Who doesn’t love a feel-good story. Last weekend we honored and celebrated our war heroes who dedicated their lives for love of country. And on the morning of Memorial Day we learned of a Malian immigrant in Paris who saved a child dangling from a balcony and was personally rewarded with French citizenship by President Macron as a result. Few of us can ever demonstrate the level of bravery and sacrifice of our past and present men and women in uniform, but it’s comforting to be reminded that everyday civilians can act with selflessness and a good heart to improve, and sometimes even save, the lives of total strangers.
Everyday acts of kindness are all around us, many happening right here in the Ranch. The Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund, to which I belong, recently held its Grants in Bloom event to celebrate the charities it had painstakingly chosen to fund this season. A bouquet of shrinking violets this group is not — think more glorious Matisse decoupage of vibrant, engaging women from all walks with a common committed mission: to personally visit, vet and collectively give to local nonprofits meeting needs in specific focus areas. The Fund has granted close to $3 million since its inception in 2004. If that’s not an impressive enough factoid to show off the Fund members' mettle, Memorial Day weekend was kicked off just right when I received notice about one of the charities, Nativity Prep, a school providing tuition-free education to students who come from low-income backgrounds and will be the first generation in their families to earn a college education. Our group was only able to partially fund Nativity Prep $23,300, but was gifted the remaining $26,700 of its 50K grant ask by an anonymous donor. What’s even more inspiring is that this donor also agreed to give $300,000 over the next three years ($100k each year) to be applied directly to grants. Kind, generous, and discrete? It’s like that statistically impossible “hot vs. crazy matrix” but so much better. This is the group of unicorns I’m proud to hang with.
Impactful philanthropy that inspires joy
There is Mr. Roger’s-cardigan-level-cozy news to share over at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation too, which houses the RSF Women’s Fund. RSF Foundation 20-year CEO and Ranch resident, Christy Wilson, has been named as a finalist for the San Diego Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO award annual event, which will be held on June 7. The RSF Foundation has grown exponentially under Ms. Wilson’s tutelage, and currently has more than $120 million in assets, and has granted more than $73 million to nonprofits since 1981. As the RSF Review noted, “from 2016 to 2017, the Foundation saw a 43 percent increase in the total amount of grants that were awarded.” Throughout her 20-year leadership, Ms. Wilson has worked tirelessly to build a comprehensive center for impactful philanthropy that inspires the joy of purposeful giving. Now that’s another person I want to be my neighbor.
Ms. Finch is all about supporting a culture of empowering young girls and women to be confident in their pursuits, and in how they look and feel. One of her central slogans is: “We believe giving back to our community is the ultimate act of beauty,” and Katherine Cosmetics puts its money where its lined and beglossed mouth is. Her company gives $1 for for every lipstick sold to charity, and for every eye-shadow palette sold, $1 is given to that month’s chosen non-profit. Beauty inside and out? Where’s my credit card!
Plant a seed, watch a child grow
With Memorial Day weekend being the unofficial entree to summer, it’s only appropriate that I wrap this up with another local charitable collaboration going on in August. Non-profit Humane Smarts, founded by author, photographer, activist and long-time Ranch resident, Susan Lankford, facilitated a unique partnership with our local gem of a 501(c)(3), the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center, and the Inn of Rancho Santa Fe. With all three working together, the RFSCC will offer a camp where kids will be harvesting their own vegetables in Mrs. Lankford’s private garden and working with the Inn’s chef to learn how to cook with the fruits of their labor. The perfect embodiment of farm to table and all for a good cause. I’m pun-intended digging this idea. Community outreach and giving back clearly runs in the family, as Mrs. Lankford’s daughter, Stacey Lankford Pennington, a good friend of mine and mother of two boys attending Rowe, is passionate about infusing life back into local communities too. This familial talent, ingenuity and compassion are a resource that I’m pleased to see the Ranch tapping into.
I was going to kvetch about where I think we could spread the good juju a bit thicker, namely on our local school board, where it seems the motto by which our kids are asked to abide, “kind to the core,” is lacking between all members, as witnessed at the last meeting. It was like watching Blue Planet sans Attenborough's dulcet tones to mollify the tribalism. But I’ll leave it for now, because I refuse to let it kill my vibe.
This local love-in is like atmospheric prozac without the rehab and I’m on a high. It’s like cartwheeling through those old-school oscillating sprinklers on the front lawn as a kid. Bust out the Good Humor strawberry shortcake popsicles and the Coppertone and -- BOOM -- it’s the start of summer and that endless infectious cocktail of barbecue smoke and hot-griddled waffle cones. I’m dating myself, aren’t I. But as school winds down, vacation plans are penned in, and daylight stretches out into eve, it’s hard not to focus on the feel good and all the people around us who are kind, engaged, and enriching the lives of others — even perfect strangers.
(PS: To all the men out there, excuse the unintentional gender bias in this installation. Whoops! Your turn next time!)