San Bruno students enjoying improved school music programs and more female athletes participating in a traveling basketball league are among the community enhancements possible through a grant program fueled by restitution funds from the gas pipeline explosion.

The San Bruno Community Foundation announced last week the inaugural winners of $200,000 in grants offered to a variety of local organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life in San Bruno.

The foundation started the grant program along with a variety of other initiatives to allocate the nearly $70 million paid by Pacific Gas and Electric following the gas pipeline explosion which devastated the Crestmoor neighborhood in 2010.

The 14 grants announced Monday, Dec. 12, include a combined nearly $45,000 to revitalize music education at local high and elementary schools; $10,000 to purchase uniforms and pay league dues for low-income girls to participate in the Prospects Basketball Academy; $25,000 to support rehabilitation and improvements to the Belle Air Community Building and a variety of other efforts.

Steve Hoff, a coordinator for the Prospects Basketball Academy, said he deeply appreciated the generous offering.

“We want to be able to do something for girls because it seems like boys have all the opportunities through athletics, and this grant gives us another layer to what we are able to do,” he said.

Hoff founded the league with a partner two years ago partially as a means of granting his daughters and their friends a chance to participate in competitive basketball. Since then, the league has grown to serving nearly 60 girls spanning from second-grade through high school, and teams frequently travel throughout the Bay Area and neighboring western states to play in the Amateur Athletic Union circuit.

The grant amounts to nearly half of the nonprofit league’s annual operating budget, said Hoff, who expects it will pay for more travel opportunities.

Hoff, who lived in the Crestmoor neighborhood when the blast occurred, said he is happy to see money from the tragedy pay toward enriching the lives of residents.

“Any time you can draw a positive from something that was so devastating, then you should try to do your best with that,” he said.

The foundation’s Executive Director Leslie Hatamiya said she is pleased her organization can contribute to the variety of quality programs.

“We are very excited to be able to share some of the restitution funds with many of the local community groups that really form the lifeblood of San Bruno,” she said.

The grant program is the second round of payouts to local residents this year, following $100,000 shared with local students for college scholarships. Hatamiya said the foundation is also in the process of examining a variety of larger projects such as paying for construction of a swimming pool, library or community or recreation center.

The foundation is collaborating with city officials to identify the preferred project to fund, as operating costs will ultimately come out of the city’s budget. Hatamiya said she expects the City Council to further discuss larger projects early next year.

While the more substantial initiative moves forward, Hatamiya said the foundation wanted to assure the funds are continuously allocated to serve local residents.

“What we liked is that the group of 14 touches a cross section of the community so different populations are benefiting,” she said.

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the grants are students in the San Bruno Park Elementary School District, which has traditionally struggled with finding adequate space in a limited budget to finance enrichment programs.

The San Bruno Education Foundation, benefiting the local elementary school district, received a couple of $25,000 grants to improve music programs at Parkside Intermediate School as well as Allen, Belle Air and Rollingwood elementary schools. An additional $19,180 was granted to the Capuchino High School Alumni Association to revitalize music education at the local high school.

Renee Callantine, treasurer and CFO of the education foundation, said in an email the money will be put to good use.

“These types of opportunities, which are not readily available to some San Bruno students, help close the achievement gap socially, emotionally and academically,” she said.

Cheryl Olson, superintendent of the San Bruno Park Elementary School District, expressed her appreciation as well.

“The generosity and careful thought the Community Foundation board has put into the grant awards is greatly appreciated and will be utilized equally carefully,” she said. “Our students will indeed benefit from the grants awarded through our education foundation for our music programs, and our students will also benefit from the heart safe procedures and machines being installed at each site thanks to another grant provided in conjunction with San Bruno Community Foundation and the Peninsula Health Care District.”

One of the grants paid $15,000 to sponsor CPR and automated external defibrillator training for local middle and high school students.

For his part, Hoff said he believed the grant will go far to assuring more local youth are granted the opportunity to share the joy of sport.

“The kids and their families that don’t have the means to pay for a travel team environment, it’s going to give them a chance to play and that’s the thing we are most excited about,” he said.

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