A walk with Art Walk’s Founder Kerrie-Kilpatrick Weinberg

Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, founder of Artwalk for Kids/Adults (courtesy photo)

Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg, found of Artwalk for Kids/Adults (courtesy photo)

“Through positive self-expression the doors of opportunity will open,” is the mission statement for the nonprofit Art Walk for Kids/Adults. It could also be the motto for the life of Art Walk’s founder, Kerrie Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

“Art Walk has opened so many doors for me in Santa Barbara, friendships, the areas I work. It’s amazing how things flow into one another when you’re on that right path,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg, who trained as a set designer in England before developing Art Walk in Santa Barbara in 2000. The program–which is suitable for all but designed for at risk and special needs students–uses the creation of art projects to teach students other academic skills like math, problem solving, reading and understanding directions.

Working around the schedules of her two sons, Ben (now 15) and Sam (now 10), Kilpatrick-Weinberg–who was then a single mother and met her husband Henry Weinberg through Art Walk–began the program as an informal art camp in her backyard. From there she segued into working with the home schooling community, then Devereux’s developmentally disabled students.

She credits her brother Nigel, who was autistic, for inspiring her work. “The hyperactive, the kids with ADHD, the kids who some people call special needs, I just call creative,” she says. “I’ve always done art with any kid that has a learning difference. That seems to be my area, my gift. I don’t find it challenging, I find it really my normal comfort zone because of Nigel.”

With a full art program soon in place at Devereux, Kilpatrick-Weinberg set her sights on expanding to the Los Prietos Boys Camp, a residential correctional/treatment facility for teens.

With the support of the County Arts Commission and the County Education Office, and some funding from the Fund for Santa Barbara, Kilpatrick-Weinberg began her journey into what she calls “the golden triangle,” of Los Prietos Boys Camp, Juvenile Hall and El Puente School, which serves students who have been expelled or imprisoned and are transitioning back to school.

“I would develop this relationship with a kid in Juvenile Hall, then I would see them at Los Prietos for six months, then if things went well they went back to school and they went back to El Puente, so I would have another relationship with them,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

“Some of those kids I knew two years, from beginning to end. It was great to see how well they were doing because a lot of them had given up on themselves, and I’m not saying it was just Art Walk, but the whole process … was immensely life changing for them.”

That continuity of relationships is important. “A lot of the people we work with don’t like too much change,” she says. When Devereux announced closure of its residential program, Kilpatrick-Weinberg began Chagall House so that her autistic adult students could continue to create art. They meet every Wednesday night, have showings of their work around town, and get together for dinner regularly at the Weinberg house, where they catch up socially and discuss and critique their art. Henry, Ben and Sam all take part.

“These are my friends, they’re not just people I create with. They’ve become part of our family,” says Kilpatrick-Weinberg.

Another important part of the Art Walk family is Brandon Sonntag, an artist and teacher who has been collaborating with Kilpatrick-Weinberg since 2001. “It’s just the two of us. There’s something very nice about having two people who get along, who know how to bring out the best in our clients,” she says.

In addition groups already mentioned Art Walk collaborates with a host of other organizations, including local elementary schools, Hillside House, Patricia Henley Foundation, United Nations, Summit for Danny, United Way, Red Cross, Cancer Hope Foundation, Camp Reach for the Stars, Sarah House, Santa Barbara Symphony, Lobero Theatre, and I Madonnari, among others.

One would think her volunteer plate was overflowing from Art Walk, but Kilpatrick-Weinberg still finds time to help at her sons’ schools, and serve on the board of Sarah House, where she and Henry have hosted an annual Oscar Party benefit for the past three years. For the second year, she is also chairing Sarah House’s annual holiday fundraiser–“Light Up the Night: The Artizan’s Ball”–on December 8 at the Santa Barbara Women’s Club.

But Art Walk has opened the door to so many other things for Kilpatrick-Weinberg–including Sarah House, where she first became involved by creating an Art Walk art tree that was auctioned for “Light Up the Night”– that it’s Art Walk that’s closest to her heart.

“Art Walk is a healing program in many ways, it isn’t just about at risk or special needs; it’s about anybody who wants to create. It’s art walk for kids and adults. What it probably should be is art walk for everyone because that’s what it is,” she says.


For more information about Art Walk for Kids/Adults visit http://www.artwalkforkids.org.

Originally published in Coastal Woman, 2007

Keeping it in the Family

Alyce and Janelle Parsons Give Traditional Apprenticeship a Woman’s Touch

Entrepreneurial genes run deep in the Parsons family. “All of the kids got our MBAs at the dinner table,” says Janelle Parsons.

“And that is literal, we weren’t the kind of family that left our jobs at the door. We just worked it out at the dinner table every night,” laughs Alyce Parsons, President and Chief Operating Officer of Parsons Group Inc., a Santa Barbara-based company, which owns and manages independent and assisted-living communities around the country.

Janelle–the oldest of Alyce’s four children and her only daughter– manages Parsons Group’s three properties in Texas and oversees marketing for the company, which also includes a property in Arizona, as well as the nonprofit Garden Court in downtown Santa Barbara, the nonprofit Friendship Manor in Goleta, and The Gables of Ojai, a swanky retirement community nestled in the foothills of the Santa Ynez mountains.

Alyce says her daughter was destined to go into business. “Janelle didn’t play with dolls, she played office. She said, ‘No dolls, give me a tablet!'” When Janelle was in sixth grade she opened a candy store at the Carrillo Hotel, a low-income senior housing project, which the Parsons owned until it was demolished and replaced by Hotel Andalucia in downtown Santa Barbara (now Canary Hotel).

“When all four kids lived at home we’d have a family meeting every morning. We called it ‘Logistics.’ Janelle would chair the meeting, figuring out who was going to be where when,” says Alyce.

Alyce says she views her business relationship with Janelle as similar to men that have traditionally had sons as apprentices. “I happen to be her mother and she happens to be my daughter but the dynamics of the relationship are very similar in the sense that I have a responsibility to my business to produce an employee that has the skills necessary to do the job. From a business perspective I have to be able to be a leader to Janelle, I have to be a mentor to her. I have to be developing her as an employee to take on a pretty big responsibility. Guys have been doing that since the beginning of time.”

“The family rule is you have to prove yourself outside of the company in order to be invited in,” says Janelle, who worked elsewhere for six years before her mom invited her in, “after she saw I could do it somewhere else.”

“I just feel privileged to be able to be a woman in that position to be able to give her really the skills at a pretty high level. I mean we’re a $24 million company. … It’s not pretend, it’s real and to be able to do that for my daughter, it’s so exciting to be able to share it with her,” says Alyce. “Not only from a professional standpoint but also from a work standpoint. I mean she grew up with me being a fulltime worker woman. So she knows how to do that too.”

While Janelle and her husband Kevin Nimmons don’t have children, they plan to have them someday. When they do, “I’m going to work,” she says. “My mom worked the whole time when we were growing up and we’re not worse for the wear because of it. It worked out really well because we all are part of the business because of it, so I feel like I can do that too.”

The Parsons have managed to combine business with family very successfully. Janelle’s father Bob (Alyce’s husband) runs the real estate development side of the business and her brother Blake will come on board this year.

” I think that if you go into a family business you just have to be prepared to work twice as hard as everybody else because there is that stigma, you’re the daughter, there’s a lot of stuff that goes with that, so you need to prove to everyone that you’re there because of what you can offer the company, not because of who you are,” says Janelle.

The younger Parsons sons, Gavin and Cameron, are still in college, but Alyce says they may be interested in coming on board someday and she wants them to be prepared. “I want everybody to at least understand the business because at this point, they’re stockholders. They need to be able to make intelligent long-term decisions as stockholders, so they need to know the business from that perspective. Whether or not they contribute professionally is really up to them. They may or may not have the skill set.”

Even when they’re not working side by side in their Victoria Street office, Alyce and Janelle talk several times a day. And yes, sometimes they do disagree.

“Janelle has her way of telling me, ‘Look I’ve had enough of that subject, drop it,'” laughs Alyce. “Then that’s followed sometimes by tears and then we go into mother daughter mode.”

Janelle says the hardest part is having a bad day at work. Normally you might call your mom to vent about work. “…You hear your mom’s voice and then you immediately start crying because it’s your mom and then you think gosh, I shouldn’t be crying in front of you.”

Switching between work and family mode can be pretty funny sometimes. “She’ll call me and say, ‘you haven’t been my mom for a week now. Will you just be my mom? Can we just talk?'” says Alyce.

Janelle says it’s a balancing act. “There are a few different hats that my mom and have to have the whole time. So it’s mom, I need you to be my mom right now. Mom I need you to be my mentor. Mom can you be my boss? And we preempt everything with those labels and we’ve learned the balance and the dance, I guess, that it is to work together.”

While the Parsons women are all work when they need to be, they also manage to fit in some play. “Sometimes when we go on the road we’ll be a little bit deviant and we’ll plan a shopping trip,” says Alyce. “We love shopping at the Galleria in Houston so we’ll go a half day early and shop for the afternoon. I don’t think men do that.”

Originally published in Coastal Woman on June 1, 2008.

Women’s Heart Health

courtesy stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net

courtesy stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net

The simple facts are enough to make any woman’s heart skip a beat.

Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in American women, claiming more than 460,000 lives each year. That’s more than the next five causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. According to a 2007 study by the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease causes about one female death per minute.

“The lifetime risk of dying of cardiovascular disease is nearly one in three for women,” said Dr. Lori Mosca, a cardiologist working with the American Heart Association. “This underscores the importance of healthy lifestyles in women of all ages to reduce the long-term risk of heart and blood vessel diseases.”

While heart disease becomes more prevalent as people get older, even children need to take care of their heart health. “From the second you start eating food … you’re really affecting the plaque on the artery walls, so you really need to be conscious of that whether you’re 14 years old, 30 years old or 60 years old,” said Liz Adams, executive director of the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura County branches of the American Heart Association.

Getting the word out about the importance of early awareness of cardiovascular disease is a passionate cause for Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf, who had a heart attack in 2004, at age 50, and has since gone on to train in the Woman-Heart Program at the Mayo Clinic to become a women’s heart health spokeswoman. Wolf testified in Congress on behalf of the Heart Disease Education, Research and Analysis, and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Lois Capps, and is very active in the community as an advocate for greater awareness for women about heart disease. She emphasizes the importance of being aware of your family history (her father had triple bypass surgery in his 50s), as well as maintaining a healthy exercise program and diet.

“We need to work harder about letting people know about the increase of heart disease among women,” says Wolf. “We must be proactive.”

It’s also particularly important for women to be aware of their symptoms and take swift action when needed. “My gut assumption about what happens with women is we’re traditionally the caretakers, we’re the last ones to actually stop and say is there something wrong with me,” said Adams. “Instead we’re worried about our kids, our family, husband, and a lot of times women will start to feel pain in their chest–which for women tends to be more of a grasping anxiety feel than an actual elephant on the chest, which is what a man experiences–and so they think ‘oh it’s just stress, I’ll go to sleep and tomorrow morning I’ll be okay,’ and they don’t get immediate help like their male counterparts are doing.”

Both heart attacks (where a blood clot on the artery walls prevents blood from flowing to the heart) and strokes (where a blood clot prevents oxygen from going to the brain) are life-and-death emergencies where every second counts.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, like in the movies, where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. Other symptoms are discomfort in other areas of the upper body besides the chest, such as the arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath; or breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. Experts advise calling 9-1-1 as almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment.

The American Stroke Association says the warning signs of stroke are sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden, severe headache with no known cause. As with heart attacks, don’t delay in calling 9-1–1 if you experience these symptoms. A clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke if given within three hours of the start of symptoms.

Not all heart related ailments are easily identified.

It was about three years ago, at age 48, when cardiology nurse and Santa Barbara City College Associate Professor RN/MM Evan McCabe began having chest pain and tingling up her left arm while walking up a hill on campus. When she saw her cardiologist her tests were normal, but she continued to have chest pain when she exercised. After a series of tests and visits to a woman’ s health clinic at Cedar’s Sinai Hospital in Los Angles, McCabe was diagnosed with Endothelial Dysfunction, a disease in which the blood vessels function abnormally and constrict rather than dilate when you exercise.

“I felt really lucky because my doctors listened to me and very lucky in that I had the knowledge base to know when something is not right,” said McCabe, who now has her symptoms under control with medication.

Sometimes other cardiovascular diseases will mimic the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. In 2007, Ada Connor, director of programs for the Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara, thought she was having a heart attack. But when she went to the hospital for an angiogram, they found no blockages in her arteries. They later found out that a virus had settled in her heart, creating a condition called Cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn’t work as well as it should. In her case it took about 12 weeks of treatment to get her heart back to normal functioning.

“It was pretty scary,” says Connor, the single mother of two teenagers. “But to have gotten a clean bill of heart health was pretty amazing…this really opened my eyes to how lucky I am. I’m very thankful.”

Heart problems can strike women at any age. Laura Pinner, who grew up in Santa Barbara and is now an 18-year-old student at UCLA, caught a virus that settled in her heart when she was only four weeks old. It caused congestive heart failure, and then Cardiomyopathy, which she still lives with today.

“Heart disease is so unknown. It is a silent killer. It also tends to be a, ‘that cant’ happen to me, I’m not a 60-yearold male’ disease,” said Pinner, who has been a volunteer with the American Heart Association for most of her life. “People, women especially, need to be educated that heart disease can happen to anyone. When people know this, then they will have the drive, and provided with education they need, to take actions to prevent heart disease. You can take steps to save yourself, and loved ones, from heart disease. …It is crucial that attention is drawn to how many women are affected by heart disease, in order to decrease the number of women dying and affected by the disease.”

Ten Ways You Can Help Yourself Prevent Heart Disease From the American Heart Association

1. Schedule a yearly checkup.

Have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked on an annual basis and ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.

2. Get physical.

Get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

3. Drink more water.

Take a water bottle with you wherever you go to keep you hydrated.

4. Eat healthy.

5. Control cholesterol.

To help keep your cholesterol levels down, eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fat, such as lean chicken or turkey, fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains.

6. Cut down on salt.

To help lower high blood pressure, watch your salt intake.

7. Quit smoking.

8. Maintain a healthy weight.

Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

9. Stay positive.

If you get off your exercise schedule, have a cigarette, or eat a fattening meal, immediately get back on track toward re-establishing a healthy lifestyle.

10. Give yourself credit

To maintain momentum with exercising, losing weight, or quitting smoking, keep track of your achievements and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.

Originally published in Coastal Woman

Menorrhagia: The Body Out of Balance

Most women will experience a heavy menstrual period at some point in her reproductive life. For some women, heavy periods are even the norm. “But if there is a change in heaviness get it evaluated,” says Dr. Carrie Ann Terrell, a specialist in women’s health. If you are soaking a pad or tampon within one to two hours for longer than one day, you should seek medical attention, she advises. It could be Menorrhagia, which the National Women’s Health Resource Center (NWHRC) defines as soaking a pad and/or tampon every hour or less during each menstrual cycle.

While Menorrhagia–which affects an estimated 10 to 20 percent of premenopausal women in the United States–can strike at any time, it is most likely to occur during puberty and the years just before menopause, when reproductive hormones are erratic.

“Women learn about periods, pregnancy and menopause but are unprepared for what happens in between. The fact is, pelvic health conditions can happen at any age, particularly after a woman’s had a baby,” explains Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director of the NWHRC.

The condition can cause fatigue and anemia and restrict a woman’s personal and professional activities. Menorrhagia can also be indicative of more serious medical conditions.

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, some common causes of Menorrhagia include: hormonal imbalance; uterine fibroids; polyps; dysfunction of the ovaries; adenomyosis; an intrauterine device malfunction; pregnancy complications; pelvic inflammatory disease, thyroid problems, endometriosis, and liver or kidney disease. In addition, certain drugs, including anti-inflammatory medications and anticoagulants (to prevent blood clots), can contribute to heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding. In rare cases, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer can cause excessive menstrual bleeding.

Ice packs, vitamin C, vitamin E and iron supplements can help reduce bleeding, but you should always check with your health care professional before taking any medication, even herbs and nutritional supplements, according to the NWHRC.

Medical treatment options for Menorrhagia continue to evolve.

“We think the sheer magnitude of how many Baby Boomer women are affected matters because such a large group will have the power to set new expectations for pelvic health, driving more women to seek treatment,” says Cahill. “Think back to when the default treatment for breast cancer was a total mastectomy. Those rates have dramatically declined primarily because women advocated for more minimally invasive treatment options. The same needs to be true for pelvic health.”

Currently, progestin–which works by reducing the effects of estrogen in your body, slowing growth of the uterine lining–is the most-prescribed medication for Menorrhagia, with studies finding that it can reduce bleeding up to 15 percent. However side effects, including weight gain, headaches, swelling and depression, lead many women to quit using this option.

Doctors may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve, Motrin, Cataflam or Ponstel, which work by reducing levels of hormone-like chemicals that interfere with blood clotting. Studies find they can reduce blood flow an average of 25 to 35 percent. Oral contraceptives can also reduce menstrual bleeding up to 60 percent by preventing ovulation and thinning the endometrium.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists are drugs that are used only on a short-term basis because of their high cost and severe side effects. Basically, they temporarily send a woman into menopause, complete with hot flashes. However, they are very effective in reducing menstrual blood flow. But because they interfere with the activity of estrogen in your body, long-term use could lead to osteoporosis.

Doctors may also prescribe Danazol, is a form of the male hormone testosterone that blocks the action of estrogen in your body. It causes your period to stop in about four to six weeks, but can have side effects, including acne and reduced breast size.

Some physicians may also recommend using an intrauterine device such as Mirena, which releases a progestin called levonorgestrel, to help control the bleeding. The main side effect of this treatment can be some light bleeding between periods, particularly in the first three months.

Women with Menorrhagia may elect to have an outpatient procedure, endometrial ablation, in which the lining of the uterus is destroyed. In extremely severe cases, women with Menorrhagia may also opt for surgical procedures such as removal of the uterus through a hysterectomy. Other surgical procedures, including myomectomy and uterine artery embolization, may be used if fibroids are the cause behind the bleeding.

“Treatment for this condition is broadly available. What’s critical is that women and their health-care provider discuss menstruation as part of a routine physical exam,” says Amy Niles, President and CEO of NWHRC. “Beginning a dialogue about this vastly under-diagnosed condition and available treatment options– both between a woman and her doctor and among national health-care leaders– is the first step toward helping women live healthier more enjoyable lives.”

Questions to Ask Your Health Care Professional about Menorrhagia

1. Is the amount of menstrual bleeding I’m experiencing abnormal?

2. What tests do you need to conduct to diagnose my Menorrhagia, and why are you doing them?

3. Is this heavy bleeding affecting my iron levels? What can I do about that?

4. Why are you recommending this particular treatment option for my heavy bleeding? If that doesn’t work, what do you recommend next?

5. What are the disadvantages and risks associated with each recommended treatment?

6. Even if you find a problem like fibroids causing my abnormal uterine bleeding, is it possible to avoid a hysterectomy?

7. How many endometrial ablations of this type have you performed in the past year? What is your success rate? What kind of complications have you encountered?

– Source: National Women’s Health Resource Center

Originally published in Coastal Woman

A Master at Mothering

© Sasanka7 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Sasanka7 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Mr. Santa Barbara Remembers Jane Crandell

Though she’s been gone for more than 40 years, the memory of his mother still brings a twinkle to the eye of 84-year-old Larry Crandell.

“My best role was not as a father, not as a husband, but as a son. Of all the things I’ve done, I think I did that better from the time I was 15 until my mother died when I was 40-something,” he says, as he recalls his childhood with Jane Crandell, who, for the most part, single-handedly raised Larry and his younger brothers Sam and Marty.

Life in Newark, N.J. was tough for Jane, who provided for her three growing boys by working as a shoe clerk for $19 a week. She had to take two buses to get to her job, but according to Larry, she never complained.

“My father was an alcoholic who ended up in a veterans hospital,” says Larry, explaining that his father lived away from the family from the time he was six years old. “My mother was a third grade dropout.”

The family got by with help from government relief (the precursor to welfare) and Jane’s six days a week selling shoes. “The phrase, living hand to mouth doesn’t do it justice. She literally waited on, took shoes off and put shoes on people all day long,” says Larry.

But even though money was tight, ” I don’t remember my brothers or I ever feeling sorry for ourselves,” he says.

This is probably in part because Jane was so completely devoted to their happiness. “She used to be asked questions like, ‘you know you’re a reasonably attractive woman, why didn’t you date?’ And she always had the same answer: I found everything I could possibly want in life with you three boys,” Larry says.

Despite what was obviously a hard knock life, Jane saw her sons through rose-colored glasses. “She spoiled the daylights out of us. She saw us through the gauze of affection and love and in those days single mothers didn’t keep families together. I’m sure economic times were the cause of families breaking up,” says Larry.

“She had an automatic up-grader, so that whatever we did was that much better. The freedom I gained started with that she thought everything each of us did was perfect. That’s what she said and I never heard artifice from her,” he says. “Her most recurring phrase … ‘not because he’s my son,’ prefaced a million compliments that my mother made about one of us. ‘Not because he’s my son,’ that’s the way I remember her.”

Larry credits his mother for much of his self-esteem. “I really am surprised when people don’t like me–and that I got from her. I know that.”

It was also his mother who encouraged and helped develop Larry’s quick wit, which he regularly brings to Santa Barbara’s stages as master of ceremonies or auctioneer for more than 50 local charity events a year, tirelessly raising money for causes ranging from the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Hospice, Hillside House, the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table and just about every other nonprofit in town.

“We lived in a fourth story walkup with the tenements and I have this vivid recollection of her trudging in with two bundles of groceries and I asked the same joke six days a week. ‘Is dinner ready?’ and she would roar with laughter, every single time,” he says.

The Crandell’s were an affectionate family, thanks in large part to the example set by Jane. “When we went to the candy store to lavish three pennies on candy, it became de rigueur to kiss her goodbye. The candy store was two doors down,” says Larry.

Larry says the only resolution he’s ever kept, since age 15, was inspired by his mother. “I decided that I would never show impatience. … Somehow I had a picture of a woman who worked 10 hours a day, six days a week and carried a sick husband and three little kids on her back … Yet, she was so empathetic and so desirous of us being happy, even for the moment. And so that as I reached adulthood, I vowed not to show impatience.”

In many ways, Larry celebrates his mother’s life every day, but her birthday, October 19, has a special significance. Each year on that date, he tries to spend an or so by himself, just thinking about her and all that she gave to him. “She would have been 111 this past October, but she only lived to be 67,” he says.

“I’m not doing it intentionally, I don’t think, but when I think of her, I smile. … I think the best part of me is like her.”

Originally published in Coastal Woman

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 SBParent.com 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