We were informed that on Friday, October 9, Nancy Garni, a long-time employee at Hillsides and our chief advancement officer, passed away at her home in Pasadena surrounded by her husband and daughter. Nancy had been on a medical leave since being diagnosed with leukemia in December of 2013. Although her treatment excused her from work, she continued to follow activities at Hillsides and demonstrated great interest in developments at the agency, her staff, and the many peers and friends she made in her 26 years of services. Our community is profoundly sad at such a loss especially after Nancy underwent a valiant course of treatment at City of Hope to combat the impact of leukemia.
The role of advancement officer in an organization like Hillsides is indispensible. Government funding is always inadequate, so the ability to successfully raise private funds to augment public funding is very important. Nancy was a true master of her profession, and effectively led Hillsides through several capital campaigns and annual fundraising activity.
She was extraordinary as an advancement officer because of her long tenure. For many in similar positions, the length of service can be short. Nancy was so committed to Hillsides that it was inconceivable to consider a position elsewhere, even though at times I am sure she was offered greater and more lucrative opportunities. Her dedication was contagious and, as a result, the department she led enjoys some of the longest tenures of all the departments at Hillsides. Her open-door approach, authentic interest in staff, commitment to solve problems, and cultivation of talent allowed her to be very successful. Although we have missed her direct leadership of this important support service, the staff she led for so long without exception picked up the slack caused because of her illness. In tribute to her, the advancement department has continued to meet the annual demand for private resources to enhance our programs and has achieved an unparalleled amount of individual contributions to our ongoing capital campaign: $8 million to date.
Much can be said about Nancy’s ability, capacity, and competency. Her contribution to Hillsides over the years benefited the organization with millions of much-needed funds. What truly made Nancy most successful, however, was not just her talent but her commitment to the mission of Hillsides to create lasting change. She lived that mission in her heart and she acted on it each day with her work. Although she personally did not experience the traumas our children and families have gone though, as a single mother for much of her daughter’s upbringing she knew the needs of a child who depended almost exclusively on her mother. She knew what it was to be the sole provider for her daughter and appreciated the sacrifices parents make for their children.
As a result, her own life experiences made her an extraordinary advocate for the child in need of a parent or the parent desperate to provide for a child who had been traumatized.
We have suffered a great loss with the death of Nancy Garni, not just the loss of a dear colleague but of a capable mentor, talented professional fundraiser, and most of all, a great advocate of our mission. As profound as the loss is, there is great consolation because of the legacy that she has left, which is seen in those who have taken up the mission she so much loved, in the good works that she enabled, and ultimately in the lives of the children, youth, and families supported because of her successful fundraising efforts.
To her loving husband Mike and her dedicated and proud daughter Kati, the Hillsides community extends our heartfelt condolences. A Celebration of Life memorial service will be this Saturday, October 17 at 2 p.m. at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church located at 1175 S. San Gabriel Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107. Reception will immediately follow at St. Edmund’s Parish Hall.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, people make a donation to City of Hope or Hillsides. To donate to City of Hope, please visit http://www.cityofhope.org/donate (click on “Donate Online Now” and then click on “for Memorial & Honorary Donations”) or call 1-800-535-7119 85483. Given Nancy’s love for flowers, a memorial fund has been established to create a garden on campus as a permanent memorial to Nancy. If you are interested in supporting this memorial, please contact Carrie Espinoza at 323-543-2800, ext. 221, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.hillsides.org/donate.
May she rest in peace.