The 27 Berkeley Community Fund High Hopes scholars. Photo: Courtesy BCF
The 27 Berkeley Community Fund High Hopes scholar recipients for 2016. The BCF is celebrating 25 years of its work with a part at the UC Theatre on Oct. 8. Photo: Courtesy BCF

Saturday Oct. 8 the Berkeley Community Fund will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a big party at the UC Theatre in downtown Berkeley.

“We wanted to do something really special to mark the anniversary,” said BCF Executive Director Joleen Ruffin.

The evening includes a sit-down dinner prepared by Chef Dov and California Rose, wines curated by Narsai David, live music and an awards ceremony.

Read more about the Berkeley Community Fund on Berkeleyside.

The BCF certainly has much to celebrate: its principle mission is to provide $16,000 needs-based scholarships to motivated Berkeley youth from lower income families. In June, it honored its latest cohort of 27 Berkeley High seniors with scholarships. A total of $432,000 was awarded to the students who will receive the funds over the course of the next four years. In all, the BCF has given out $2.68 million in scholarships between 2008-2016, and has 107 active scholars as of this Fall.  73% of its scholars come from families earning less than $50,000 a year, and 90% of them are first-generation college students.

Skip Battle
Skip Battle: recipient of the Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal for “most useful citizen.” Photo: BCF
Skip Battle: recipient of the Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal for “most useful citizen.” Photo: BCF

Saturday’s event will honor Skip Battle with the 2016 Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal. The medal was established in 1929 to honor Berkeley’s “most useful citizen.” It is named after the University of California president who was best known for transforming UC from a small land grant college into a world-renowned university.

“Skip understands how community organizations can create real change by nurturing individuals and growing them into leaders, teachers and organizers,” said BCF President Chuck Fanning. “He has devoted his career to helping businesses get established, grow and thrive. He has quietly done the same as a civic leader, supporting numerous local and global nonprofit organizations that serve the greater good.”

Those organizations include the Berkeley YMCA, Berkeley Public Library Foundation, Berkeley Rep, Freight and Salvage and the UC Theatre, as well as the Berkeley Community Fund.

The first Wheeler Award recipient was August Vollmer. Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters has also received the honor. Commenting on all the people who have stepped up to support the BCF and its mission over the decades, Ruffin said: “It makes you feel really lucky we live where we live. Big ideas help the community.”

Saturday’s gala will also recognize Dorothy Walker, Martin Paley, Narsai David and Jessica Pers who have all been strong supporters of the BCF since its founding in 1991. Proceeds will go toward BCF’s High Hopes 100 Initiative to raise $2 million to fund 100 scholarships for Berkeley youth, support 100 enrolled scholars, and to help those scholars achieve a 100% college graduation rate.

Ruffin said she is particularly proud of the way BCF scholars support each other. There are many examples of scholarship recipients who are now university upperclassmen helping pave the way for freshmen entering the same colleges.

“There are peer groups in different schools,” she said. ” They help with initiations, with the transition to college, telling them what to expect when you get on campus and offering advice. It makes a difference, especially at the big schools, as the students share the same history. They don’t feel alone – they come from a unique high school and understand where [the younger students] are coming from.”

A cross-section of scholars who are studying locally will attend Saturday’s gala, Ruffin said.

For more information on the anniversary dinner, to purchase tickets or learn about sponsorship opportunities, please visit

Berkeley Community Fund awards scholarships to 27 Berkeley High seniors (6.15.16)
Op-ed: Berkeley Community Fund helped keep my college dream alive (9.30.15)

To find out what is going on in Berkeley and nearby, be sure to check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. And submit your own events: it’s self-serve and free.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...