Connecting Women of San Diego

20161020_182555 20161020_184313 20161020_184341As Women Give San Diego has grown its member base over the years, we’ve celebrated the diversity of our group. With over a hundred members representing a wide spectrum of ages, professions, backgrounds and cultures, it’s no surprise that there is always something to learn from one another.

Our Fall meeting was hosted by the Mentorship Team and focused on the power of mentorship and how we can leverage our network to seek guidance or inspiration in our professional and personal lives.

The evening began with a panel discussion about how mentorship has positively impacted the professional careers of Judith McAllister, Jennifer Gilmore and Christina Shih. Gayle Tauber, co-founder of Women Give San Diego and Kashi Foods, moderated the discussion.

The Honorable McAllister began her career during an era where the concept of mentorship had not yet existed in the workplace. She found a champion and leader in her male supervisor who not only helped guide her path in the judicial workforce but fostered an environment where she was able to pursue her ambitions of being a lawyer and working mother. That example of mentorship inspired her to blaze a trail for women following in her footsteps and create a network of professional connection through the Lawyers Club of San Diego.

Christina Shih, Membership and Events Manager at Voice of San Diego and WGSD member, spoke about participating in a structured mentorship program and how that experience influenced her role as a family mentor to a newly resettled refugee family from Iran. She learned how mentorship can take shape in different forms, whether you are giving advice on how to handle a professional challenge or helping someone become familiar with a new environment.

Finally, Jennifer Gilmore, the Executive Director of Kitchens for Good shared how you can find mentorship within your own workplace, especially with your volunteers. She spoke about beginning her career as a volunteer at a food bank in Arizona. Since then, she has realized the potential of empowering your volunteers and staff to create a culture of support and success.

The panel discussion inspired the discussions that members and guests had in breakout groups. The conversations explored examples of mentorship, how to find a work life balance and speculated on the future of women in the work place. We were reminded of how critical it is to be your own advocate in the workplace and set examples by leadership. We also were presented with new ways of juggling work and home life by not thinking of it as work life balance, but work life integration.

Over the course of the evening, new connections were made and existing friendships were strengthened. There was no better way to honor the vision and contributions made by our late founder Jan Tuttleman.

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Success Story – Casa Cornelia Law Center & Domestic Violence Program

Casa Cornelia Law Center provides free legal services to indigent victims of human and civil rights violations from all over the world, including asylum seekers fleeing torture or persecution, children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected, and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.  In 2012, Women Give San Diego provided funding to Casa Cornelia’s Domestic Violence Program.  The following is a success story that exemplifies the empowering impact that Women Give San Diego’s funding has had on the lives of Casa Cornelia’s Domestic Violence clients.

Casa Cornelia Law Center, grant partner of Women Give San Diego

Casa Cornelia Law Center, grant partner of Women Give San Diego

Elena was born in Mexico.  She has always been a hard worker and a career-minded woman.  After completing two bachelor’s degrees, she then worked at a Special Education School for children who are blind and visually impaired, and would start her second job as a taxi driver at 3pm.  She did all of this while raising two young sons, and while enduring what turned out to be an extremely abusive marriage.  She knew that becoming economically independent was extremely important to her, and she wrote in her legal declaration, “Back then, my main objective was to complete my career, and that I could become independent at all levels.”

The exact details of Elena’s abuse at the hands of her husband Juan are horrific.   She endured rape, threats from his family members, verbal abuse and being trapped in her own home.  Once, Juan beat her so badly that she was incapacitated for a week.  Elena fled to the United States to live with her mother.  Juan continued to threaten her and eventually he followed her into the U.S.  He wouldn’t let her talk to others, followed her, and even picked out what clothes she would wear.  Through this, the physical and sexual abuse continued, along with the threats.

Finally, Elena left him and filed a restraining order which Juan violated, following her and taking pictures.  One day, when she went to pick up her oldest son, her abuser and two friends in masks with guns attempted to kidnap her oldest son and rob her place of work.  Her son escaped, police were called and police reports were filed.  All three men were sent to jail, and Elena cooperated in every step of the investigation that she could.

Elena learned about Casa Cornelia and became a client within the Domestic Violence Program.  Through Casa Cornelia, she received her work authorization and her U Visa.  It’s impossible to overstate the freedom and security that these small documents brought to Elena and her two boys.  Elena is now the proud owner of her own small business, a carpet cleaning business.  Casa Cornelia, in turn, is a proud client of Elena’s.  Elena, who always understood the importance of economic empowerment to break the cycle of abuse, has transformed into the strong, independent woman we know her to be today.  She is quick to volunteer for an interview on behalf of Casa Cornelia, even though memories of the abuse are still painful for her to talk about.  Her oldest son now wants to be a cop to save other children from experiencing the trauma that he did during the attempted kidnapping.  Her youngest boy is 13 years old, and the three of them live happily together in North County.

This success story is a wonderful example of the power of a donor’s circle like Women Give San Diego. We pool our resources and provide grants to support existing programs that create a path to hope for women like Elena. Way to go, Elena!

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How to WOWW: The Ultimate Guide to Welcoming Our Women Warriors

How to WOWW 2On Monday, March 7, Women Give San Diego hosted three local panelists who work closely with the military and veterans, for a discussion on “How to WOWW: The Ultimate Guide to Welcoming Our Women Warriors.” Panelists included Shawn VanDiver from the Three Wise Men Foundation, Dr. Lisa Mills of Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, and Katy Goshtasbi, founder of Puris Personal Brand Solutions and fellow WGSD member, who educated our members on a variety of important issues surrounding transitions out of the military. Alyce Pipkin-Allen (WGSD member and Candidate for San Diego Community College Board of Trustees – District D) moderated this important discussion, which highlighted the various issues unique to female veterans, as well as ways the San Diego community can help. Our panelists noted that you don’t need to be in the military to be involved in assisting vets transitioning out of the military. In fact, services are sometimes more appreciated from those from outside the military, as it is perceived as more voluntary than mandated programs provided by their particular branch.

With transitioning into civilian employment being of key concern for our veterans, the discussion included the importance of providing resources within local companies that can translate military expertise into various skill sets for hiring, as well as providing increased time for those transitioning out of the military. Currently, most military personnel train for 9-18 months to enter the system, yet often receive only one week of assistance as they transition out. The Navy does help some with getting certifications and degrees while within the military, but not all branches/troops are equally engaged, resulting in uneven results. Services within the military are improving in this area, but without assigned advocates to help our military navigate their options, more of this work will involve local nonprofit groups and volunteer activities focused on veterans and military families.

How to WOWW 1The discussion also covered the importance of adding transition services for the veteran’s loved ones. While military service improves life skills for military personnel, military-based programs don’t often incorporate the military family/spouses. Veterans often suffer from higher divorce rates, substance abuse rates, and mental health issues, which directly affect their families while the veteran is transitioning into civilian life. In addition, many vets ‘destabilize’ because of lack of housing. Affordable housing is a major concern for these families, so we can offer support to our vets by supporting affordable housing options for veterans and military families. Increasingly, programs that are focused in these social service areas for our veterans come from nonprofit organizations and volunteer groups.

WGSD gives many thanks also to our Education Leadership team for leading this event, and to WGSD Education Co-Chairs, Marsha Lubick and WGSD’s very own Woman Warrior (and soon-to-be-veteran) Susannah Stokes for coordinating the event. This discussion helped us see some of the issues our veterans are facing as they transition into civilian life and how we can help them in this process.

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From sex trafficking to a college scholarship – San Diego STARS program

We’d like to share a success story from one of our San Diego grant partners, STARS!

San Diego STARS Program for victims of sex trafficking

San Diego STARS Program for victims of sex trafficking

STARS (Surviving Together, Achieving and Reaching for Success), is a program for teen girls between the ages of 12-17 involved with commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.  STARS provides support to empower the youth to escape sexual exploitation by developing their inner strengths, building a sense of community and supporting their reintegration into mainstream society. The following is an update we received from STARS about one of their clients:

“Hannah engaged in services in March 2015. At intake, Hannah had recently found out she was pregnant and had relocated to San Diego due to safety concerns with her trafficker. As a result, she had a very limited support system and access to few resources. With intensive case management provided by STARS, Hannah stabilized in housing provided by a transitional living program and enrolled in multiple programs for former foster youth, job readiness and independent living skills, and counseling. Hannah was highly motivated to engage in services and establish safety in her life. She immediately created a list of goals with her case manager. In less than a year in services Hannah has maintained safe and stable housing, delivered a healthy baby, completed an internship and found employment, attended counseling and weekly support groups through STARS, enrolled in our leadership program and became a STARS Youth Advocate, completed college classes, and was recently awarded a college scholarship. Hannah’s case manager has assisted her in these goals through advocacy, transportation, and emotional and moral support.”

Way to go, Hannah!

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WGSD Members and Grantees Present to Women’s Foundation of California Board

The Women's Foundation of CA Board Retreat Panel Members

The Women’s Foundation of CA Board Retreat, with Women Give San Diego & grantee Panel Members 

The Women’s Foundation of California held their Board meeting in San Diego on Friday, February 26.  A large portion of the meeting was dedicated to highlighting and recognizing the impressive work of the members and grant partners of Women Give San Diego. With over 130 dynamic and diverse women, a tiered giving structure, and a commitment to inter-generational collaboration and thriving leadership teams providing meaningful engagement opportunities, Women Give San Diego is in its own category among the Women’s Foundation of California giving circles.

In the afternoon, the Board received an overview of the work of Women Give San Diego and its grant partners as they discussed the unique challenges—and opportunities—impacting women and girls in San Diego. The afternoon began with a presentation from Leap to Success. Kelly Grimes and Lauraine Esparza gave an overview of Leap to Success’s programs and successes thus far, while the past program participant and current staff member, LaKesha Sexton, shared her inspiring story.

After lunch, a panel comprised of WGSD members and another WGSD grant partner discussed the group’s unique attributes and the impact they’re having on the economic security of women and girls in San Diego. The panel featured:

  • Gayle Tauber, Co-Founder of Women Give San Diego
  • Sheona Som, Co-Chair of Community Engagement Team
  • Sarah Dawe, Co-Chair of Advocacy Team
  • Carmen Chavez, Executive Director of Casa Cornelia Law Center & WGSD grantee
  • Moderator: Julie Dubick, Board Member of Women’s Foundation of California, Founding Member of Women Give San Diego

The panelists provided insight on their leadership roles within WGSD, team goals, collaboration with grant and community partners and keeping members informed and involved. Gayle Tauber spoke about WGSD’s unique intergenerational model and why it has been so successful. Sheona Som and Sarah Dawe gave an overview of the Community Engagement and Advocacy Committees and the impressive work they’ve been doing. And Carmen Chavez highlighted the work of Casa Cornelia and its relationship with Women Give San Diego. There was also discussion about challenges and opportunities for WGSD as the group moves into its seventh year. Board members were especially interested in exploring how WGSD and the foundation could strengthen their partnership and leverage resources.

Site Visit Dreams for Change

Dreams for Change, a Women Give San Diego grantee, in a Safe Parking Program lot

Impact was another key area of focus throughout the retreat. Board members were introduced to three WGSD grantees. As previously mentioned, Leap to Success shared success stories from women who have benefitted from their empowerment programs. Casa Cornelia Law Center highlighted the issues that impact immigrant women, specifically those that are victims of human and civil rights violations. Board members then spent an afternoon at one of the Safe Parking Program lots served by Dreams for Change and learned about the transitional homeless population in San Diego. During the visit they heard from CEO Teresa Smith who talked about her program’s vision, reach and future plans. Everybody in attendance left feeling inspired and proud to know that such visionary leaders and organizations operate in San Diego and are supporting the most vulnerable communities among us.

The Board and staff of the Women’s Foundation of CA ended the day inspired and encouraged by the work of Women Give San Diego members and grant partners. Thank you to all the members who worked so hard in their leadership and to organize this wonderful afternoon together, including Linda Katz, Gayle Tauber, Julie Dubick, Morgan Justice-Black and Sabrina Martucci Johnson.

For more information about Women’s Foundation of California, visit http://womensfoundca.org.

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Career Fair Volunteering at United Women of East Africa

We thank Women Give San Diego member Susanne Marczak for sharing her recent experience as a volunteer for our United Women of East Africa grant partner!

United Women of East AfricaLast month I had the opportunity to participate in a career panel for the Girl Scout troop of the United Women of East Africa in City Heights. What a great experience it was to learn about the ambitions and interests of all the girls, who ranged from kindergarteners to seniors in high school, as well as to share our own experiences in our particular fields. It was also interesting to hear more about the careers and passions of my fellow Women Give members!

I was incredibly impressed with how thoughtful the girls’ questions and comments were in every age group. Some of the girls were so funny – one of my fellow Women Give members presents the weather forecast on a local news channel, and after talking about her job she asked if anyone had any questions; an 8 year old girl replied, “What’s the weather tomorrow?” That made us all laugh.

I would like to extend a big thank you to the troop leader of the Girl Scouts troop as well as the staff and volunteers of the United Women of East Africa. They hosted us with so much warmth and made us feel very welcomed. The fresh sambusas, donuts and hot chai tea they made were great too!

I’m thankful to have been a part of this opportunity to expose these girls to different career options. It would be amazing if someone was able to discover a new interest or passion because of it. I know all the girls we met that day have a bright future ahead of them, no matter what career they choose.

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Expressing Gratitude for Women Give and our Community of Women

20151207_201502Last week we came together for the annual Women Give San Diego Holiday Party. It was a festive celebration of the WGSD community as we raised a glass with friends and supported our community partners in San Diego.

We thank Barbara Lee for opening her home and transforming her patio into a bustling holiday bazaar. It was a great opportunity to get ahead on our holiday shopping by purchasing goods made by our grantee partners, including International Rescue Committee, Nile Sisters, Leap to Success, Casa Cornelia, Dreams for Change and United Women of East Africa.

Amidst the shopping, wine sampling, and delicious East African dinner, members also reflected on highlights from the year and shared what Women Give San Diego has meant to them.

20151207_192737Our host Barbara Lee has loved working with women who are actively engaged in the community as well as the diversity of our members.

Amy Harmon has enjoyed seeing our organization continue to grow with fresh energy. She says, ”every event brings so many new faces which makes Women Give feel very alive.” Similarly, Amanda Schulze loves the support that each member gives to each other. “There is a lot of camaraderie between members. It’s so great to see women supporting women.” Paulyne Becerra is proud to be part of an organization that is making an impact in the community.

Jennifer Nation is thankful to have the opportunity to give back.  She says,“Women Give is made up of incredible women who are pooling resources to build up women in the community.” Her favorite event was the grants ceremony because it reflected the hard work of the grants team and their diligence in being good stewards of our organization.

This past year we enjoyed powerful and informative events and had the honor of awarding $100,000 to four deserving organizations. While our co-president, Morgan Justice-Black, has enjoyed getting more involved this past year, she is looking forward to an exciting 2016:

“I love that Women Give allows me to meet new people. I cannot wait to further develop relationships with members and share the vision of Women Give San Diego.”

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Justice Leondra Kruger on Motivation & Mentoring

DSCN1013At 38 years of age, Leondra Kruger was the youngest justice and the only African-American, ever confirmed on the California Supreme Court. In a powerful luncheon hosted by the Mentorship Team of Women Give San Diego and the Lawyer’s Club of San Diego, Justice Kruger shared her motivation to enter law school, her personal skills and challenges, the many roles of mentors, how to get teens civically engaged, and what her life is like now.

Justice Kruger grew up inspired by a mother who was a trailblazer in medicine and committed to service and making the world a better place. With her own passion in writing, she went to law school because she wanted the opportunity to use her pen in greater service. She received a Juris Doctor degree from Yale University in 2001.

A local student in the luncheon audience asked about Justice Kruger’s biggest challenge. She shared that she was very quiet and reserved growing up, and felt awkward seeking help from professors. She believed it was inappropriate, since she saw it as asking for something for nothing. A classmate told to, “Cut it out or people will never know how good you are.” We are all grateful that she took that classmate’s advice!

DSCN1021Justice Kruger said that is currently inspired by the ideas that are debated thoughtfully and carefully by the Justices of the CA Supreme Court and their many rich conversations. Her top skill is her ability to listen, because no one person’s point of view can monopolize, so she needs to be able to listen deeply to understand many points of view. Justice Kruger also shared that while she doesn’t formally have a mentor in her workplace right now, mentors in one’s life can take many forms, from a boss or co-worker to guide you through the workplace, to someone who helps you understand how to return to the workplace after having children or how to balance work and home as a new mother.

Another student from the audience asked for Justice Kruger’s suggestions on how to get teens and young adults involved in civic engagement and the legislative process. She explained the importance of helping our youth recognize more clearly what our government does and how and why it matters to all of us. She also discussed how young people learn by seeing and doing. This means that the more that adults are willing to be role models, in their commitment of time and energy to improving their communities, the more young people will see how it’s done in accessible ways.

DSCN1019When asked how she balances her obviously challenging career with her home life as a mother of 3-year old son, she explained how lucky she is to have so much support and help, including a partner who shares a lot of the burden. And what does she do for fun? “What I do for fun mostly these days is play with cars and trucks.” Thank you Justice Kruger, for your tenacity and authenticity.

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Women Give San Diego’s Areas of focus →

• Low-income and Working Poor Women, including Transition Age Youth, Pregnant & Parenting Teens

• Immigrant, Undocumented, Unauthorized Immigrant & Refugee Women

• Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Exploitation & Human Trafficking • Elderly Women in Economic Crisis

• Military Women & Wives

Posted in Women Give San Diego's Areas of focus |

What is Women Give San Diego →

• The well being and success of San Diego depends on the economic self-sufficiency and security of all women and girls. Women Give San Diego advocates for the economic self-sufficiency and security of low-income women and girls in San Diego County.

Posted in What is Women Give San Diego |