Help Secure Isla Vista Youth Projects Forever

Courtesy Isla Vista Youth Projects.

Courtesy Isla Vista Youth Projects.

I had the opportunity to visit the Isla Vista Youth Projects Children’s Center site yesterday on a Women’s Fund site visit and was so impressed by what I saw. For the 2015-16 grant cycle, the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara granted them $75,000 to help them get one step closer to completing the purchase of the Children’s Center, ensuring that 160 low-income child care spaces remain available.

Coincidentally, Isla Vista Youth Projects (IVYP) recently launched a campaign to raise $300,000 to qualify for $300,000 in matching funds to purchase their building in Isla Vista and successfully close Phase I of their capital campaign. Along with the Children’s Center,  Isla Vista Youth Projects serves over 2000 children and families annually providing high quality childcare, education and activities for children 0 – 5 years old.

The IV Youth Projects team is racing to meet this matching fund offer by the end of 2017. To date, IVYP has already raised over $1 million for this capital campaign and a successful $300k for $300k match campaign will close out Phase I of their capital campaign.

“For over 30 years, the Isla Vista Youth Projects has offered the children of Goleta and Isla Vista a safe, healthy and vibrant place to spend their days while their parents were hard at work. This campaign ensures that we can continue to offer this service to thousands of children in the future without the threat of losing our treasured home,” says IVYP Executive Director LuAnn Miller.

“The cost of real estate and skyrocketing rents are direct threats to community serving organizations across the County of Santa Barbara and IV Youth Projects is no different. We have a rare opportunity to match every dollar raised and secure our home forever.” says IVYP Campaign Committee member Dr. Yonie Harris.

IVYP’s capital campaign has already secured support from the likes of the Santa Barbara Foundation, Hutton Parker Foundation, Towbes Group, DiPaola Family Foundation, Kennedy Family, Orfalea Foundation, Mosher Foundation, Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, Wolfe Family, Casey Family, Cox Communications and more.
For more information on the campaign or how to donate, please, go to

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 8, 2016.


Local Lowdown: Let There Be Light!

LightWorks: Isla Vista Illuminates a Vibrant Community

By Leslie Dinaberg


Photo by Robert Bernstein, courtesy Kim Yasuda

The parks and streets of Isla Vista will pulse with artistic spirit on May 19-21, when LightWorks: Isla Vista comes to life. This exciting series of temporary installations and performances that transform the parks of Isla Vista into illuminated evening spaces, engaging existing underutilized spaces and animating them through visually compelling experiences that contribute to the safety, economic viability and quality of night life and sense of place.

Spearheaded by UCSB Art Professor, Kim Yasuda, an Isla Vista resident who is passionate about using the arts as a positive force for community engagement, LightWorks is part of a long-term community development partnership effort with Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, and other key partnerships that include UCSB Visual and Public Arts; Offices of the 3rd District Supervisor and County Sheriff; Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District; Isla Vista Community Network; UCSB Materials Research Laboratory; Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science, and Technology and the Santa Barbara Foundation.

“This multi-agency arts initiative is the first of its kind for Isla Vista and offers a way to engage the leadership of artists and designers in helping Isla Vista reimagine its future as a creative community,” says Yasuda, who worked hand-in-hand with Santa Barbara County Arts Commission to secure grant funding for the project.

Building on momentum from last spring’s Blunite Memorial Vigil, which lit the UCSB campus and adjacent Isla Vista area with thousands of blue LED lights, Yasuda says, “All of that was really the momentum of post-tragedy healing, artists kind of moving into those spaces and engaging them. Art is always kind of a way to make a space more beautiful. …So art is our catalyst. Artists and art are, to me, catalytic in beginning something beautiful and positive and that’s kind of how…I hope this will work.”


Photo by Marcos Novak, courtesy Kim Yasuda

She continues, “I was thinking about the lighting as being a key feature that artists could tackle. Rather than having enforcement lighting or surveillance lighting or security lighting, we would have engaged lighting in beautiful illuminated spaces.”

“While public lighting and clear sight lines are critical components for safety, we have identified the arts as an integral component to affect the permanent cultural change our community so desperately needs,” writes Alex Rodriguez, board chair of Isla Vista Recreation and Park District.

Initial funding for LightWorks: Isla Vista is based on temporary art installations, but Yasuda envisions this project as the beginning of developing a more permanent exhibit. “What I imagine is that the campus and IV community actually embark on a partnership to host this event annually, so essentially we would have a kind of contemporary art festival. That’s my dream. And also that we would start a collection, an illuminated public works collection of different projects…We would actually be one of the first campus communities that would have a public art collection comprised of light and technology.”

With support from UCSB Materials Research Laboratory—the lab of UCSB Professor Shuji Nakamura, who won a Nobel Prize in physics in 2014 for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes (LED lights)—Isla Vista certainly seems ideally suited to bring the long-term vision of LightWorks to life.

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Steve Lyons and Carol Palladini Honored as Man and Woman of the Year

Carol Palladini was named Woman of the Year. Courtesy photo.

Carol Palladini was named Woman of the Year. Courtesy photo.

Hundreds of friends and supporters gathered at the Four Seasons Biltmore to recognize Steve Lyons and Carol Palladini for their long-standing commitment to volunteerism and the significant impact they have had throughout the community.

The awards were presented by Ron Gallo, president & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “The landscape and sense of community we treasure in Santa Barbara was shaped to a great extent by the efforts of volunteers,” says Gallo. This year’s recipients of the Man & Woman of the Year award, Steve Lyons and Carol Palladini, continue this legacy of service. Their compassion and willingness to give back has touched the lives of thousands and clearly demonstrates the impact of committed volunteers.”

Lyons came to Santa Barbara with his family in the early 1980s. His local nonprofit involvement has included CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), ADL (Anti-Defamation League), Family Service Agency (FSA), Cottage Hospital,  The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, Laguna Blanca School, the Boys & Girls Club and AYSO, among others.

Steve Lyons was named Man of the Year.

Steve Lyons was named Man of the Year.

Palladini, who moved to Santa Barbara from Pasadena in 1996, has also been involved with a number of local nonprofits, including CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Rotary Club of Santa Barbara and Tres Condados Girl Scout Council. In 2004, she established the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, which has awarded grants totaling $4.7 million to 64 local nonprofit programs impacting more than 83,000 local women, children and families in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria.

The awards were presented by the Santa Barbara Foundation and Noozhawk, with special commendations by Mayor Helene Schneider and Rep. Lois Capps.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 8, 2014.

Fast Pitch Offers a Winning Opportunity for Nonprofits

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Concise communication is key in today’s world of ever-shorter attention spans. With that in mind, this spring local nonprofits will have the opportunity to participate in a Shark Tank style competition to make three-minute pitches to a panel of judges and a live audience for cash awards, including a $25,000 Judges award and two $10,000 Coaches awards.

Fast Pitch SB, a project of Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara (SVPSB), has already received almost 100 applications from nonprofits looking to receive personal coaching and communications training from experts in the field.

“This is a great way to help an organization have sustainable change,” says Seth Streeter, a member of SVPSB and the “Chief Energy Officer” for Fast Pitch SB.

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

The opportunity is open for any nonprofit with a compelling idea or project they would like to bring to fruition in the community. After all applications are complete, SVPSB will identify 20 nonprofits to enter seven weeks of communications training to develop their presentations.

From these 20, ten finalists will be invited to present their three-minute “fast pitch” to a panel of judges at the Music Academy of the West on May 15. There will be a live audience populated with potential investors, donors and community members, as well as satellite voting and viewing locations set up throughout Santa Barbara. Nonprofit supporters and community members will be able to gather at these locations to watch a live feed during the event and organizers are working to set up a text-to-vote process to give one organization the Audience Choice award.

I went to watch our sister Social Venture Partners group in Los Angeles do this event (which originated there about eight years ago). It was so great that, “I couldn’t control it, ” says Streeter. “I got so excited I just raised my hand and said ‘let’s do it.'”

The process moved quickly after that. When the event takes place in May, “the whole thing will have happened in nine months,” says Streeter.

“People are really excited about this program,” says Joan Young, executive director of SVPSB. “We all know when we’ve heard a bad talk, but it can be difficult to refine that into the right message … especially if you have a complicated message.”

“In talking to nonprofits who have done this in other places, most said they did it for exposure and money but found the leadership and communications training had a tremendous and lasting effect,” says Streeter.

“As for the communications training, SVPSB will identify 40 individuals (two coaches per team) to work with the nonprofits so that the best possible pitch can be developed. This in itself, can also be seen as a valuable prize,” says Jessica Tade, director of communications and marketing of the Santa Barbara Foundation, which is one of the sponsors of the event.

“We’re really hoping to find organizations that need just this little step up,” says Young, explaining, “Social Venture Partners is a unique group of individuals who pool their money and talents and leverage networks to improve the nonprofit sector.”

“Getting involved is a way to give one donation and support 20 organizations,” says Streeter. For more information about getting involved with Fast Pitch SB click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on February 24, 2014.

Noozhawk Talks: Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Suzanne Farwell

Suzanne Farwell, LaraCooper / Noozhawk photo

Suzanne Farwell, LaraCooper / Noozhawk photo

As Director of Communications, Suzanne Farwell is often the voice for the Santa Barbara Foundation, connecting all of us with information about the good work the foundation is doing in the community. Farwell connects with Leslie Dinaberg
to reflect on her work and her life, as she prepares to retire later this month.

Leslie Dinaberg: What will you miss the most about your job at the Santa Barbara

Suzanne Farwell: The people I work with. One of the reasons I like working there is because I
work with people who are passionate about what they do and helping people.

…The other thing I really like about my job is it has so many facets where I’m
gathering information, so I’m learning about many different things every day. …
I’m learning about different philanthropic groups that pop up through us. It’s the
whole canvas of interesting wonderful things that are positive. …

LD: That’s great. In many ways I think Santa Barbara Foundation seems like an
ideal nonprofit job in that you would never get bored because you’re dealing with
so many different types of things.

SF: And now there’s the added component of a new boss who is coming in (Ron
Gallo replaced Chuck Slosser as CEO this year) with fresh ideas and that’s also
very exciting.

LD: So what made you decide to retire now?

SF: Well a couple of things. The major reason is my daughter has a little boy who
is 14 months old and he is a sweetheart and I don’t get to see him much. And my
son is getting married and in every family there needs to be someone at the
center who doesn’t necessarily actually need to do anything but who is that
center and there’s much I can’t do with this job. … I hope to do some projects for
the foundation that I am intensely interested in, and I’m still young enough to be
able to open my mind to lots of other things and who knows. I’m trying to have a
fertile ground and so as things pop up they take root. But I can’t open it up
without cutting back on the work. But it seems like a good time. I’m also looking
forward to spending more time with my husband at home.

LD: I would imagine that’s its very demanding work.

SF: It is, but that’s what good about it is I use every brain cell.

LD: I know you worked on a lot of great programs while you were at the Santa
Barbara Foundation, but are there any that are particularly near and dear to your

SF: The first year I was there we were about to celebrate the Foundation’s 75th
anniversary. So there was a book, a history book for the anniversary project to
coordinate and then there was a gala performing arts presentation at the Lobero.
That was fantastic. Then there was a symposium about the future of
philanthropy. That was all in one year. That was really something. …

I think one of my favorites was a book about the blind doctor, Dr. Pearlman. … A
little old lady comes to us and she wants to leave us a million dollars part of the
deal is that we publish her manuscript. Well, you can imagine a little old lady’s
manuscript. What will we do with that? Well, you read it and it turned out to be a
really compelling human story so we shepherded that project, we got a local
publisher; the whole thing was really heartwarming. And it’s always nice to have
tangible evidence of what you’ve done because most of mine is ephemeral.

LD: I’ve seen that project and it’s very, very cool.

SF: Yes, and the idea that we would be following through on the donor’s wishes
which is always very important. And it’s a book that opens people’s eyes to what
it is like to be blind as a society, as a world society we could all that to
understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

… It’s fascinating. I get something out of every single project. I know the
foundation’s history better than anybody.

LD: Do you have any trips planned or any immediate plans as soon as you’re

SF: Everybody asks me that. … My husband and I have traveled a lot and I just
plan to stay home for a while and just be there. I live in a wonderful place. I want
to just sit on the porch, watch the birds and just still the mind a little bit because
I’m always thinking about philanthropy and this and that and it’s going to take a
while for that to go away because I’m always going at 60 miles an hour.

LD: What else do you do like to do with your spare time?

SF: Well I love to read. I’ve also been a professional dancer for 30 years and I
still do it two or three times a month. I’ve been with Chef Karim since he

LD: I didn’t know that.

SF: So that’s in my blood. And I love to move, so it would be fun to explore
different forms of dance. I don’t know it’s mainly a stilling of the mind to allow
other things to come up. It sounds like I’m not going to do anything.

LD: You need a break, that’s what it sounds like to me.

SF: So I’m opening doors and letting things in.

LD: How did you get started with belly dancing?

SF: My husband and I were living at Married Student Housing at UCSB because
we were both graduate students. I was getting my masters in French and he was
getting a PhD in counseling psych and a woman moved in who was a belly
dancer, new to town. He was dabbling in photography at the time, she needed
photos, so they made a deal. He said I’ll take photos of you and why don’t you
give Suzanne some lessons. I was very annoyed. I was not consulted. I was
almost insulted.

So I went and I took a couple of lessons and said this is really weird. But then my
teacher put on a show with three other dancers and I went and I was hit in the
head by a bat. That proverbial light bulb was like, ah, that’s what I want. Yes. I
want to be that person on the stage. Because it’s so alluring and beautiful and
that was it I set on a path and my poor husband never imagined that this would
happen. And it became overwhelming. It changed my life because I learned to
relate to people in a different way. I was very British at the time, very shy and I
learned to handle myself. I did Belly Grams for years where I would go to offices,
homes, wherever and do a ten minute dance and congratulate the birthday
person and whatever it was and so I was in mansions in Montecito, barbecues on
Milpas, offices all over, it was fantastic, so I got a look at America that I never
would have had, and it was for me about Americans. A great education… It’s
added a spark to my life.

LD: Keeps you in shape too.

SF: It does. And like anybody else I’ve had experiences and I’ve taken from them
and learned and it’s made me who I am today, and I hope to have many more of

LD: How did you go from getting your masters in French and becoming a belly
dancer to working in the nonprofit world?

SF: I was a stay at home mom and I took that very seriously. I spent a lot of time
with my kids educating them in every way that I could. When our daughter, the
younger of the two, went to high school, my husband said, “well you know, this is
a good time to get a job.” I was panicked because I had not ever really, really had
a job.

I’d worked as a caterer for many years and I worked at Jane Fonda’s ranch. … I
applied for a job at the museum and they hired me and then I thought to myself
as I sat at the desk the first day, what am I doing. This could be the shortest job
in history. Then I calmed down and I just applied the idea that what would I want
to know being Jill Six Pack on the street, because I didn’t know that much about
the museum and I went on from there and it all worked out very nicely.

Vital Stats: Suzanne Farwell

Born: January 30, in London, England to a French mother and a British

Family: Husband Larry Farwell; two grown children, Nick, who lives in Seattle,
and Lara, who lives in Palo Alto; and a grandson, Bennett, 14 months.

Professional Accomplishments: Masters Degree in French; Chef/Caterer at Jane
Fonda’s Ranch; Worked in communications for Santa Barbara Museum of
Natural History; Voiceover Artist, now voices the calendar on KDB radio station;
Professional Belly Dancer; Director of Communications for the Santa Barbara

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Kate Wilhelm’s “Barbara Holloway” series of
mysteries and Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” series.

Little-Known Fact: “I think I’ve exposed all of the little known facts. The dancing, I
don’t bring that out that much. They are really two separate things. When they
intersect it’s interesting, but it’s not the first thing out of my mouth.”

Originally published in Noozhawk on June 7, 2009. To read it there click here.

Giving Back: Chuck Slosser

Chuck Slosser (courtesy photo)

Chuck Slosser (courtesy photo)

With the same engaging grin and focused attention that have pried philanthropic purse strings loose since he came to town in 1981, Chuck Slosser says he’s excited to tackle retirement after 18 years as executive director of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

What an amazing ride it has been. When Slosser, now 66 took the helm of the Santa Barbara Foundation–Santa Barbara County’s largest private source of funding for nonprofit programs–it had a staff of three, roughly $30 million in assets, and was giving out a few million in scholarships and grants a year.

Compare that to today’s foundation–under Slosser’s leadership, it now has a staff of 23, more than $300 million in assets, and donates about $27 million each year. He’s justifiably proud, but still ready for a slower pace, saying, “I thoroughly enjoyed the foundation and the work that we’ve done here and the great things that have happened in the community as a result. I’ve never objected to the 9 to 5, but it’s really the 5 to 9.”

Slosser and his wife of almost 38 years, Stephanie, who retired from UC Santa Barbara’s biology department three years ago, plan to travel, play golf and do yoga. He’s also interested in playing more basketball (he’s got a regular game at the Boys and Girls Club), taking Spanish lessons, picking up a guitar and a dissertation that have been collecting dust, and perhaps doing some consulting. He smiles. “I really do feel like a kid in a candy store. I want to do that, and I want to do that, and I can’t wait.”

Clearly, Slosser is a man with many interests, which is why the diverse Santa Barbara Foundation was “a dream job come true.” With an infinite variety of grant recipients–Music Academy of the West, Page Youth Center, Special Olympics, Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Red Cross, St. Vincent’s, Legal Aid, Transition House, Girls Inc. and Wildlife Care Network, to name a few — the foundation was a perfect place for this Renaissance man.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine in January 2009.

Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Ken Saxon

Ken Saxon

Ken Saxon

Since arriving in town 12 years ago, Ken Saxon has served on the boards of some our most successful community endeavors, including the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation. Now he’s taking his experience with the unique challenges nonprofit leaders face and using it to develop a new program called “Courage to Lead.”

LD: What first brought you to Santa Barbara?

KS: My wife Jo and I moved here when our twins were 1-1/2 years old. We felt that this would be a great place to raise children and it’s really turned out to be that. I remember we came at the beginning of June and two days after we showed up was the second annual Big Dog Parade … and a couple of weeks later was Solstice and then there was July 4th and then there was Fiesta and we just thought this town was one giant parade just to welcome us to Santa Barbara.

LD: I know you left a business in the Bay Area. What is your business now?

KS: What I’ve been doing for most of the last 12 years is I’ve taken my business skills and applied them to the nonprofit sector, mostly as a volunteer. … The venture that I’m most involved with right now is a program called Courage to Lead. I’ve worked with a lot of nonprofit executive leaders, and one of the conclusions that I’ve come to from this dozen years of experience of working with them, is that I think they have a harder job than business leaders because business leaders have one bottom line they are managing to. Nonprofit leaders have at least two: a financial bottom line and a social benefit bottom line. At the same time they have less resources to draw upon and also a lot less has been invested in them.

… Also I find that nonprofit leaders are very isolated from one another. Sometimes there’s a sense that only they know what the challenges are and sometimes there’s a sense of competition. … So I helped to develop Courage to Lead. … The goal is to nurture and support them in renewing themselves and in rekindling their passion and commitment for their work. And because it’s done in a group in retreat over time, they build a deep community and they provide each other with mutual support and inspiration. … The program is based on the work of a national group called the Center for Courage and Renewal.

LD: What stage are you in the development of the program?

KS: We are launching a group this year that’s going to start in November and they are going to meet quarterly in retreat for at least a year up in Mount Calvary Retreat Center for two days at a time. … From May 7-9th, we’ve arranged for an introductory retreat … people who are potentially interested are invited to come and experience what one of these retreats is like.

LD: Is there a religious or a spiritual component to it?

KS: There’s not a religious component. Spiritual is always a challenging word because it means so many different things to different people, but yes, there’s a spiritual component in that people are given opportunities and time for reflection and inspiration relative to core questions of meaning and mission and passion and they are given space to reflect and hear their inner voice and to tap into what it is that most motivates them in life that they want to do in the world. And I would call that a spiritual. But the text and things that we use most often is actually poetry and other inspired readings that help people think about their careers and their lives on a deeper level, rather than kind of a religious text.

LD: How will you select people the first people?

KS: We have gone out to leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic world and we have asked for nominations of nonprofit leaders that they feel would benefit from this experience given who they are and where they are in their careers. But it is also open for application. We have a website that is, where people can get more information about it. … We talk about environmental sustainability but there’s a big discussion as the nonprofit sector continues to grow it’s filling a huge need in our society, but whether we can run it in a way that is sustainable, rather than just burning everybody out. That’s a tough question. I’d like Courage to Lead to be part of the answer.

LD: I think you have a unique perspective in that you’re still in your 40s and able to devote yourself to nonprofit work fulltime.

KS: Absolutely, but it doesn’t mean that other people can’t be involved. The Katherine Harvey Fellows are an example. Another example is Craig Zimmerman and I created a group called FUND, Families Uniting to Nurture Dreams. There are 20 families with children who are mostly between the ages of 6 and 16, and we got together partly to raise college scholarships for local kids, but the biggest thing that we do is we create opportunities for our children to learn about the community and really about their world through hands-on ways of getting involved in the community.

… Our group the last three years has partnered in something called Project Healthy Neighbors that is done by Casa Esperanza and Santa Barbara County and Doctors Without Borders … they put on a health fair to try to try to attract the local homeless population to come in and get check ups, to get their immunizations and to get referred out to other services that they might need … (My son Griffin) was down with me at Casa Esperanza handing out the bags to the people that came through.

…The only way I know people in town is either through my kids, their school, but mostly it’s through volunteerism, the nonprofit boards and so on and what a generally terrific group of people. I’ve developed so many relationships with people that I like and respect through volunteering.

Some people move here and want to engage and other people move here and want to hide out and that’s fine and that’s their choice, but it’s awfully fun to engage.

Vital Stats: Ken Saxon

Born: Baltimore, Maryland, January 9, 1962.

Family: Wife Jo and 13-year old twins Griffin and Hope.

Civic Involvement: Courage to Lead; Santa Barbara Foundation; Katherine Harvey Fellows Program; Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation; Santa Barbara Middle School; Eleos Foundation: Unitarian Society; FUND (Families United to Nurture Dreams); Foundation for Santa Barbara City College.

Professional Accomplishments: “I ran a business in the Bay Area for a dozen years (FARM, First American Records Management) that was acknowledged as both a financial success and a really fine place to work and really good at customer service and I’ve been a volunteer leader here. I approach things like, as the chair of the scholarship foundation, I didn’t approach that in any way differently than being board chair of my company. … I do look at my volunteer service here as professional.”

Little-Known Fact: “My kids perform in this musical theatre group called the Adderly School, and a year or two ago they created an opportunity for parents who were willing to subject themselves to it to have the same experience as their kids did, and so I was up on stage for three nights at Victoria Hall in ‘Mama Mia.’ … I performed on stage for the first time since 8th grade and the last time.”

Originally published in Noozhawk on March 18, 2008.

One on one with Wendy Read

Wendy Read, courtesy CEC

Wendy Read, courtesy CEC

Santa Barbara County faces huge challenges with foster children, especially as they reach their teenage years and it becomes almost impossible to find homes for them. Funded by a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation, Founder/CEO Wendy Read and her team have been working to create the Children’s Project, which will be the state’s first residential charter school, located on 60 acres of oak-studded hills north of Los Alamos.

Leslie Dinaberg: How did the Children’s Project get started?

Wendy Read: When I was 20 years old, I … was a volunteer with foster kids. I followed a young boy from the time he was six to the time he was 18, … to 27 different placements, including prison, where he spent the last six years of his life.

I was an actress at the time (appearing on TV shows such as “A Team,” “Knight Rider,” and the “North & South” miniseries)… but I realized that my real passion wasn’t acting, it was advocating for change in the foster system. That’s what drove me to go to law school. … There’s really not a day that goes by that I don’t think of that boy and … what would have made his life different. What could we do that would change the trajectory of people like him that are now following through the system.

LD: How did the idea for a boarding school come about?

WR: We received funding from the Orfaela Family Foundation which allowed us to start the steering company and we met once a month … it was all of us sitting around the table saying who are these kids, why are we sending them out of county and how do we bring them what they need.

LD: So at that point there was no specific agenda to build a school for foster kids?

WR: Oh no. … We just said who are the kids, why are we sending them out of town and how do we bring them home.

… We were surprised at how many times our kids moved and how many times they moved out of town, and how many times they were separated from their siblings… We were surprised at how many referrals were made … it made us say we don’t just want to bring them home. We want to bring them home and do a better job of raising them than their parents were.

LD: Why foster children?

WR: There are so many kids to be helped in the county, but there’s a big difference between foster kids and at risk kids and homeless kids or kids that need help. Maybe it’s because I’m an attorney that I see it that way, but we elected the judge that sits on the bench and says to a parent, “You know what, you’re not doing a good job of parenting your children. Based on the values that we as a society have created, you’re not doing a good job. We’re going to take your children away from you and care for them ourselves until you clean up your act.” And in that moment, we not only have a moral responsibility to care for these kids, but we have a legal responsibility to care for them. …We become the parents … fewer than 50% of them graduate from high school nationwide, so we’re doing a pretty bad job of parenting.

LD: Are there other models for this type of school?

WR: A program in San Diego called San Pasqual Academy (, which is a boarding school for foster youth, opened our eyes to what is possible. We asked for their advice, and they said they would start in 7th grade, so you could do two full years of remedial work. They talked about starting it as a charter school … to have the flexibility to say if you get reunited with your family or you get adopted, you can still be a day student. The charter school gives us that flexibility.

LD: What about the idea that being in a home is best?

WR: All we’re trying to do is provide an option for some kids that don’t want to be in a foster home or can’t be placed in a foster home, they can’t reunify with their families and would like to get a great education.

…Right now the judge has to say to a parent, “You have six months or a year to clean up your act and you get your child back,” it’s either/or. You clean up and you get your child back 24/7 or you fail and all rights are terminated. We really feel like one of the advantages of the campus is that a parent can start the healing process and still maintain a connection to the child … which is best for the kid if he wants to be connected, but not having the responsibility of having the child live with them, which is what caused those problems in the first place.

My whole thing is I want to stop arguing about where the pillow is at night and make sure the desk is in the same place every day.

LD: What’s the timetable for opening?

WR: With an aggressive timeline, we’re hoping to open in September of 2010.

LD: And the idea is to raise them up through better education?

WR: Exactly. Some of these families, it never occurs to them that the kids could go to college. You start talking about these things and it changes the whole family dynamic and then it changes the whole community dynamic. And then we talk about the ripple effects of this campus …I think this is really an opportunity for the entire community of Santa Barbara to do something that’s going to change things on a national level. That’s what seems to be appealing to people. … The idea is education being a way to solve a problem that we all know is there.

Vital Stats: Wendy Kilbourne Read

Born: June 29, 1964, Hollywood, CA

Family: Husband James, son Jackson (16), daughter Sydney (12)

Civic Involvement: Founder/CEO The Children’s Project; Cate Parents Organization, Current President; Katherine Harvey Fellow at Santa Barbara Foundation 2004

Professional Accomplishments: Cover of T.V. Guide in 1985; Passed the CA Bar 2002; Junior League Woman of the Year 2007

Little-Known Fact: Wendy has her Private Pilot’s License


Originally published in Noozhawk December 3, 2007.

Lionesses of Winter

They Take Pride in Giving Back

It takes passion, money and a lot of hard work for Santa Barbara’s most treasured nonprofit organizations to thrive. This community tradition of giving back by supporting education, caring for those in need, and sharing a love for nature and the arts has an incredibly generous cast of leading ladies at its helm. Not content to simply be the torchbearers, they are also keeping an eye toward the next generation of the philanthropic community.

“I’m trying to spread the circle,” says Shirley Ann Hurley. “I’ve brought young women into my life who care passionately about these sorts of things that I do and they stimulate me and …I love the excitement that is getting to know all of these wonderful people.”

Let’s meet a few of the women who help keep the community alive and well.

The Leading Ladies

Betty Hatch

La Belle Foundation, Granada Theatre, Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., Hospice, CAMA, Cottage Hospital, Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, the Arts Fund, Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara Art Association, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Ballet

“My life has been dedicated to the teaching of self-esteem,” says Hatch, founder of La Belle Modeling Agency (1963-1991), and now executive director of the La Belle Foundation, which offers young women free training in self-esteem, self-development and personal and social responsibility.”

“Giving to the community is just a pleasure; it’s a demonstration of our gratitude and our love for everybody here.”

Shirley Ann Hurley
Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, Family Service Agency, Santa Barbara Public Education Foundation, CALM, Anti-Defamation League, Santa Barbara Foundation

“The things I’ve wanted to spend my time on are the things that help children and young people become the best that they can be, which means to live up to their full potential … The organization that I have probably put the most years into and time is the Family Service Agency. The concept that we could intervene early in a child’s life and with that child’s family and help them raise a more secure child was what hooked me.”

“People keep saying what do you do for fun. I said everything. All of this is fun. And it is. It’s work, but it’s fun. There’s nothing I like better than working with a group of deeply caring people. It is so exciting. And the fact that you know that together you can make a difference in somebody’s lives and your community is just such a reward.”

Gerd Jordano
Cottage Hospital Building Campaign, Westmont College Foundation, CALM

“Board members are ambassadors for those organizations. They are sort of cheerleaders and are able to sort of talk and share what that organization is and what it’s all about. It’s really an opportunity to educate people about that organization and that gives me great joy to share my passion and my knowledge about that particular organization.”

“I’m a former cheerleader so I continue that same passion, only I’m just not jumping up and down anymore (laughs). But I do get very passionate about what I get involved with and it just brings me a lot of joy.”

Carol Palladini
Santa Barbara Women’s Fund

“The concept of the Santa Barbara Women’s Fund (which will have given away more than $1 million by the end of the year) is making your time and money most effectively used by a lot of women writing checks and putting them together and doing direct fundraising, so that you’re not spending a lot of money to make money… Our umbrella is giving in support of the greater Santa Barbara area; it has to be local, to benefit unmet needs for women, children and families.”

“A lot of the work that I’ve done in the past, on and off boards, has some Heartache mixed in with the joy of it. This has been a pleasure from the beginning.”

Joanne Rapp
Santa Barbara Foundation, Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, CALM, Cottage Hospital, Botanic Gardens, Laguna Cottages, Montecito Community Foundation

“I have enjoyed working with organizations that are targeted at helping youth with their educational goals, in particular the Scholarship Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation student loan program. Everything that you work on and within the nonprofit community enhances the quality of life and the effectiveness of our community, but helping the students transfers anywhere. … It will strengthen the fabric of whatever community that they land in.”

The Next Generation

Tiffany Foster
Storyteller, Crane Country Day School, Howard School, All Saints by the Sea Parish School, Lotusland, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families

“When I arrived in Santa Barbara four years ago … it seemed that every fabulous, intelligent person I met was volunteering for either Storyteller or Lotusland. Before I knew it I was in the center of a vibrant group of caring women and men who dedicated their energy, financial resources, and business acumen to help make a difference in our local community.”

“Storyteller Children’s Center provides daycare and preschool to homeless toddlers in Santa Barbara as well as support services for their families. Young children deserve security, safety and a stable environment. … It is difficult to find a more worthy cause.”

Kisa Heyer
Lotusland, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families, Crane Country Day School, Storyteller, Lobero Theatre, Sarah House, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, CAMA

“Even after being involved with Lotusland for so long, I’m still amazed by it–not only with its collections, design, architecture, and programs–but also with the story behind the garden. Madame Ganna Walska’s wonderland is such a benefit to our community. It’s magical to see joy that children (all 4th graders visit) and adults express after visiting the garden, and no surprise, really, that we are becoming world-renowned as a one-of-a-kind experience.”

Jill Levinson
Lotusland, Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of SB, Storyteller, New Beginnings Counseling Center, Lobero Theatre, All Saints by the Sea Parish School, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families.

“I think everyone has a need for hospice care for themselves or their loved ones at some point in their life. I just feel like it’s very important to support these organizations because they’re necessary. If they disappeared that would be a travesty for our community. Our community is so fortunate to have so much to offer everyone. I think that’s part of what’s really special about Santa Barbara, it tries to take care of people.”

Laura Shelburne
Storyteller, Crane Country Day School, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Stanford University, Lotusland, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

“Winston Churchill once said, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ I spent a number of years practicing corporate law, working around the clock during the Silicon Valley boom, and I always regretted that I didn’t have enough time to do worthwhile pro bono work. While I was one of those oxymoronic happy lawyers, I have to say that now it is wonderful to be able to choose my own “clients” based on causes I believe in and use my skills and experience to help non-profits. I also feel strongly that I should set an example for my children by doing things for others and for institutions that will outlast us and continue to benefit future generations.

Lisa Wolf
Santa Barbara Ballet, CAMA, Storyteller, Lotusland, Santa Barbara Zoo, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum of Art SMART Families, French Heritage Society, Laguna Blanca

“We started a group at the art museum because we had a feeling that the art museum was reaching out really effectively to kids in town, elementary school students and underprivileged kids and it was also a great resource for very very serious art collectors, but there was nothing in the middle. … So we created this group called SMART families (and it’s Santa Barbara Museum of Art, not that we think we’re especially bright) but a really wonderful group.”

“When you know that you’ve helped make it possible for somebody to attend a program or for somebody to be exposed to opera or some great cultural moment, or to just alleviate human suffering, it’s a great privilege to be able to do it.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine, 2007

The Katherine Harvey Fellows Program

There is no doubt that Santa Barbara has a robust philanthropic community. Last year the National Center for Charitable Statistics reported 1,891 registered nonprofits in the county and more than $2 billion in revenue. But there is also no doubt that these organizations are getting a bit, ahem, gray around the temples.

So how do you ignite young do-gooders in a community where the high cost of housing and the low availability of well-paying jobs make it struggle for many to take care of their own needs, let alone the needs of others? Where will the next generation of charitable leaders come from?

The Santa Barbara Foundation is planting the seeds for future boards with the Katherine Harvey Fellows program, designed to cultivate philanthropic leaders for the community. With graduates like Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Helene Schneider, the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation’s Scott Brittingham, and the Community Environmental Council’s Sigrid Wright already making their marks around town, the program, established in 1999, is already having an impact.

Funded by the late Katherine Harvey, a former Santa Barbara Foundation trustee, the invitation only fellowship program provides a forum for a select group of young professionals to explore ways to make a significant, lasting impact in the community.

The class of 2006/07–Katya Armistead, Magda Arroyo, Greg Bartholomew, Christine Brooks, Jeff Forster, Geoff Green, Colette Hadley, Nina Johnson, Vincent Martinez, Rachael Steidl, Michael Takahara, and Travis Wilson–began their 18-month journey last year by participating in all aspects of the work of the Santa Barbara Foundation, including agency research, community relations and fundraising.

Class members take turns chairing and organizing the monthly meetings, gaining valuable experience in keeping the lively group on task. Members of the board of trustees also serve as mentors to the “Fellows,” offering leadership, insight, and access on a personal level.

Steidl, founder of and a board member for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, praised her mentor, County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. “They matched me with someone who was a great fit for my business and a great link for my personal interests as well.”

In addition to partnering with board members and sitting in on the foundation’s grant making committees, the “Fellows” also work closely together.

In addition to meeting monthly, they do personal interviews within the group to help develop one-on-one skills, as well as public speaking skills, when they present their interviewees to the group.

“The most valuable aspect of this experience has been meeting people from sectors other than education and sharing with them the passion of philanthropy and making a difference,” says Armistead, a Red Cross board member who runs UCSB’s Visitor Center and is Assistant Director for the Office of Admissions.

After the first year, the education portion of the program winds down a bit and the “Fellows” get to create, implement, and evaluate some grants of their own.

The foundation allocates $30,000 for this purpose, but like the “Fellows” before them, this class has decided to raise additional funds to give away. At press time they had already secured $5,000 in challenge grant funds from the Hutton Foundation and were working on appeal letters to raise even more.

Following a spirited debate about where to give the money, foundation board member and former “Fellow” Ken Saxon offered, “This discussion … is the meat of this program. …(The foundation) could have set up a process about how you make these decisions. We’ve chosen not to, and have decided to let each class struggle with this. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, it’s cool, it’s creative, but it’s not easy.”

“It’s amazing to have put all of these strangers in a room almost a year ago and to see how comfortable everyone has gotten with each other and the dialogue that now takes place with the group,” says Steidl, adding that her fellowship experience has already helped her professionalize her charity work.

“I know that I am now a better board member because of the experience,” says Armistead, who along with her colleagues–who range in age from 27 to 42–are becoming just the kind of young philanthropists that Katherine Harvey had envisioned.


To donate or request more information about the Katherine Harvey Fellows program, contact the Santa Barbara Foundation, 1111 Chapala St.., Santa Barbara, CA 93101, 805/963-1873.

Originally published in Coastal Woman