Wednesday, November 25 , 2015, 12:41 pm | Partly Cloudy 61º

Girls Inc. of Santa Barbara Luncheon Celebrates ‘Those Who Inspire’

Professional surfer Lakey Peterson serves as the keynote speaker and encourages attendees to 'grab your greatness'

Longtime Girls Inc. supporter Mary Howe-Grant, left, Executive Director Monica Scholl, and keynote speaker and professional surfer Lakey Peterson celebrate at Thursday’s 12th annual luncheon for Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara.
Longtime Girls Inc. supporter Mary Howe-Grant, left, Executive Director Monica Scholl, and keynote speaker and professional surfer Lakey Peterson celebrate at Thursday’s 12th annual luncheon for Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara.  (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

By Rochelle Rose, Noozhawk Contributing Writer | @NoozhawkSociety | updated logo |

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the luncheon.]

The Bacara Resort & Spa ballroom was filled Thursday with nearly 400 attendees who supported the 12th annual “Celebrating Those Who Inspire” luncheon for Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara.

With the fun theme of luau, Hawaiian prints and flower leis were in abundance. In fact, each “Strong, Smart and Bold” award recipient received a fresh purple lei as part of the acknowledgment for their outstanding contribution to Girls Inc.

Award recipients included the Volentine Family Foundation, the National Charity League-Santa Barbara Chapter, and James and Sheila Zimmerman.

The Volentine Foundation was established in 1988 by Myatt and Genevieve Volentine to share their good fortune with those in the community. They now contribute to more than 25 organizations in the greater Santa Barbara community. Sheila and James Zimmerman have been involved with the Girls Inc. family for over 25 years. Sheila served as board president from 2005-07 and spearheaded the capital campaign for the new Goleta Valley Center. Architect Jim Zimmerman contributed as architect and thoughtfully monitored every step of the construction.

“You may change a child’s life today with your support of Girls Inc.,” Sheila Zimmerman said.

Also lauded was the National Charity League-Santa Barbara, which is composed of 99 mothers (Patronesses) and 120 girls (Tick Tockers) who donate more than 5,000 hours of community service a year to 25 area charities, including Girls Inc.

Top sponsors at the fundraiser were Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, Bourke Wealth Management, Jim Brewer, Stina Hans and Joel Kreiner, Jody Dolan Holehouse, Pat Jones, Connie and Richard Kennelly, Anna and Michael Probstel, Christi Sulzbach, the Volentine Family Foundation, and Stephanie and Lorraine Wilson.

Event emcee Andrew Firestone was outstanding as announcer and auctioneer. Live auction items included a sperm whale surfboard donated by Channel Islands Surfboards, a BlueLine stand-up paddle surfboard and a week in a Maui condo donated by Mark Johnson.

Lauded were event co-chairs Renie Kelly and Yolanda Van Wingerden as well as the event committee members, including Janie Arnold, Stephanie Ball, Phyllis Cox, Debi Helm, Pat Jones, Shannon Kelly, Melanie Maxfield, Charles Caldwell, Kris O’Leary-Hayes, Carol Olson, Julie Pickert and Lauren Perez-Dodge, as well as Executive Director Monica Spear and the Board of Directors.

Girls Inc. members were also part of the show and performed several hula dances in their pink net hula skirts — all in keeping with the luau theme! Angelita Eller from Hula Anyonne? instructed the girls on the dance routine.

Santa Barbara native Lakey Peterson, 19, was the keynote speaker and did a wonderful job of describing the challenges of the ASP Women’s World Tour of competitive surfing. Peterson is ranked No. 6 in the world but also finds time to visit children’s hospitals and other charities and to speak about the value of charitable works. She encouraged the audience to "grab your greatness."

“It may be as simple as being kind to someone," Peterson said. "When I took my eyes off myself in my first year of competitive surfing, I excelled. I surfed for my 8-year-old friend Daisy who had cancer; I won first place. It’s all about giving back.”

Another inspired speaker was parent alumna Nina Lafuente. She was left a widow when her husband died when her daughter was just 4.

“I was living on $700 a month of survivor benefits. I needed help to get started again," Lafuente said. "I applied for a scholarship for my daughter to attend Girls Inc. so I could get a job and more education. I was accepted, and I am forever grateful. It was a great experience for my daughter who was exposed to classes and experiences that otherwise could not have provided her. She has now graduated from college and giving back now. Girls Inc. was a safe place, a positive place.”

Spotted in the crowd were Ginni Dreier, LaShon Kelly, county Supervisor Janet Wolf, Betty Rosness, Monika Ryker, Judith Hill, Adele Rosen, Mary Penny, Rick Nightingale and many others.

Girls Incorporated of Greater Santa Barbara celebrates more than 50 years as an affiliate of an almost 150-year-old national nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold. Through educational, research-based programs, activities and advocacy, Girls Inc. offers girls ages 4½ to 18 years opportunities to experience success as they prepare to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Girls Inc. was recently ranked among the top high-impact youth service nonprofits.

For more information on Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara, click here or call 805.963.4757.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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