It may have been cold and rainy outside, but it was all sunshine and smiles inside Earl Warren Showgrounds’ Warren Hall last week for the Eighth Annual Circle of Life fundraising luncheon benefiting Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara.
Among the more than 450 guests Thursday were Maureen and Terry Janeway, founders of Katie’s FUNd, named in honor of their late daughter, Katie. Maureen Janeway is a past Alpha board president and both are members of the Multiyear Giving Society and were table hosts for the luncheon.
“With the massive state cutbacks, we are in trouble,” she said. “It’s more important than ever to focus on self-sustainability and this lunch is one of the best ways we can reach that goal.”
Alpha’s goal is to raise $3.5 million within three years to help eliminate the waiting list and expand services at the nonprofit resource facility, which empowers individuals with developmental disabilities, supports families and fosters a community that values the contribution of all people.
Ruth Kallman, a guest at daughter Carol Kallman’s table (Carol Kallman is a board member), was one of the founding parents for Alpha. Having a child with developmental disabilities herself, Ruth Kallman made a radio appeal in 1953 to other mothers in her situation, asking them to join her in a newly formed daily program. Since those early days of Alpha, Ruth Kallman and her husband, Bob, remain dedicated and loyal supporters. When asked what she is most thankful for over the years, she said, “It is simply wonderful that people have accepted these special kids and adults in their lives.”
Lisa Macker, a recently elected SBCC trustee and Alpha board member, loves Alpha for many reasons, including its integrity and efforts toward sustainability with its food forest and Thrift Store recycling.
Emcee and supporter Dennis Miller has a genuine affection and respect for Alpha’s participants.
“These people know what’s important,” he said, “and whenever I need a reminder of the important things in life, I visit my friends at Alpha Resource Center.”
The luncheon program was opened with a Star Song Medley by the Alpha Performing Arts Troupe and included portions of “Shining Star” (by Earth Wind & Fire), “When you Wish Upon a Star” (the lovely Disney melody) and “Over the Rainbow.” Members of the troupe include Alpha participants Scott Clarkson, Paul Ericksen, Beverly Jerep, Juliana Solis and Dennis Subica.
Alpha Resource Center executive director Kim Olson provided the guests with an update on the organization and a glimpse into the center’s daily life.
“I have come to expect the unexpected every day,” she said. “Last week, a participant told me … ‘Kim, you will always be a ravishing beauty in my eyes … but you forgot to wear your earrings!’”
Olson went on to explain that she is surrounded by ravishing beauty each day, from the center’s participants, to their volunteers, donors and supporters.
But, as a recent Noozhawk article explained, huge challenges lay ahead for Alpha as the center deals with likely large budget cuts in all levels of government funding, which make up 60 percent of the organization’s revenue. As a program participant told Olson, “We’re in trouble. We need Batman!” Olson acknowledged that Alpha Resource Center is facing a dire challenge but she said she knows everyone could be “a superhero for Alpha.”
A highlight of the annual luncheon is the inspirational Circle of Life video, which consistently brings out the tissues, this year being no different.
Joe Haake was next up at the podium. Haake joined Alpha’s Teen Extreme and Expo programs as a participant and hasn’t looked back. Too shy to even consider attending a high school prom, Haake enthusiastically attended Teen Extreme dances until, with the support of friends and staff, he had the courage to attend his high school prom. Through Alpha, Haake continues to have the life of any 22-year-old young adult. He enjoys going to the movies, restaurants, bowling and baseball games.
“My sisters go out with friends and so do I!” he exclaimed.
Jessica Simon is a program participant and new member of the Alpha development staff. As an outreach assistant, Simon spoke about how the doctors advised her parents to send her to an institution.
“But my mother was brave and she said no!” Simon said to rousing applause. Simon went on to describe how she is currently fighting against budget cuts to programs serving those with developmental disabilities and said she wants those with disabilities to be treated with dignity and respect.
Mark Melchiori, longtime supporter and son of the late Ugo Mechiori (a well-known Santa Barbara builder and philanthropist), spoke of how close family friends inspired his father’s involvement and investment.
“With so many nonprofits to choose from, we made it a point to decide who is different … and who makes a difference,” he said. “For our family, there is no one like them, no one as deserving of our support, and no one as deserving of the highest recognition from the Santa Barbara community for their dedication and service to others.”
Wrapping up the program was board member Bernie Schaeffer, who asked the guests to “see the future with new eyes … to become part of something greater then yourself.”
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