Please tell us about yourself and how you got involved with Step Up Ventura.
I had one of those birthdays that end in a zero, that makes you feel so much older... There was also a worldwide pandemic going on, so a party, or a trip, were out of the question. I decided to take the money I would have spent on my birthday, and instead, donate it to charity. Children have been on my mind lately, because during the COVID lockdown, I’ve been taking classes in child development at Ventura College. (During the day, I serve as a Civil Grand Juror for the Ventura County Superior Court, but nights and weekends, I’m a “college kid”!) Working on the Grand Jury has educated me about how lucky we are to live in a beautiful, well-run community like Ventura County. And the VC courses have really inspired me; they have taught me that if we want a better community, we need to start with our youngest citizens, going way back to the ages of zero to three! I did an internet search on which organizations are doing this kind of important work, and came across Step-Up Ventura.
What is your philosophy on giving to a cause?
I believe that each of us should pick at least one thing we are passionate about, and make it “our cause”! We might give a few hours a month, or get the word out on Facebook, or send a few dollars a month. But whatever your method of giving, supporting a cause makes you a happier, more fulfilled human being. It might sound corny, but I’ve discovered it to be true! I wish more people knew about the importance of early childhood education, and how helping children and families now, pays off BIG in the future. I wish more people believed in a very early investment in tomorrow’s citizens. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting several communities and populations, what do you think will change most significantly concerning supporting organizations, volunteer work, and the motivations to serve as well as giving to a cause? I think the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us all closer together. We may focus on how divided we are as a country; but having a common enemy can also unite us. Each and every one of us has experienced suffering as a result of this pandemic, and I think that has deepened our understanding of the suffering of others. It is my feeling that we will be seeing a dramatic rise in giving as a result of our shared losses. I do think the pandemic has made people more nervous about gathering in person. Charities will have to appeal to people through new ways, like social media and Zoom gatherings. Is there anything else you would like to share? I just want to thank you for the work you’re doing with Ventura families who are struggling with food insecurity and our local housing crisis. Any one of us could end up where these young families find themselves. I admire that your organization respects parents as partners in working toward solutions. Along with my husband Steve, I was a Ventura County Foster Parent for 5 years. We also ran an Emergency Shelter Home through a contract with the Ventura County Human Services Agency. (Sadly, we closed at the end of 2017, mostly due to the chaos created by the Thomas Fires.) Through these experiences, we came to know and admire over 25 displaced children. They were in temporary need of shelter, food, and gentle care, but we were the ones who benefited from knowing each and every one of them. Many times, we also came to know their birth parents, and to understand more about their struggles and challenges, and to admire them for doing the work to become better, safer, stronger parents. I believe in treating families in crisis with respect and dignity, and Step-Up Ventura seems to operate under that same core belief.