“To watch somebody reclaim their life is amazing,” says Pamme Mickelson, executive director of the Alano Club of Santa Barbara. “Some of our members are beaten down by life. Three years later, they have an apartment and a job.”
For more than 50 years, the nonprofit organization has provided a sober environment to thousands of alcoholics and addicts, offering a café, computer access, and a pool table. “Although there are no programs per say – no counseling and therapy – we have 39 Alcoholic Anonymous meetings a week, four or five a day,” explains Pamme, who started in her current position at the Alano Club last June.
She’d previously served on the board and noticed certain needs weren’t being met. Fundraising especially deserved a boost, particularly because 83 percent of members are homeless or low-income, and most cannot afford the $10 a month fee.
But Pamme is uniquely qualified for the position, with more than 12 years of nonprofit experience. An Army brat, she lived in for 30-plus years in Austin, where she met her husband, Steve Windhager, executive director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. They both worked at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where she ran all of the special events as well as the café. “In nonprofits, you wear many hats,” explains a smiling Pamme, who eventually moved to the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Center to handle fundraising.
She developed quite a social and professional network in Austin, so much so that upon arriving in Santa Barbara, Pamme felt like she’d lost her sense of identity. Back in Texas, in fact, friends would call her husband Steve Mickelson rather than the other way around.
But now Pamme, who enjoys quilting and making beaded jewelry in her spare time, has found new purpose as the head of the Alano Club. “ I get a lot of fulfillment out of it,” she says. “ It’s great to come home and know I’ve helped someone.”
Pamme Mickelson answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your motto?
Highest good for all.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I try to emulate Lady Bird Johnson. I worked for her in Austin for six years and she was the most gracious, caring individual. She was smart and savvy, and always saw to the heart of a problem and focused on the solution. She was and is an inspiration for me.
What is your current state of mind?
Peaceful. I know I’m in the right place doing the right things for the members of the Club and my family. I find serenity in doing what I do, and love the volunteers that work with me to make things happen.
What do you like most about your job?
Helping people find hope. We serve recovering alcoholics and addicts and the Alano Club is a safe and sober environment for them to come to 12-step meetings and hang out.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Having all areas of my life (spiritual, mental, physical) be in balance with the highest good.
What is your greatest fear?
Honestly? Spiders! I love that my husband doesn’t mind my screaming about them and comes to rescue me from them!
Who do you most admire?
My husband, Steve Windhager. He is a caring, giving person who wants to change the world and does it in a positive manner.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Vacations. I love to go to the beach, eat at new restaurants, and shop for gifts.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Honesty. I like people who share their true feelings with me and engage me in open conversations.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Passive aggressive behavior. A person who can’t come out and tell me what is going on and why they are upset.
What do you most value in friends?
Humor. My good friends make me laugh – at myself and situations. I find humor restores me to a state of balance and lightheartedness.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Cheerfulness. I smile a lot having recently gotten my braces off!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“How hard can it be?” I get myself into trouble with this by over committing and getting into to projects larger than I expected.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To be able to sing on key. I love to sing but don’t really have the voice for it.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To not worry about things in the future. Trusting in God to provide the solution.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My two daughters. I have a 26-year-old and a 33-year-old and they are the most magical people I know.
Where would you most like to live?
I love Santa Barbara and I love my hometown of Austin, Texas. I’d have to split my time between the two.
What is your most treasured possession?
My BMW Z4 hardtop convertible that my husband got me for our anniversary last year.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My friends and family. My dogs run a close second, they are very goofy.
On what occasion do you lie?
If I’m feeling down I sometimes lie and say I’m fine.