Thursday, October 8, 2015

Annual September Meeting at Leslie's

Our annual meeting at Leslie's beautiful home last week had a terrific turn-out this year and with loads to discuss and plate upon plate of yummy food and wine to get through, that was a good thing! Over 30 of us were able to make this meeting and it was such fun playing catch-up with so many who we haven't seen over the summer months. Those of you unable to come due to crummy summer colds, power outages, sick pets, travel adventures, work commitments, etc., know you were missed but hopefully this little blog posting (primarily photos) will keep you in the TWC loop.

Nancy Hanson kindly took notes so here's a brief recap of our gathering and pictures plus some set-up photos.

The Grant Spend-Down
I ran through the details of the Zev Yaroslavsky grant spend-down.  It has consumed Karen and me for quite some time now and while we initially thought our request for extension of spending (sent back in early April) would suffice, Sheila Kuehl's office said no. Their unhelpful suggestion was that we spend $10,000 and return the rest to their office (ahem, no) and request a further 10 grand each year. That was quietly rejected by us and we drew up a shopping list and started hunting for storage facilities.  Once that was achieved (one in Thousand Oaks...closest we could find and one at the Salvation Army Bell Shelter...a freebie generously donated by the Salvation Army for our use), the shopping began.  Big thank you's go out to Isabel and Jack Freeman and Foster Sherwood for helping me put together shelving in 105 degree heat at the T.O. facility and to Teresa for coming to Costco to pick up part of the order that we are housing in T.O. and having the sense to tell them to deliver it...and then coming out two days later for the delivery and helping me stack and load shelves (I was brain dead by this point and could make no sensible decisions). Also, a huge thank you to the Salvation Army employees at the Bell Shelter (in Bell) who, along with phone instructions from me almost daily for a couple of weeks, have received, stacked and locked all the great big items. We now have, in our storerooms, everything from microwave ovens to vacuum cleaners to crock pots to rugs and I'm sure the families we serve will be delighted with all of these useful household items. I put 43 grand on my American Express card and I can tell you right now that I am delighted that I have now been reimbursed (Roger was pretty pleased, put it mildly!). So now, this drama can be put to bed and we can move on to other exciting news like...

Karen gave all the details (except the artist and that will be announced in the invitation you'll receive in a few days) and the tension is building. All I will say right now is if you want to come, tickets are limited to 140 ($150 per ticket) and they will sell quickly. This will be a unique opportunity to see an internationally well-known performer in the beautiful and intimate setting offered at Rosewood, right here in Topanga. After the performance wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served under the oaks.  If you did not receive your 'Save the Date' email, let us know and watch your inboxes for the invitation!!!  Many, many thanks to Jill Palethorpe for designing our Save the Date card.

Committee Reports
Bin Committee:  Volunteers continue to come forward and Nancy is delighted. We have decided to phase out all clothing because of the new household stock we have to accommodate. It was discussed that perhaps a pair of pjs or a new outfit for each child would be a nice addition to each set-up. Amy Farber signed up to be on this committee.
Shopping Committee: Teresa seems to be handling this pretty well with forays by others as needed. Teresa will send out an email when particular items are needed and price guidelines for such purchases.  You will be reimbursed. Karla Morrison and Adrian Wright signed up to be on this committee.
Non-Perishables Committee: Patty will send out mailings to volunteers when we are low on stock. Because this committee does a lot of bulk purchasing, gift cards will be purchased by TWC for Patty and Catherine.  They can use these as they see fit making sure that all receipts are retained for our bookkeeping records.  There will be a food drive again this Christmas at Topanga Elementary as it was quite successful last year. Sandy Savas suggested doing this on a more regular basis as she is at the school teaching art and could coordinate the delivery of such items to our bin in Pine Tree Circle. Sandy also suggested the children could make items to sell or donate to TWC. Amy Farber, Elaine Hanson and Karla Morrison signed up to be on this committee.
Perishable Committee: Andrea suggested that a few new members would be a good thing as Becca Barkin has now moved (and is sorely missed by TWC and Canyon Sages). Most volunteers on this committee donate all the perishables they have purchased, but we would like it understood that if you need to be refunded, you can be (up to $25 per set-up), but receipts will be needed.  If not reimbursed, keep your receipts for tax purposes.

Our next meeting will be in early December to discuss Christmas for the children at Venice Community Housing.

Of course I got all wordy on you...but here are the photos, as promised!

Our magical meeting on the most perfect
of summer evenings.  Beautiful setting, beautiful ladies and a beautiful cause...
helping Veterans and families as they transition 
from homelessness into a more settled life.

Catherine, making sure we have enough wine.  I conferred with her and between the bottles in the ice bucket and on the table,  we were beyond fine!

Happy Ladies

Lots to catch up on
The koi were especially active!

The choices were pretty amazing and Steve grilled the salmon to perfection

Thirty plus for problem!
Surprise!  The birthday girl xo
Teresa giving her committee report

There have been a few set-ups lately. and while I'm holding off on loads of pix, I can't help but put those in of our uber-active junior volunteer, Amy's little one, who LOVES doing the children's bedrooms in particular.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 15 Meeting

A very short recap of our meeting at Rocco’s earlier in the week as tomorrow I’m headed out of Dodge for a month and my to-do list is a mile long.  It was just a small group who were able to make the meeting, but it was good fun. Thanks to Nancy for taking notes.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to ask you all to do as much as possible to help Karen as she holds down the fort, handling everything from pulling to set-ups to correspondence during my absence.  Our committees have been doing a fine job of ensuring that the families we help are well-provided for but can always use more volunteers.  If you’re interested in signing up for one of these committees, contact the gals below:

Shopping Committee:  Teresa Rosati-Royer

Persiahble Committee:  Andrea Palella or
Becca Barkin

Non-Perishable Committee:  Patty Colvig or
Catherine Grasso

Saturday Morning Bin Goddess Committee:
Nancy Hanson

Pulling Committee:  Karen Sherwood and a special thank you to Rebecca Franco for the great pulling she did for the set-ups while Karen was gone.

Set-up Committee:  Linda Ilsley

Our Mother’s Day card drive was a great success this year and many thanks to those of you who make this such a key part of our annual fundraising efforts.  We have had some interest in non-mother's day cards and only a few days ago a friend called me and asked if we could send one of our flower cards to some family friends who had recently lost their mother.  She made a donation to TWC and I sent the card off.  So that got us to talking at the meeting (and we have chatted about it before) that it would be great to have more vellum printed with simple messages inside such as: Thank You, Celebrate!, Thinking of You, Congratulations, Happy Birthday (etc) and then maybe, closer to the holidays, a wintry theme.  Deborah Ackrich has some great snow cards she’s going to share with us.  Noelle Berman, do you think you could help us with some more vellum printing!? We also talked about selling cards at meetings ($5 each)  or bundling them and selling sets.  

In the last year, children have become more involved with TWC and we all agree that is pretty wonderful, but that led us to chatting about the possibility of perhaps creating (with the help of moms with kids still at home) a Topanga Children’s Circle.  This would be a direct offshoot of TWC and we would fund projects the kids could be involved with such as creating art and craft boxes, but we would love to hear ideas the kids might have. We all agreed that it was great that the children are keen to help and would love to hear from parents about any ideas they might have to encourage this community activism among the young.  Perhaps a child could write an article for The Messenger about the formation of this group.  Something to think about anyway. 

Our next meeting will be in mid-September and we would like for you to consider asking a friend who has shown some interest in TWC to come to this meeting.  Consider it a yummy dinner and membership drive.

And finally, The Topanga Film Festival is just around the corner and this Friday there’s a special event at Teresa and Bruce Royer’s beautiful home, Tuscali Mountain Inn.

An invitation is extended to TWC members to join them at Tuscali for a ‘Friends of the Fest’ appreciation event.

Friday, June 19th, 7:00-9:30 pm
Hors d'oeuvres reception
Entertainment by Topanga Symphony Quartet

While there is no charge for this event, consider it a good opportunity to get your ‘Friends of the Fest’ pass. 

Please RSVP: or

A portion of the event will be outside.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Last Month


Final Meeting until Mid-September $10 Contribution towards dinner
We'd love to see as many of you as can  make it
RSVP so I can let Rocco's know how many tables to set up

It's been a busy couple of weeks and, for the most part, we've been able to meet the needs of the new families moving in.  Actually, that's not quite true.  We have been able to meet the needs of the new folks, though at times it has been difficult to roust up the volunteers necessary to do the job.  It's a busy time of year, especially for the young families with children finishing up an academic year and moms seeing double from all the little extras which suddenly are required of them.

Karen and Mary have been holding down the fort at the Bin, ably organizing everything for multiple set-ups.  Teresa and Karen have been busy shopping and keeping our stores at the ready and Patty Colvig and Catherine Grasso have taken care of the non-perishables...keeping the 'pantry' stocked and the Perishable Committee has been beyond generous, filling the fridges of these weary families.

One set-up had four of our terrific volunteers (Teresa Royer, Rebecca Franco, Linda Bolhuis and Randi Gottlieb) responding to my call for help. Two families were moving in that day, one of whom did not need the assistance of TWC.  Rebecca and Linda had a meeting on that side of town later in the morning, Randi had an early Westside meeting and Teresa was doing double duty as always (wearing her innkeeper hat and all the other ones she dons!).  I love how every home we create is so different (and especially love this post-set-up selfie that Teresa took!).

And then there was the mom and young adult daughter.  This was an emergency move-in and we were unable to do anything (with only 12 hours notice) until a couple of days after they had settled in. I'd asked the case manager in the office if she would chat to this pair before we came with a simple request.  Please strip the beds and make sure the kitchen and bath are clean.  They were, and we were able to get in there and do our magic. Follow-up: When we arrived to do yet another set-up, a mom and daughter passed us...the ones who had moved in the prior week.  The mom hugged Catherine McClenahan and then me and with such excitement and gratitude told us they couldn't believe how beautiful we had made their home.  She mentioned her daughter's cat was also happy. I guess I looked surprised and she said her daughter was allowed a therapy pet as she had been bullied in school (quite badly) and at 20 was just beginning to come out of her shell.

And another set-up at Venice had a really touching moment.  Andrea Palella and Pat Lester joined me on this one and as were hauling stuff in from our cars, Levi approached us, with her sweet little 12 week old baby boy contentedly sleeping in his stroller.  He was covered in his favorite blanket and guess who had made it...yep, Pat Lester.  It made her day (her year!) to see him cozied up in this.

And then the wonderful set-up last week when Deborah Ackrich and her little boy, Ezra (aged 6) and Heather Tehrani helped out.  Ezra was of particular help because there were two little ones moving with their mom to this unit and one of them was a 6 y.o. boy.  Perfect!  He even brought along some things to share from home, a picture and some books.  Ezra took it all very seriously, just like all the children who help on these set-ups and I could tell that he was proud of what he was doing from hauling bags up to the third floor, to putting books on the shelves.

But today was a full-circle day which you will understand better below.  It was one of those very rare times (thankfully!) when not one volunteer was able to join me at a small set-up at the Transitional Living Center in Venice.  I wrote to the social worker in Venice and asked her if her aide, Lucia, might be available to help, explaining that I had offers from Lorna Bank to help me on either Thursday or Friday, but no one was free today.  Turns out Lucia was happy to help.  There were workmen who met me out front and hefted all the bags upstairs and the back gate had been opened to allow me to park off-street since it was street cleaning day.  Lucia, who is six months pregnant, was positively glowing and so happy to offer assistance. You see, four years ago, she and her two children, then aged 6 and 12, had arrived at the Transitional Living Center with little more than the clothes on their backs and she remembered what we had done for her. Lucia is a bright woman and took advantage of everything VCH could offer.  Further education, parenting classes...she was keen to do it all.  And in these four years, she has accomplished a lot from working full-time for VCH, moving into her own apartment, marriage to a terrific man who loves her children as his own to excitement at the prospect of one more little one to round out their family. Today couldn't have gone any better and I was delighted to share the load with such a terrific woman.

Busy times in front of us.  There should be another couple of set-ups in Venice in the next two weeks and Westwood will continue to be busy so any help you can offer is always appreciated.

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's time to order your 2015 Mother's Dy Cards.
This is Topanga Women's Circle most important fundraiser of the year and
for only a $25 donation we will mail a beautiful, personalized card to ANY mother
(mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins & friends) who you would like to 
recognize or to a special lady whose memory you would like to honor.

In order for cards to be delivered in a timely manner 
(Mother's Day is May 10th this year),
all orders must be placed with us by May 1st at the latest
We are happy to mail the card with your special message or you can
place an order with us for cards that you would like to personalize and mail yourself.

Please send your check for $25 payable to:
Community Partners fbo Topanga Women's Circle
c/o Linda Ilsley
2670 Topanga Skyline Drive
Topanga, CA  90290

If we are mailing the card for you, please include your name as you would like it to appear on the card, your personal message and the name and address of each recipient.

Photo choices follow.  In addition to these lovely photos, we also have a large selection of beautiful flower photos. If you would like us to choose a card for you, that too is fine!

And here are a four more new photos! Click on the images to enlarge.

Perfect Poppy
Topanga in Springtime

Lupine Central

Exotic Beauty

Amish Barn with Field of Poppies

Blue Poppy




Mother & Child 

Mother Tree

Mother and Child Sculpture

Orange Butterfly

Oriole in Aloe Bloom


Shooting Star

Mother & Baby

White Poppy

Yellow Butterfly

Topanga Women's Circle (TWC) is a group of volunteer women working on behalf of mothers and their children as they move out of homelessness and into transitional housing.  With loving compassion, TWC graces their new homes with the necessities to begin afresh.  Providing new and like-new items, an environment of comfort, warmth, and dignity welcomes these families as they finally have a place to call home. We are a 501(c)3 charity and all donations are fully deductible to the full extent of the law.

Monday, February 23, 2015

February 11 2015 Meeting Notes...and more

We had a fun and lively meeting at Rocco's!  It was a thank you from TWC to all of you for what you do for the at-risk families in our community. Karen and I give many, many thanks, as always to our amazing group of volunteers for their outstanding generosity, not only through the entire year but especially over the Christmas holidays.  From gathering the wish lists in late October for the children at The Transitional Living Center (TLC) in Venice to making sure there is a gift card to Target and one to Ralph's for every family at the Bessie Pregerson Child Development Center (CDC) at Westwood Transitional Village, your contributions made Christmas very special for these children and their families.  A special thank you shout out to Jill Palethorpe for creates our online, interactive giving list for the Venice families.  It has made shopping SO much easier!

In years past, toys were given to the kids at the CDC  but this year we decided upon gift cards. Guadalupe Placencia, the fabulous director at this stellar pre-school, shared with us that many of the moms cried when they saw the gift cards, saying how it was now possible for them to create a special meal on Christmas Day.  Many agencies come through with toys, so this was a great way to help the entire family.  Beautiful thank you notes were received from so many parents, many in Spanish, where the messages of gratitude came through loud and clear, even with our lack of fluency in the language.

The children at the TLC were also so, so happy with their gifts.  As always, having those wish lists early allows us a head-start in finding all the things that make Xmas so special for these kids. As we have said before, the families at the TLC are so very poor that they could not afford the heavily subsidized and sliding rent scale of the apartments in Westwood.  Without your generosity, there would not be much of a holiday for these kids. We also put together little gift bags for the moms.
Very heartfelt thank you notes arrived from the moms and kids not too long ago.

Ready to be delivered to the TLC in Venice.
Good work, Ladies!

Because of the success and absolute appreciation of the gift cards at BP, we will be collecting them throughout the year in any amount.  We ask for no dues and understand many of you cannot do set-ups due to work schedules, family obligations, etc.  How about, throughout the year and when finances allow, picking up a gift card to a grocery store and/or Target.  This year we used $1600 of TWC funds to purchase the cards so it would be super helpful if you kept this in mind when you go shopping.  Bring them to meetings and we will put them in our Xmas file.  Make sure you write the dollar amount on the card sleeve so we can ensure each family gets the same at the holidays.

Housing issues have continued the last year or so with the VA.  The reasons are many and complex, from issues as small as the fire extinguisher not being where they have determined it should be, BUT there is good news. They are being approved and apartments are being filled, which is why we've been pretty busy of late! A new property management company is being chosen and will be on board in April.  Because WTV so values everything that TWC does for them and for the new intake families, Karen and I were asked to sit on the committee to choose the new management company. Things are looking up!!!

Our website has now been updated.  Check out the new "How You Can Help" page and you will see how donating has never been easier.  It can be a one-time donation, monthly, bi-annually, annually…so much easier.  Thanks for encouraging me to agitate on this one, Nancy!  Also make sure to take a look at our new Donation Bin page.  This should make it a lot clearer to the community about what we accept (and do not accept!) and our hours. A special, heartfelt thanks to Joanna Gunst at Imagine Website Designs for the wonderful work she does with our website ( Not only does she do the work quickly but she never fails to give us the charity discount of 50%. Joanna is a treasure and she is right here in the Canyon. 

We have some important dates for you so please mark your calendars now. This is our primary annual fundraiser and every single one of our volunteers has a critical role in ensuring its success. Please remember that when selling or buying cards, the beautiful message inside is one that honors all mothers, not just our own. We send them to friends, sisters, aunts, cousins and our own mothers and in memory of a special mom, honoring her through remembrance to her children. The cards will remain at $25. Every penny of that charge (less the cost of the card stock) goes to TWC.

If your Mom or the mother you want to honor lives abroad (where Mother's Day is earlier, often in March), let me know. I have plenty of cards ready right now.

Here are the dates:

APRIL 18:   Gather at a volunteer's home (who would like to volunteer...someone with a long dining room table please!) to assemble cards. Contact me if you can help out. Saturdays seem to work best and it usually takes four or five hours to work our magic. Remember, we have all the card stock and the vellum inserts. If you have a beautiful photo that you would like used, please bring copies to this get-together. Also, if you have photos of your children that you would like for cards you might be sending to your own moms/grandmothers, bring those. Patty Colvig takes photos throughout the year of her friends' children and then when she sends out the 10 or so cards she buys every year (yay Patty!) she creates a special card for her friends featuring a photo of their kids. Great idea and one to keep in mind.

APRIL 21:  This is our final meeting before Mother's Day and is especially important. We ask that each member take four cards and be responsible for their sale. We will be bringing all the cards created on April 18 and you can take your four (or more) cards at this time. Many of our mothers (and indeed our friends' mothers) do not want any more stuff, so encourage your friends to purchase a card for their moms. 

If you cannot make this meeting, please contact Karen or me and we will put the cards aside for you. We will also be selling exquisite, silk-screened tote bags.  There are beautifully made by a good friend of Linda Bolhuis and the artist has generously donated them to TWC with 100% of the proceeds staying with us.  

APRIL 24 & MAY 1: We will be selling cards at the Topanga Farmer's Market on these dates. Who can help with this?Please let me know so we can create a rotating list of volunteers to (wo)man our table. These could be one-hour shifts or longer.  

If anyone knows how to contact the folks who green light charity tables at the Calabasas, Malibu and Pacific Palisades markets, could you take it upon yourself to contact them and see if we can sell on one or both of the above dates? Calabasas is on Saturday and Malibu & PP are on Sundays, I think.


The formation of these committees has allowed Karen and me a chance to breathe a little more deeply and we appreciate (beyond measure) everything that you are all doing for these families in need (and for us!). Please, please, please think about volunteering for one of these groups, if you have not already done so. Sharing the load makes it easier for all of us.

Perishables Committee: They continue to provide wonderful, fresh food for each set-up.  Andrea Palella ( can answer any questions you might about what they do. We had a little bit of a break for a couple of months due to problems with the existing property management company at Westwood and the VA...but we are on the right track again.

Non-Perishable Committee: They keep our stockpile ready for each set-up.  Please remember to contact Patty Colvig ( or Catherine Grasso ( if you have questions or want to know just what to get or what we're short on.  Offhand, I can tell you we are always running out of peanut butter and jelly! Patty can also share with you how to incorporate a non-perishable collection at any parties or gathering you might be having!

Pulling Committee: Karen ( and Mary do most of the pulling for set-ups and do a great job, but this is a committee and the other volunteers are ready to step up when the need arises. Karen and Mary know the Bin backwards, forwards and sideways and pretty much always know of shortfalls, info they share with the Shopping and Non-Perishable Committees. Contact Karen if you would like to join!

Shopping Committee:  Teresa Royer ( heads up this group of dedicated shoppers.  When a shortfall arises, Karen notifies Teresa who then shares what is needed with her gang and they go into action.  Remember to keep all receipts and I ( promise to reimburse you!  

Set-up Committee:  Every single member of TWC is on this committee whether you know it or not! I ( send out the notices of upcoming set-ups and give you a general idea of how many volunteers are needed. Once I hear from you and the required number of folks say YES to my request, I will send out another notice letting you know we are good to go.  Sorry to bombard your inboxes with such regularity but it keeps you all abreast of things.  I do appreciate the effort it takes in committing to this, but we have become so good at it than it rarely takes longer than two hours, even when we have a four bedroom-two bath unit!

And finally, just because, here are some photos from recent set-ups!

Love it when the kids get involved

Never too young to help! Thanks, Chloe!

Creating a holiday table! Big grin from Aurora!

Elves hard at work!

Nancy Hanson's friend donated these lovely satin robes. So generous.

Little Chloe was so proud of her crib decorations

Sometimes the donations color coordinate so well!

Welcoming a new family. Fresh fruit and sunshine.

Becca Barkin brought this fruit, some fresh from her tree. So beautiful.

Bathroom by Catherine McClenahan!