By CORRIE PELC, Valley Community Newspapers writer
Although it just started a few months ago with a Facebook page, new nonprofit East Sac Give Back is already making quite an impact in the community, including helping to raise more than $3,000 toward the rebuilding efforts for the McKinley Park playground.
East Sac Give Back is the brainchild of 13-year East Sacramento resident Michael Saeltzer. A former public school teacher, Saeltzer is currently a stay-at-home dad to his 4- and 6-year-old daughters and lives in East Sacramento with them and his wife, Shinder.
“We just love (East Sacramento),” he said. “We have wonderful neighbors, nice parks, great schools, recreational sports – it’s kind of the ideal place for us.”
Saeltzer says he got the idea for East Sac Give Back after reading an article in The Sacramento Bee that talked about discrepancies between East Sacramento and nearby Oak Park.
“They did a lot of talking about how East Sacramento has a lot of healthcare, parks, restaurants and neat activities for kids, and how Oak Park is really struggling with a lot of those things,” he said. “But they didn’t talk a lot about how the communities actually relate to each other.”
Saeltzer decided to start a discussion about this issue online and after generating some positive responses from both community and business members to see what he could do to help bring the two communities together.
“The mission of East Sac Give Back is to provide the community a single philanthropic identity,” Saeltzer said. “It’s kind of unique in that it’s not just to strengthen our own community in East Sacramento, it’s actually to reach out to other communities in Sacramento also. And in the long-term we’re planning on giving 50 percent of our fundraising to another community or other communities and 50 percent to be reinvested back into East Sacramento proper.”
Having an impact
Although East Sac Give Back does not yet have its tax-exempt status – which is something Saeltzer is currently working on – the nonprofit has already been helping to raise money and work on projects toward its mission.
Right now the organization’s main efforts have been going toward helping raise money to rebuild the playground at McKinley Park in East Sacramento, which burned down the evening of July 27.
“When that happened is when I really decided that I want to pump it into high gear to see if we could get some volunteers for the rebuilding, maybe raise some funds, and bring people together in a positive way,” Saeltzer said.
By using the group’s Facebook page and a fundraising website called GoFundMe.com, in less than 48 hours East Sac Give Back raised more than $1,600 toward the rebuild. And as of Aug. 2, more than $3,000 has been raised through the website.
This total does not include donations East Sac Give Back has been receiving from area businesses that are doing their own collecting.
“I didn’t expect to get too much because times are pretty hard right now, but … we’re coming along,” Saeltzer said. “Some people are donating $100. I mean, that’s really nice. So that blew me away – that’s been exciting.”
Making a difference
In addition to helping rebuild the McKinley Park playground, East Sac Give Back is working on other projects such as looking at starting community gardening in East Sacramento.
“There’s no community gardening in East Sacramento and there’s a couple of them in Oak Park,” Saeltzer said. “We’ve been talking with some of the people in Oak Park about how they got theirs started and how we might be able to get one put in here.”
Additionally, the organization is looking into putting a circuit training course in a neighborhood park in memory of Dr. David Kilmer, who Saeltzer says passed away a few years go and was very physical fitness oriented.
And East Sac Give Back is also looking at what can be done to keep community swimming pools open for another summer.
“A lot of people have really felt happy this summer that the pools were able to stay open and some of them still need help with funding,” he said.
Saeltzer said he would also like to see East Sac Give back do some events that would bring in members of other communities, such as Del Paso Heights, Oak Park or West Sacramento, “so that people can start getting to know each other beyond just their neighborhood boundaries and maybe share their food and music and good times together.”
As East Sac Give Back marches forward, Saeltzer hopes to bring on more members to his group to get more input on what the organization should be doing.
He gets many of these ideas from his Facebook page, which was set up May 5 and currently has 98 followers, and Facebook Group, which has 201 members.
Saeltzer says the convenience and ease of connecting with individuals and communities is what made him launch East Sac Give Back on Facebook.
“It’s been a great platform for me,” he said. “It’s been fairly easy to operate, it’s been free and it’s been very transparent, which I think helps a lot. It was the easiest, quickest way to get the word out.”
Saeltzer said the most important thing for him is to focus on things that bring people and communities together.
“I want (East Sac Give Back) to be continually growing and continually networking with other individuals, businesses and even other nonprofits to find out how we can do things to help out communities,” he said.