On Thursday, October 27, about 400 supporters of Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara gathered at the Bacara Resort and Spa for the 15th annual Celebration Luncheon with the theme of “Women in Leadership: Making a Difference.”
After a lively social hour in the ballroom foyer, guests adjourned to the ballroom where they were welcomed by CEO Barbara Ben-Horin. She recognized some of the “Women in Leadership” in the room, including State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, County Supervisor Janet Wolf, Mayor Helene Schneider, former County Supervisor Susan Rose, and Santa Barbara Airport Director Hazel Jenkins.
Ben-Horin shared Girls Inc.’s mission of inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold and identified three issues of particular importance: political participation, economic empowerment and violence against women.
The program’s emcee, Roz (last name withheld pursuant to Girls Inc. policy), then took over the show. She is an 8th grade student at La Colina Jr. High School who has been coming to Girls Inc. since kindergarten. Her hosting skills rivaled our town’s top emcees and her tender age lent a precious sweetness to her performance.
The featured speaker, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who is the chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, agreed on the importance of the issues identified by Ben-Horin. Regarding political empowerment, Jackson stressed the importance of having more female elected officials to serve as role models for girls.
Regarding economic empowerment, Jackson noted that after 35 years of efforts on the issue, she authored and got passed the strongest equal pay bill in the country. She touched on the importance of quality, affordable childcare and more family-friendly workplaces because of the economic necessity for so many women to work. Jackson discussed the bill she is working to get passed that would allow new mothers and fathers who work for companies with between 20 and 49 employees to have the right to take six weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with newborns.
Stina Hans was honored for her longstanding service to Girls Inc. and other community organizations. Hans has been on the board since 2007 and is currently the president of Girls Inc.‘s fundraising support group, the 100 Committee. She co-chaired the Spring Gala which raised more than $200,000 for scholarships. In accepting the award, Hans noted that she has chosen to devote herself to Girls Inc. because of the lasting impact the organization makes by giving girls the tools they need to succeed.
The Raintree Foundation was honored for its generous support of Girls Inc. and other community organizations. The foundation was a major supporter of the capital campaign to build the Girls Inc. Goleta Valley Center in 2008.
Mia, a 6th grade student at Kellogg School who has been coming to Girls Inc. since kindergarten, shared some of her thoughts on the organization. When she proclaimed at the end that instead of being shy, Girls Inc. has taught her to be strong, smart, and bold such that it “feels like I’m exploding,” the audience erupted in laughter and rose for a standing ovation.
Fiona, a 3rd grade student at Monte Vista who also has been at Girls Inc. since kindergarten, was just tall enough to be visible behind the podium and deftly lead a team of Girls Inc. participants in a very enthusiastic rendition of the Girls’ Bill of Rights.
Roz, Mia, and Fiona and company were very tough acts to follow, but Geoff Green masterfully rose to the challenge. He fully entertained the crowd with witty remarks while leading the live auction and announcing the raffle winners.
Girls Inc of Greater Santa Barbara (GIGSB) is part of a larger organization serving 140,000 girls across the U.S. and Canada. It seeks to empower girls with the tools to overcome gender, economic and social barriers. It helps them develop leadership skills, set career goals, and adopt healthy lifestyles. GIGSB has a center in Santa Barbara and in Goleta. Last year, it served a total of 763 girls in its after-school program and its Summer Adventure Camp with an average daily attendance of 275 in the after-school program. It served a total of 777 girls in its gymnastics programs.
The cost for full time participation in the after-school program (three or more days per week) is $100, with a 25% sibling discount and free transportation from schools. Last year, $586,000 in financial aid was awarded to 377 girls.
For more information, go to girlsincsb.org.
By Gail Arnold