The locally founded program Environmental Education for the Next Generation will hold its first annual Investing in Our Youth Gala and Auction from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Sunday at Chase Palm Park Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara.

The nonprofit organization, founded in 2009 by fourth-year environmental studies major Ryland King, recruits volunteers to teach environmental education and sustainability to first and second grade students via group lessons and hands-on activities. The EENG program initially started in Santa Barbara County and has expanded to include chapters in San Louis Obispo, Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

According to King, the charity event aims to highlight the program’s educational efforts.

“Our primary goal is to put on an incredible event,” King said. “We want community mem- bers, leaders and teachers to leave with their jaws dropped and talking about EENG for the next few days.”

The event — the group’s first and largest nonprofit fundraiser — will feature a dinner from local restaurants and caterers as well as a chocolate fondue island. Additionally, the fundraiser includes an open bar and live music by local folk-rock band Benny B. & Lomo.

King said the benefit aims to raise $10,000, with proceeds going toward classroom supplies, outreach material and volunteer training — all necessities for running the program.

King was recently named a semifinalist for the 2012 Do Something Award, which recognizes young people who make an impact through a community project or organization and awards $100,000 to the grand prize winner and $10,000 to four finalists.

EENG member Kayla Donely, a second-year environmental studies major, said the EENG program is an essential part of the community because it instills values of sustainability within the society at its most fundamental level.

“It’s important to the community because it teaches children environmental stewardship that they can pass on,” Donely said. “The youth will be the ones taking care of our earth in the future so teaching them the importance of nature early on will benefit everyone.”

King said the nonprofit plans to expand to different states within the next five to seven years.

“Every day I think big. I see where [EENG] can go and where it will soon be,” King said. “It’s incredible to be in this position right now.”