The Tahoe Truckee region runs north from Lake Tahoe, in Placer County, over a mountain pass to the town of Truckee in Nevada County, and is home to 30,000 year-round residents. The local economy is driven by seasonal tourism, so low-wage service jobs predominate. Vacation homes ring the lake, while nearby trailer parks and converted summer cottages are crowded with working families, of whom many are first and second-generation Mexican-Americans. At Truckee Elementary School, 55% of students are Latino, 40% are English Learners (ELs), and 55% qualify for the federal lunch subsidy.
Cowell’s engagement here began in 2000 with some of our earliest place-based grants in the unincorporated lakeside town of Kings Beach. Over seven years, Cowell made 30 grants in Kings Beach. Major results included start-up of the North Tahoe Family Resource Center, construction of a Boys and Girls Club adjacent to Kings Beach Elementary School, and production of affordable multi-family housing comprising 524 units.
In 2007, Cowell expanded our definition of the community in order to address the widening distribution of families living in poverty throughout the region. Through 2023, 111 grants totaling $9.4 million established an Endowment for Strengthening Families at the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation and helped to: grow wellness and enrichment programs for middle and high school-aged youth; enact systemic improvements in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District; and support the merger of four existing family resource centers into Sierra Community House, a regional family-strengthening organization. Cowell began making “exit” grants in Tahoe Truckee in 2018.