Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Back to School/End of Summer Meeting: 9/26/17

Mea Culpa! This poor, languishing blog is in dire need of an update, especially when there's so much going on in the world of Topanga Women's Circle. We have been busy launching our 2017 Challenge Grant Campaign (more on that below), our annual back to business/school/end of summer meeting (more on that below) and with multiple set-ups (details below on the most recent). So instead of waffling on about our fabulous volunteers (all true), some insane summer heat, and the minutae of daily life with TWC, let's talk about the major events.

Topanga Women's Circle 2017 Challenge Grant

Debra Silbar and Karla Morrison introduced the campaign at our last meeting and we are so lucky that it was announced with such a generous donation from Elaine Hanson, Realtor at Partners Trust and Doug Hanson Construction. Jumping right in to join the campaign with wonderfully generous contributions were Debra & Adam Silbar, Steve & Leslie Carlson, Karen Sherwood, Wendy Skolfield  and Holly & Sophie Hanson. Friends and relatives of TWC volunteers are quickly jumping in to help, realizing the challenges we face on a daily basis.

Just what is a challenge grant? It means that for every dollar you donate, our generous donors who have kick-started the challenge will match it, up to $16,000! Your donation will essentially be doubled and is guaranteed to improve the lives of our Veterans and other homeless families.

In Los Angeles County alone, homelessness has jumped 23% in the last year. Many are Veterans and families, including over 63,000 children, who are living on the streets, in shelters or in their cars. Working with two agencies, Westwood Transitional Village and Venice Community Housing, we help the neediest of families by furnishing these bare-boned, institutionally furnished apartments with the necessities we all take for granted like fresh new sheets, pillows, towels, personal care items, toys and books and a fully stocked kitchen with new pots and pans, dishes and cutlery and food in the pantry and the fridge.

We are busier than ever now that transitional housing (accommodation for up to two years) has now become bridge housing (3-6 months for families and up to two years for Vets) and what this means is we are going through our funds at a rate never seen before. We are asking for financial help from our volunteers, friends and family. Please click on our Challenge Grant link and help us in any way that you can (https://twc.networkforgood.com/projects/35727-topanga-women-s-circle-2017-challenge-grant).  Thank you.

Back to School/Business/End of Summer Annual Meeting at the Carlson's

The turn-out for this annual meeting was higher than ever and we are so appreciative that Steve and Leslie have opened their beautiful home, year after year, for this traditionally large gathering. This year we were happy to see so many of you in addition to so many new volunteers, many of whom have been so generous to TWC already with donations and time. This is always a great opportunity to catch up with one another, to share ideas for future growth, eat great food, drink great wine (thank you Bonnie Graves!!!) and for catching up on all that TWC has been up to in the past year.

The infusion of new energy and your enthusiasm has set a fire under all of us and your contributions are vital to the continued success of this little charity.

Teresa and I appreciate the incredible contributions all that our volunteers make. Some of you work full time, some of you have young families and while all of us are busy, you continue to give when you can. We believe that every volunteer, no matter how much or how little then can do, is a vital cog in the continued success of our group and we thank you all. There are times when we don't hear from you for a while and that's okay...life is like that.,,for all of us. Thank you to our incredible Advisory Board whose energy and wisdom guide us in such a positive way. Lorna Bank, Nancy Hanson, Debra Silbar, Karla Morrison, Janaki Welch and our past co-chair, Karen Sherwood...you ladies are amazing! And, as always, gratitude to our founder, Arlette Parker, whose wisdom and vision created our charity.

Just a reminder that aside from our annual Mother's Day fundraiser with our lovely cards, we are now selling cards for $5. They are lovely with a variety of messages imprinted on the vellum inserts including Happy Birthday, In Sympathy, Congratulations, Happy Anniversary, etc, PLUS a new series of Inspire cards with images of Jane Goodall, Malala and Rosa Parks. This was a terrific idea of Patty Colvig's to feature influential women and Lorna Bank and Nancy Hanson deserve a thank you for their work in putting the cards together.  Patty researched the images and found inspiration quotes. Many thanks, as always, to our printing angel, Noelle Berman. It's hard to find any printers who print on vellum, but Noelle does a great job for us at Hollywood Forever.

If you haven't checked out our new website yet, trip on over (http://topangawomenscircle.org) and take a look. Debra Silbar and I worked hard on this and Joanna Gunst made it possible. She is a website guru, right here in the Canyon. If you don't know Imagine Website Design, you have a treat in store!

We're still trying to consolidate some of our storage as we're still scattered around Los Angeles. Anything in Topanga is our first choice, natch, but close by would be great as well. As it is, we have our beloved Bin in Pine Tree Circle (thank you Carlson's), one at the Brewery Arts Complex (thank you Carlson's!), one at Bell Shelter (thank you Sharon Pregerson!) and one that we pay just under $500 a month for in Thousand Oaks. That's the first one we'd like to lose so if you have any ideas, please let us know!

And lastly, our committees. If anyone would like to help, please contact the committee heads. Included are their emails.

Bin Committee: Nancy Hanson (nancyhanson19@gmail.com). The Bin is open Saturday mornings throughout the year except when it's tipping down rain or boiling hot, from 9 to 10:30. Please contact Nancy if you would like to help out.

Shopping Committee: Teresa Royer (t.royer1218@gmail.com)  handles much of the shopping, creation of shopping lists and if you'd like to help out, please contact her. Emma Murray is our go to gal for big shops at Ikea!

Pull Committee: Again, Teresa (t.royer1218@gmail.com) handles most of the pulling with help from another volunteer. If you'd like to help her with this, drop her a line!

Perishable Committee: Drop Randi Gottlieb (rgottliebmft@gmail.com) if you'd like to be on this committee. For most set-ups, we ask help from our volunteer base and if no one is available, we then turn to this committee for help.

Non-Perishable Committee: Patty Colvig (pcolvig@verizon.net) keeps a close eye on our stocks in the Bin and in Thousand Oaks and springs into action when we're low. If you'd like to help out, drop her a line.

And now a few photos from recent set-ups!

Groceries for a smaller family...one mom, one child

Groceries for a larger family...six kids!
A table set for a family of four

Those ladies who 'pull' for the set-ups coordinated this one down to the shampoo and conditioner

Pat Lester, looking all done in after completing a set-up

Fab volunteers, Pat Lester, Gail Thomas, TWC co-chair Teresa Royer and Adrian Wright

Serene and ready for a new family

Happy we're all finished: Randi Gottlieb, Linda Ilsley, Judith Haut and Lorna Bank in front

Mom and teenage daughter arrived to this serene space. The welcome
note on the dining room table lets the new tenants know everything we've left is
theirs to keep and includes a Target gift card.

Paula Dove...unrolling a new rug

Wendy Skolfield...making the mom's room pretty

Tight space for two little girls...but it sure looks welcoming

Color coordinated for a large family and lovely Arbonne products donated
by volunteer, Margaret French Isaac

How beautiful is this? And someone donated the lovely screen
in the corner
A super full fridge for a super large family!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

It's time to order your 2017 Mother's Day 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.

For timely mailing of cards
(Mother's Day is May 14th this year),
all orders must be placed with us by May 8th 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.

We will also have a beautiful selection of cards available for sale at the
Topanga Farmer's Market  from 9 AM until closing on
April 28, May 5 and May 12.

Two simple ways to pay:
Either go to our website: topangawomenscircle.org and click on the
'How You Can Help" Contribute Button.  We take Amex, Mastercard, Visa or Paypal or
Send your check for $25 for each card payable to Topanga Women's Circle  and mail to:
Topanga Women's Circle
c/o Linda Ilsley
2670 Topanga Skyline Drive
Topanga, CA  90290
Any questions, or for further information, contact Linda at linilsley@gmail.com

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!

We have some tried and true images below in addition to some lovely new ones.  Of special interest are the silkscreen images by TWC volunteer, Linda Bolhuis.

Impressionism:  Pansies

Goddess of Compassion

Raindrops and Roses
Linda Bolhuis Silkscreen 1

Linda Bolhuis Silkscreen 2

Linda Bolhuis Silkscreen 3

Mother Tree

Poppies and Amish Barn

Orange Butterfly and Lantana

Mother and Child: Nepal


Hummingbirds at  Home in Topanga


Lupines, Old Canyon, Topanga


Pride of Madeira & Butterfly

Topanga through Mustard


Irish Cows

Irish Horses

Pure Joy

Study in Pinks

Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 7 Meeting at Annie's

Another Meeting! Every couple of months, a meeting notice goes out and then the search for a volunteer willing to host the event begins. We've been in big houses, small houses, new houses and old and the bottom line is, size doesn't matter. The number of chairs available doesn't matter. It's a gathering of women who are happy to see one another and who always bring the tastiest of treats to share with one another. This last meeting was hosted by Annie Gabbert and her home couldn't have been more beautiful, comfortable or perfect for our latest get-together. Plus it had AMAZING parking!!

Socializing and food and maybe a glass or two of wine take precedence and then we get down to the business of TWC. As is usual, Nancy Hanson took some great notes and any omissions are my errors. For those of you unable to make the meeting, here's a brief synopsis of what we covered.

Christmas...it's a wrap: As always, TWC volunteers provided a most extraordinary Christmas for the children at the Transitional Living Center at Venice Community Housing. As we've said before, these children have grown up amid great turmoil with few treats and the Christmas we provide for them is indeed something they will remember forever. Thanks to all of you for your generosity and for turning out to help wrap the gifts. The children were delighted with their bounty and we did get some thank you notes from the them and moms which I've put someplace safe and now can't find. I will, though (before our next meeting!).

This year each family at the Bessie Pregerson Child Development Center at Westwood Transitional Village received a beautiful quilt/throw handmade by The Linus Project and a Target gift card. Karen did a beautiful job wrapping and ribboning the over 40 bags for the families which she and Teresa (am I forgetting anyone?) delivered.

Challenge Grant: New Board Member, Debra Silbar, gave us the final tally which was $13,143 PLUS the $6,000 donation (from four couples). We raised just under $20,000 in total. Coldwell Banker, Malibu, pledged $1,000 but because their charitable funding came in late, gifted us with $2,000 as their donation came in after the end of the campaign. A special thank you to Christine Rodgers of Coldwell Banker, for championing our cause. Also, thank you, Debra, for spearheading this campaign and for all your hard work. And she's already thinking about next year!

If anyone has names and email addresses that they would like us to add to our fundraising list, we will be sure to include them in the future if you just send them to me. Patty Colvig suggests we use social media a bit more and that Topanga Next Door is a good place to start and Karla suggests an article be written for the new newspaper to spread the word of our drive.

More on Fundraising:  While Karla's connection at Sheila Kuehl's office has moved on, she will still write a grant proposal to Sheila's office with some help from a template used in the past. This needs to be submitted this month, so time is racing on. If anyone has any other ideas (I know Debra has one she's thinking about), I am happy to help with any details that might be needed.

Donations and Storage: Everyone agreed that adding lamps to the set-ups really makes a big difference, especially since they're often missing at Westwood and there's little to no overhead lighting.  While lamp donations are really tough to store safely and take up a lot of room, Catherine Grasso and Emma Murray do have storage space here in Topanga which would be most helpful to use in the future. Catherine's space is not quite as watertight as she'd like, so after the rains we can store things there.

TWC's storage is located between three free facilities: Topanga and Brewery Arts (thanks to Leslie Carlson) and Bell Shelter (thanks to the Salvation Army) and our $450/month facility in Thousand Oaks. Our first goal regarding this is to move things out of the most inconvenient...Bell. Hopefully, by the summertime that will be achieved.

Any teens needing community service hours? Our food needs shelving and sorting at the Thousand Oaks container. It's not a hard job, but it will take an hour or two of a teen's time. Contact Teresa or me if your child is interested in helping out. All of this fabulous non-perishable food is courtesy of Patty Colvig's annual neighborhood Xmas party and Topanga Elementary school (thanks, Patty!) and Manzanita School (thanks, Gail!).

And then a massive donation came in via Deborah Ackrich's cousin who works with MEND (http://mendpoverty.org/). Ninety-five percent of these donations are in our T.O. facility. Help!

And speaking of Deborah, congratulations to Bat Mitzvah girl, Eden Ackrich, who as part of her Bat Mitzvah project has written a little cookbook for the families we help. Eden includes one of her cookbooks for each set-up as well as a highlighted recipe, for which she (and her Mom) provide all the ingredients. (Note: Deborah said Albertson's is pretty generous if anyone wants to approach them regarding donations to TWC).

And Linda Handler Kort's little kindergarteners have once again donated over 100 cans of non-perishables...for the first 100 days of school. Linda sent a darling photo of the kids which we all ooo'd and aah'd over at our meeting. And speaking of Linda, she and her new hubs had a holiday party and instead of hostess gifts, she asked those attending to bring small kitchen items (such as measuring cups and spoons, whisks, wooden spoons, etc). Thanks, Linda!

Changes in Transitional Housing: We discussed at length the change in Southern California from Transitional to Bridge Housing. Teresa, Deborah Silbar and I will meet with Diane Good at Westwood next week to discuss these changes in more detail and how they will affect Topanga Women's Circle and what we do. One thing we do know for sure is there will be quicker turnover (every three to six months). We want to hang on to our upfront three day notice rule, but I can see this getting tougher and tougher.

Do we drop off items for the families if it's an emergency move-in? If that's the case, we'd better buy more big blue Ikea bags. We won't be purchasing big ticket items like microwaves and big vacuums,  but we want to help the families as much as possible. We talked about tea kettles instead of coffee makers and toaster ovens instead of microwaves. Stick vacuums instead of big heavy ones...and the list goes on.

We will definitely suffer from some uncertainty and growing pains in the next few months. I'm practicing breathing for now...until we know more!

Greeting Cards: With a generous printing contribution from Noelle Berman, who prints all of our vellum inserts (for free!!!) and Nancy Hanson's work at putting cards together, we will now offer cards for sale at our meetings. These all have a beautiful vellum insert and simple messages such as: Happy Birthday, With Deepest Sympathy, Congratulations, etc. Cards sell for $5. We only had 18 at this last meeting, as we wanted to see if folks liked the idea, and we sold every one. We will put together some 'boxed' sets and individual cards for future sales. If anyone would like to help Nancy, please let her know.

Committee Reports
Saturday Open Bin: Nancy's cadre of volunteers continue to do great work but with travel schedules and family needs, she would love to have a few more ladies on board to help out. If you need more information, please contact her.

Non-Perishables: Thanks to Patty's efforts and the other donations mentioned above, nothing needs to be done...for now!

Perishables: This committee continues to do a great job but because of the expense, we like to ask at each set-up if someone would like to do the perishables. If no takers, then I let the Perishable Committee know and they spring into action. I will reimburse (but only with receipts) up to $50 for purchases. If you have questions, please contact Randi Gottlieb or Andrea Palella.

Pulling for Set-ups: Karen is happy to train anyone who is keen to get involved. Karla Morrison helped her out last week and said she was happy to learn, but there's a real system (and a checklist) and if you keep your thinking ordered and let your creativity soar, it's fun!

Set-Ups: Thank you to all of you for responding so readily and with such open hearts to my frequent emails that I send out asking for help. You arrive with smiles on your faces and usually bearing generous contributions for future set-ups.  It's rare that we are 'short staffed' and your willingness to offer support to these needy families is commendable.  It doesn't always go quite as smoothly as one would like (just ask Lizzie Kipner, Piper Norwood and Emma Murray how this week's set-up went!), but as we always say, "Homelessness is not tidy." That said, Teresa and I will do our best to keep this train rolling, regardless of what is thrown our way in the near future.

Mother's Day: And finally, Mother's Day is May 14 this year which means our next meeting will most likely be in late March, very early April. If you have any images you would like used for the cards, that would be great. I'm hoping Linda Bolhuis will let us use some of her fantastic images again this year because they were big sellers.

Ommissions: If I've forgotten anything, please let me know and I'll be sure to make a note.