Especially when the women are from Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation and Family Services, and the room is at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach. Eileen Garbutt, director of Women’s Philanthropy, was proud to add that “This year we had 55 women who had never been to the luncheon before!” Including yours truly.
Amy Rousso and Michelle Prescott, Co-chairs of this year’s Women’s Voices lunch, did a fabulous job at the “Step Up and Be Counted” event held on Monday, March 14. From the gracious guidance of the staff making sure everyone got to the appropriate place and at the right time, right through to the excellent meal and superb speaker, everyone had a great time.
Table hostess chairs, Toni Mc Donald and Sharon Weidberg, made sure the tables were done to a “tee” with beautiful flower arrangements and a nice take-home bookmark in the shape of the signature red high heels that adorned the programs. The shoe represents the Step Up programs that Women’s Philanthropy Jewish Federation and Family Services uses to help our community.
For those who don’t know, “step up” can mean a new volunteer activity, leading a committee or program, getting involved, networking and, of course, philanthropy — making sure you’re out there doing a mitzvah for someone or something. Some of the charities include: Human Options (for victims of domestic violence), Senior Transportation, Working Wardrobes and working in Classy Seconds and Women Forward (helping women over 40 back into the work world).
The kosher meal was provided by Blueberry Hill. It was delicious, light and a delightful change from the “usual” fare served at most functions.
Iris Krasnow, known for her celebrity interviews for UPI and best-selling author of the series Surrendering to Marriage, Surrendering to Yourself, Surrendering to Motherhood and I Am My Mother’s Daughter, was the speaker. Krasnow related her personal life experiences with her mother (at the forefront), her marriage and her career, doing so in a way that had the audience laughing in recognition of people in their own lives.
Susan Glass, 2010 winner of the Anne Entin Woman of the Year Award, was on hand to introduce this year’s recipient, Dana Susson. Susson was recognized for her life-long commitment to serve our community.
Susson is currently serving on the Women’s Philanthropy board of Jewish Federation and Family Services, the board of directors of the Merage Jewish Community Center and the board of directors of Families Forward, an Irvine based non-profit that helps families on the verge of homelessness.
As if that weren’t enough, Susson is quite active in the Mitzvah Mavens and Women4Women. At the Bureau of Jewish Education, she has chaired several events.
When not working on her “mitzvahs,” Susson practices law, specializing in the defense of medical malpractice litigation.
Ann Miller, who is the president of Women’s Philanthropy, wants everyone to know that she believes in the “Step up and be counted” mantra. “We raised over a million dollars last year alone. We’ve be able to give $1.76 million in grants to support Jewish needs all over the world.”
She adds, “This year we have touched the lives of so many women and families — single moms who are struggling with addiction and abandonment; families in financial distress. Without our help, their children could not have received Jewish education. We help public school K-3 students, who now read at their grade level thanks to Reading Partners. Thanks to Mitzvah Mavens, our soldiers overseas receive both virtual hugs and care packages. We aid displaced women over 40 who need job counseling and support in what is to be their new lives. This is possible, because people have chosen to get involved in some way and continue the idea behind making our community better for all.”
Miller says that the focus of the coming year will include working on increasing the activities of the Business Professionals, Reading Partners, Trendsetters and the knitting circle that is part of Mitzvah Mavens. The circle creates blankets for Binky Patrol, preemie cap-and-blanket sets for CHOC and winter caps for Israeli soldiers.
Garbutt was thrilled with the outcome of this year’s event. “The most important aspect of all our fund-raising is that even in this economy, we’ve seen an increase in our donations and are able to give more than ever before! This really was the best event we’ve put on. I have to applaud our co-chairs for the excellent job they did! And our speaker, Iris Krasnow, couldn’t have been nicer or more profound. Our videos, which showed off some of our best moments and mitzvahs were just that added bit to put the afternoon over the top!”
According to Garbutt, “My hope for 2011 is that hopefully because of the various outreach programs that there will be a heightened awareness of what the Federation does and how wonderful it is for women to get involved with us in any way they can.”
Miller agrees, adding, “No one realizes just how much the Federation does in the community. We’re an umbrella organization. We help the community and the synagogues and all those who come to us in the best way we are able.”
And the biggest reward of doing all they do? Miller puts it quite succinctly, “I have the honor of leading the most phenomenal group of women I have ever met in my entire life. They are warm, caring and oh so very giving. And I’m loving every minute of what I do with them and grateful for the opportunity.”