2018 Winter Newsletter

The 2018 year begins with a few exciting changes for the Ojai Women’s Fund leadership. Co-chair and co-founder Peggy Russell stepped down from her position at the end of December and will continue to serve as Finance Chair and Treasurer. Anna Wagner has stepped up to co-chair the organization with Karen Evenden. Anna has been involved with the OWF steering committee as Volunteer Coordinator for one year. She is currently Director of Development at the Ojai Music Festival and lives in Ojai with her husband, Bill (Music Director at Nordhoff High School), their daughter Charlotte, and dog Charley.

Karen and Anna recently met to share a little bit about why they were involved in OWF, the growth they’ve seen in the organization, and their hopes for the upcoming year.

Anna, what motivated you to agree to be co-chair?

AW: Well, it’s hard to say no to Karen! (laughs) I feel like often when a new nonprofit comes up, there can be a feeling of competition rather than collaboration. There’s something about this organization and its underlying values of equity and fairness that really speak to me. I see it in memberships, in the way also that we do the grants – we really want to make sure that everyone has a chance in an equal manner to participate.

What’s incredible about OWF is that for as little as $100 as a group member, or $1,000 for an individual membership, you have an opportunity to vote and make a difference in this valley. The idea that my $125 as a group member equates to $64,000 in giving is really meaningful and something to be proud of. I didn’t give that much, and yet I did because all of us decided we were going to collectively give.

The education component of this organization also really appeals to me. I feel that to educate women on being philanthropic in general is an important concept that will help this organization, the valley, and other organizations as well. I really appreciate how some of our members may find that they voted for an organization that didn’t get money and decide they’re going to make a gift to support that program on their own because of what they’ve learned of the need in our community.

KE: Let me say why I thought Anna was the perfect choice. It’s important to all of us that we have a broad and diverse membership base. To appeal to the next generation of women in this community, we need to be able to communicate to them, while at the same time balance the needs of our younger members with those of our older members. I can’t think of a better person than you…you bring the youth, the experience, the knowledge, and fun.

AW: I really do admire the skill sets of the women that have come before me – you have the luxury of being retired and being able to volunteer the time, which is so important. While we [the younger generation and working women] may not have as much time to offer, we bring our own skill set that is equally important. I have made it a mission in this past year to be more present in the community in the way of volunteering the time I have. To be honest, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew! But that’s because if we don’t start it, who will continue this chain of giving back? I feel it’s important to lead by example and let people know that your time is needed. Even if it’s not a lot of hours, it’s something. Maybe if we can get more people in our generation to do one or two hours of their time a week it will lead to something greater down the road.

What are you looking forward to most in 2018?

KE: We’re looking to continue to increase the number of members and dollars we raise…we want to be able to increase the size of the grants we give out. Also, I think it will be important to focus more on recruiting and retaining our group members. I’m really looking forward to giving more recognition and training to the group leaders and to incorporate them more into the fabric of the organization. They really are the ambassadors for what it is we do.

I also think it’s time to focus more on the program side of things rather than the agencies. Here in this valley we have a small number of agencies, but a large number of programs. We really need to look at what the core issues are in our community and how we can respond. And that’s why we’re going into this series of “FOCUS” events that will delve more significantly into understanding, at this point in time, what the issues are.
The Ojai Women’s Fund extends its deep gratitude to outgoing members of the Steering Committee Barbara Hirsch, Aryna Swope, and Sandi White for their dedication and many hours of work in running OWF. We welcome incoming Steering Committee members Caryn Bosson and Caitlin Praetorius, who join our continuing Steering Committee members Victoria Bortolussi, Kyle Crowner, Marquita Flemming, Donna Freiermuth, Margo Haas, Judy Norris, Peggy Russell, and Tiarzha Taylor.
FOCUS: Environment

Join OWF and a panel of experts on Thursday, March 22, as we explore environmental concerns facing Ojai Valley (past, present, and future).

This will be the first of two FOCUS events held this year to explore issues in one or more of our funding categories (Art, Education, Health, Environmental, and Social Services). Details to follow!

The mood was joyfully festive during the Ojai Women’s Fund 2017 Grant Awards Celebration at The Ojai Valley Woman’s Club on November 30, where we met and honored our second annual grant recipients and learned more about their organizations and the wonderfully diverse ways the grant money will help area residents.

Certainly no one expected life to change so dramatically less than a week later, as the now-historic Thomas fire created havoc and devastation in our precious Ojai Valley and beyond. It was surreal indeed, but thankfully now, after a tumultuous year-end, 11 local nonprofits are able to embrace 2018 with gratitude and optimism. Thanks to you, our generous and supportive Ojai Women’s Fund members!

To recap our 2017 Grant Awards evening, Ojai Women’s Fund grants committee member Kathy Zotnowski emceed the event. She expressed deep appreciation to members for sharing Ojai’s wealth, and stressed that OWF is so much more than fundraising.

"There truly is a joy in local giving. OWF members help to better our community not just through financial contributions but also through awareness of local needs, resources, and action opportunities, all while reaping valuable friendships forged with like-minded local women,” said Zotnowski.

Visibly moved by the evening’s turnout and the generosity of Ojai women, Ojai Women’s Fund founders Karen Evenden and Peggy Russell warmly expressed their own appreciation. “What a marvelous way to honor our awardees and all Ojai’s nonprofits that do such important work in the Valley,” said Evenden. “…and a beautiful opportunity to validate the contributions of every single person involved with Ojai’s nonprofits – so many work quietly behind the scenes and deserve accolades,” added Russell.

In only two years as a local grant-funding philanthropy, OWF has raised and dispersed $124,000 through generous donations of its nearly 400 members. We couldn’t do it without you!

Now, as we ease ourselves into the second month of 2018, let’s do so with determined spirits and deep appreciation for Ojai’s close-knit, compassionate community. Know that your membership gifts truly do make a difference! With OWF grants, area nonprofits can meet so many more local needs and help to improve, enhance, and significantly impact lives. Thank you for making a difference!

Caryn Bosson

We extend a very warm welcome to Caryn Bosson, our new Ojai Women’s Fund Membership (OWF) Committee Co-Chair. She joins fellow co-chair Tiarzha Taylor to manage, grow and enhance OWF’s membership.

Caryn comes to us with a wealth of transformational experience in Ojai, Southern California and nonprofit organizations. As a nonprofit expert with entrepreneurial flair, she helped to launch the innovative Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, which impacted thousands of young local lives and received a $1.3 million grant from The California Wellness Foundation in only its second year.

For almost a decade Caryn served as Director of Strategy and Interim Exective Director for the Los Angeles organization TreePeople, which has educated over 2 million schoolchildren and planted over 2 million trees since 1973.

Caryn earned her Masters Degree in Organizational Leadership from Manhattan College, and currently is a Senior Faculty member at California Lutheran University’s Center for Nonprofit Leadership. Her personal Caryn Bosson Consulting firm has serves such clients in Ojai as Meditation Mount, the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, Kim Maxwell Studio, and others. Caryn also is an associate trainer with T&M Seminars & Coaching.

We at the Ojai Women’s Fund are thrilled to welcome Caryn, and look forward to drawing from her deep well of knowledge and wisdom. “My goal is to help you to discover and build upon your strengths, work at your highest capacities, and achieve the outcomes you’ve envisioned,” says Caryn. Her skills and outlook bring an exciting, new dimension to OWF. Welcome, Caryn!