On September 25, Girls Inc. Carpinteria (Girls Inc.) hosted its annual Evening in Bloom, this year at its campus with a Roaring Twenties theme. Guests arrived in stunning themed outfits — headbands, sequin and fringe dresses, and pearls were at every turn. The sold-out event (limited to 200 because of COVID) netted more than $160,000 for Girls Inc.’s after-school and outreach programs.
At the early VIP reception, guests enjoyed a casino with gaming tables and a dimly lit speakeasy bar. At the main reception in the courtyard, guests reveled in being able to gather once again, while Friends of the Cate School Jazz Trio, led by Music Director John Knecht, played lively tunes.
Guests were seated in the courtyard for a dinner catered by Food Liaison. Board President Lori Pearce applauded Girls Inc. staff, who recognized the critical importance of affordable, quality care. The staff quickly pivoted after lockdown to reopen and then in August to offer full-day services “to help guide girls as they navigated the trauma and toxic stressors” they faced.
Executive Director Jamie Collins, after acknowledging Girls Inc.’s 50th anniversary, related how the challenges of COVID have demonstrated more than ever the importance of Girls Inc.’s mission and programs, which equip girls to be healthy, educated, and independent. In the past year, Girls Inc. built a state-of-the-art STEM lab and a program to engage girls in sports, while continuing to grow its other programs.
Keynote speaker Laura Flores, a Girls Inc. alumna and current Cal Lutheran University freshman, extolled the benefits of Girls Inc.’s five-year Eureka! Program, which enabled her to feel secure and prepared at college and to assist classmates who had not benefited from the college readiness program. Flores explained how Girls Inc. had provided her with useful mindfulness, stress management, and self-defense skills. She eats healthy foods and exercises for her own well-being, not because of societal pressure to look good, and she eloquently provided other examples of how Girls Inc. has equipped her to be Strong, Smart, and Bold — the organization’s tagline.
The event honored Diana and Clyde Freeman for their service to Girls Inc. and the community. Clyde has served Girls Inc. for 12 years, including as board president, and Diana also has been a boardmember. Both have served a multitude of Carpinteria nonprofits. Larry Snyder led a live auction.
With the March 2020 lockdown order, Girls Inc.’s After-School Enrichment Program, which serves girls K-8, went virtual. In June 2020, they reopened for summer camp, and at the start of the 2020-21 school year, they launched a full-day program to meet the needs of students in remote learning mode. Girls Inc. was the savior for many struggling families who could not afford childcare or who had home environments not conducive to remote instruction. Since May, when schools reopened, Girls Inc. has gone back to its traditional After-School Enrichment Program and Summer Camp.
Currently, Girls Inc. serves 165 girls K-12. Its After-School Enrichment Program for K-8 focuses on literacy and STEM but also includes sports and personal development workshops. Snacks and dinner are provided daily in partnership with local agencies. In its highly regarded, multifaceted college readiness Eureka! Program, girls learn skills, are given support, and are encouraged to explore STEM careers. Summers are spent at UCSB and at paid externships.
Mentoring has always been a key component of Girls Inc.’s programming, and according to Collins, COVID has intensified its importance. The girls were hit hard, according to Collins, by the loss of lives and economic hardship brought on by COVID and by the social isolation caused by remote learning. Having a mentor is critical, Collins related, not just to rely on in the hard times, but also to celebrate the girls’ achievements. Mentors, Collins explained, “help girls push past gender stereotypes, strengthen their confidence, and brighten their outlook on the future.” Staff supports girls every day, Collins related, creating safe spaces and building trusting relationships, helping girls gain skills and realize their potential.
While Carpinteria may be known for its beautiful beaches and attractive downtown, a large proportion of the population is low income. Minorities comprise 78 percent of the local public school population, and 58 percent of students receive free or reduced-price meals. At Girls Inc., 77 percent of students receive financial assistance, and according to Collins, more funding is desperately needed to support families as they suffer from economic hardship intensified by the pandemic.
For more info or to make a donation, go to http://girlsinc-carp.org.
For coverage of other events, go to http://independent.com/society.