At our recent donor recognition event, the Circle of Excellence dinner, the speaker, Dianne Dixon, was a very distinguished author, screen writer and one-time member of the Hillsides Board of Director who has been a voice for vulnerable children throughout her adult life. She began her presentation by asking the question, “Who do you see?” Before us was this very distinguished-looking woman, clearly well-educated, poised and accomplished. But as she began to tell her story, it became evident that what we saw was not what we would typically think of given the story she told.
Her story was of a woman who grew up as a frightened little girl, neglected and abused by the mentally ill adult who raised her. As a child, she was deprived of many childhood pleasures and nurturing routines, left to wonder about her safety and anxious regarding her well-being.
Her presentation pointed out that in spite of her tragic childhood, she was eventually freed from her household tyranny to become the accomplished person that she is today. Her evolution was not only an indicator of her resiliency but also a testament to those who intervened in her life and created a bridge out of tragedy to a life marked by achievements and personal happiness.
Listening to her read an excerpt from one of her novels, it is clear that the person we saw before us was far more that the person we might imagine.
Her story resonated with our many volunteers and all of us who serve the vulnerable children, youth and families in our care. Their stories are of neglect and indifference, robbed of the simple pleasures of childhood and made anxious because of inconsistent care. But it is also a story of a caring community of family, friends, neighbors and professionals who collectively create a bridge that leads those we serve away from debilitating dysfunction towards safety, well-being and long-term stability.
Like our guest speaker, the children, youth and families we serve are much more than the challenges they address. For those of us privileged to serve them, we cannot let the issues they address define them. Rather, it is their hopes and dreams that must determine our efforts to create lasting change in their lives.
We are so grateful for all those we honored at the annual Circle of Excellence celebration. They are true examples of the caring community that builds bridges of hope for those we serve. Our honorees this year were:
- Nancy Garni, Hillsides former chief advancement officer, who received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Karen Whyte, a Hillsides volunteer and Las Candelas member, who also received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award
- Pam Mahon, a long-time Hillsides volunteer who is very involved in our annual gala, who received a Hillsides Angel Award.
- Rachael Worby, the artistic director and founder of MUSE/IQUE, who was honored with a Community Angel Award for her efforts bringing musical performances to the children.
- Kevin Wong, a volunteer with Hillsides Volunteer Network, who was honored with a Special Recognition Award for his leadership and innovation.
- Fellowship Monrovia, which provides the children with Saturday pizza parties. The church also received a Special Recognition Award for its efforts to make the children’s weekends special.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge all our honorees and to thank all those who join with us to effectively touch the lives of all we serve.