and desire to help make a difference for the less fortunate in our community.

“I’m a member of the must! charities Youth Board because it is the best way for young people to give back to our community and it gives us the opportunity to see the positive aftermath of our actions.” – Lila Lee Peshong

Must! charities way of giving is different than typical grant giving.  They are basically fund managers for social good. They come alongside organizations and offer a hand up rather than a hand out. They take their time prior to investing dollars into an organization to ensure the funds will be used the best way possible.

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Each year in the spring the must! youth board experiences and learns the practice of strategic giving, and they too are given the tools to research, and give strategically. Last May, after months of research and volunteering at various organizations, the youth board invested $5,000 with the El Camino Homeless Organization, so that the organization could better serve the youth that were residents in the shelter.  

must! charities has accomplished some major projects within our county. For example, they have partnered with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and have grown from 3 to 60 children having a mentor in North County.   must! charities has also raised thousands of dollars in partnership with SLO County Food Bank that went towards supporting their Childrens’ Farmer’s Market Program. This Farmer’s market isn’t any ordinary one. The students of the participating schools that are part of a low income community are provided with 15 pounds of fresh monthly produce. Like other farmer’s markets, students are given a reusable bag and mock money to shop and select the produce they would like to take home for their families. The Children’s Farmer’s Market also teaches the students about nutrition and cooking. must! charities has donated a van and truck and those vehicles make it possible to serve more students than ever expected.

Along with these examples, must! charities has participated in many more projects that have impacted our entire community greatly and they plan to continue with many more in the future. Their current projects support Boys & Girls Club of the Mid-Central Coast, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and ECHO (El Camino Homeless Organization). More information about must! charities can be found on their website www.mustcharities.org 

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