July 18, 2017 marked a joyous and momentous occasion for the Central Valley Community Foundation, with the much anticipated announcement of the 10 winners of The Big Tell and a celebration of CVCF’s 50th anniversary.

Mid-morning, CVCF hosted a press conference to announce the 10 filmmakers chosen to receive grants of $5,000 each for original mini documentaries about life in the Central Valley. Presented by Bank of America and in partnership with CMAC, the press conference was attended by the eager filmmakers and their project partners, as well as supportive friends and family. “Why ‘The Big Tell’?” began CVCF President and CEO Ashley Swearengin. “As we thought about the work of the Central Valley Community Foundation and the things that we’re here to do and to support, we couldn’t escape this reality that the Central Valley really is the future of California. [The Central Valley] is this great, undiscovered place, that, of course, we know all too well – but that we feel like people outside our region know very little about.”

CVCF President and CEO Ashley Swearengin announces the 10 winners of The Big Tell.

Of the 10 winners, there is at least one film for each of the six counties in CVCF’s service area, ensuring that the resulting films will be diverse and indicative of life in the Central Valley. Film topics range from the struggles and resilience of a Syrian refugee family living in Fresno, to the power and influence of dance at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, and the life of a young Latino male in Orosi facing difficult family circumstances. For the full list of winners and projects, please click here.

Also in attendance at the press conference was award-winning filmmaker and documentarian Sascha Rice. Rice is the granddaughter of former California Governor Pat Brown, and received an Emmy nomination for her acclaimed documentary, California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown. Rice has joined The Big Tell to act as a mentor and invaluable resource for the winning filmmakers. Rice commented on how honored she is to be part of The Big Tell and met one-on-one with each filmmaker after the press conference to learn about the stories behind their films.

At The Big Tell press conference, Ashley Swearengin (center) introduces Sascha Rice (far left) and Senior Vice President of Bank of America, Mark Riley (inside left). 

Ashley Swearengin, Mark Riley, and Sascha Rice pose with The Big Tell winners. (Photo Credit: The Fresno Bee)

Later that evening, approximately 100 members of the community gathered at CVCF to celebrate the release of our 2016 annual report and 50 years of philanthropy. Guests enjoyed tacos from Taste Kitchen and beverages from Casa de Tamales, and were treated to art and entertainment courtesy of CVCF’s talented Board members: paintings from Dr. Alan Pierrot; photographs from Juan Arambula; poetry from Mas Masumoto; and music, singing, and art from Larry Powell.

Pictured here are only a few of the fantastic paintings by CVCF Board Chair, Dr. Alan Pierrot.

A spectacular art piece from CVCF Board member Larry Powell.

The celebration saw two families honored for their generosity, vision, and significant contributions to our communities. President and CEO Ashley Swearengin awarded the Woodward Family with the inaugural CVCF Founders Award, accepted by O. James Woodward III. Woodward’s father, O.J. Woodward II, was instrumental in the establishment of the Fresno Regional Foundation in 1966, paving the way for decades of charitable giving and community transformation in the Central Valley. Awarded the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award was the Lyles Family, accepted by brothers Bill and Gerald Lyles. The Lyles Family has been a steadfast supporter of the Central Valley Community Foundation for decades and a tremendously generous force for good in our communities.

(Photo Credit: Howard K. Watkins Photo Archive)

From filmmakers for The Big Tell in attendance at the 50th Anniversary Party, to our Board members, community partners, and staff, the event brought together both old and new generations. As we look ahead to The Big Tell Showcase event this October, as well as future decades of change driven by the generosity of our donors, we’ll always remember to look back at our humble beginnings and remember how it all started.

On behalf of the entire staff at the Central Valley Community Foundation, thank you for your support in helping us fulfill our mission to cultivate smart philanthropy, lead, and invest in solutions that build stronger communities for 50 years. Here’s to 50 more!