Friday, February 23 , 2018, 12:48 pm | Fair 58º

 
 
 
 

Randy Weiss: Community Mentor Meredith Scott Teaches Lessons of a Lifetime

Longtime champion of youth and families draws strength from within — and an army of friends — for next stage of her life

Her beautiful smile beamed across the few luncheon tables between us ...

And more than anyone in this jammed-packed beachside reception — a “Who’s Who” staging of local stars, business icons, civic titans, foundation giants, philanthropic legends, volunteer-extraordinaires and other big-hearted folk — it was she who, 20 years earlier, began a textbook lesson on community, forever remembered.

I met Meredith Scott at San Marcos High School ...

She, as Parent-Teacher-Student Association president, near the beginning of her eight-year volunteer engagement while her daughter, Kelly, and son, Jordan, attended the school.

Me, as my company’s Adopt-A-School liaison — via one of the innovative business-education-community partnerships established through the Santa Barbara Industry Education Council (now Santa Barbara Partners in Education).

I was a newbie.

She was already a quiet force on the local community scene.

“Meredith is one of the best PTSA presidents we ever had at San Marcos. She is a good friend who earned the love, respect and admiration of everyone at the school and in the community.”
— Bob Ferguson, friend and principal, SMHS (1985-1996)

By then, Scott’s seven-year stint as a local elementary school teacher was behind her, but not before helping to launch I Madonnari, the uber-popular Memorial Day Weekend Italian street painting festival held at the beautiful Santa Barbara Mission.

The festival financially fuels the Children’s Creative Project and is the brainchild of its longtime leader…

“Meredith served on our board and helped us bring I Madonnari to Santa Barbara ... and it’s been a phenomenal success ever since!”
— Kathy Koury, executive director, Children’s Creative Project

Scott, along with Elizabeth Newman-Smith and Marty Silverman, were among those visionaries who also helped give birth to the Hope School District Education Foundation in cultivating funding streams to further the quality education of this three-school sector, surrounded on all sides by the mammoth Santa Barbara Unified School District.

"Meredith has been a giant in supporting art education and children's programs. Her vision, caring and skill make a difference and inspire all who work with her."
— Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County schools superintendent and Santa Barbara's 2013 Man of the Year

And she remains deeply immersed as a children’s advocate with CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), prompted years earlier after reporting two cases of abuse involving her young, beloved elementary school students.

“Meredith Scott has been CALM’s personal superhero for nearly 20 years. She has had a hand in our major fundraisers — Authors’ Luncheon, Design Houses, Storyfaire, and her latest creation, Wine Jewelry Chocolate — and served as an ambassador for countless people to learn more about CALM’s mission, both with the CALM Board of Trustees and Auxiliary. Even more significantly, Meredith led CALM as board president when I came on as the executive director and was instrumental in the lead-up to our decision to serve clients countywide and open offices in Santa Maria. CALM’s families, staff, supporters and I all owe a debt of gratitude to Meredith for her passion and commitment to bettering the lives of children in Santa Barbara. She has a HUGE heart."
— Cecilia Rodriquez, CALM executive director

Meredith Scott was among the many Women's Fund of Santa Barbara members who gathered at the recent Man & Woman of the Year Luncheon to celebrate 2013 Woman of the Year Anne Towbes. From left, Melissa Gough, Carla Whitacre, Tish Gainey, Carol Palladini, Sallie Coughlin, Towbes, Scott, Sarah de Tagyos and Stina Hans. (Randy Weiss photo)
Meredith Scott was among the many Women's Fund of Santa Barbara members who gathered at the recent Man & Woman of the Year Luncheon to celebrate 2013 Woman of the Year Anne Towbes. From left, Melissa Gough, Carla Whitacre, Tish Gainey, Carol Palladini, Sallie Coughlin, Towbes, Scott, Sarah de Tagyos and Stina Hans. (Randy Weiss photo)

Scott and Carol Palladini also led the charge with about 10 other local movers and shakers that resulted in founding of The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, whose mission (per its website) maximizes “the power of collective philanthropy to serve as a catalyst for bringing women together with an emphasis on funding meaningful projects affecting women, children and families.”

Nearly 10 years later, the fantastic female fund is 600-plus members strong with more than $4 million targeted, local-donation dollars under its proverbial belt (and matching handbag?).

One of its very first projects happened by chance and with impeccable timing ...

“I never noticed that building directly across the street from CALM until walking down the steps after a board meeting one day,“ Scott mentioned. “Someone made a comment about trying to open it as a teen center.”

Well, the Twelve35 Teen Center is still going strong today, thanks to that $90,000 gift from The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara that got it "over the hump" to open its doors.

“Meredith’s generosity of spirit, her vision of what The Women's Fund could be and has become, her positive attitude toward everything she approaches are three qualities that stand out for me when I think of her. The Women's Fund, first introduced by our graceful founder, Carol Palladini, has grown exponentially because of women who share the values that Meredith embodies. The community has and will continue to benefit greatly from committed and caring people such as Meredith Scott.”
— Anne Towbes, Women’s Fund philanthropist and Santa Barbara's 2013 Woman of the Year

And when Scott joined the Assistance League of Santa Barbara about six years back, she jumped right in with her Operation Prom Dress, so that every high school girl could enjoy all the rights of passage. It wasn’t income-based, so everyone qualified.

Scott directed her energies to the Assistance League’s Fostering Friends program to help foster kids, those who needed passionate advocates in their corner to support them.

Then there’s Mock City — the collaborative community project she spirited to give these foster kids real-life learning skills, such as how to interview, open a bank account, and the like — with a groundswell of hands-on support from many local organizations that immediately jumped on board at this one-day workshop.

“Meredith is very innovative and is always thinking of new ways to help kids. And she is so ‘un-demonstrative,’ if that’s even a word. In her own shy, quiet, gentle way, she is very effective at getting things accomplished.”
— Toni Kipp, fellow community volunteer and friend of 30-plus years

Surrounded by friends, Meredith Scott was right at home at the recent CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) Wine Jewelry Chocolate benefit. From left, Sharon Hooper, Toni Schinnerer, Toni Kipp, Scott, Diane Dukes and Terri Fawcett. (Photos by Priscilla photo)
Surrounded by friends, Meredith Scott was right at home at the recent CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) Wine Jewelry Chocolate benefit. From left, Sharon Hooper, Toni Schinnerer, Toni Kipp, Scott, Diane Dukes and Terri Fawcett. (Photos by Priscilla photo)

The California Youth Connection for foster youth between the ages 14 and 24 now has a Santa Barbara chapter, thanks to Scott’s hard work. It took her two years to complete the complex application process and now its members have the opportunity to go to Sacramento and have a voice in meeting with legislators and with other foster youth throughout California.

“Meredith is a creative and passionate advocate for children — especially for those who haven't had a fair chance in life. She always makes such a difference with her quiet strength and leadership.”
Sarah de Tagyos, Women’s Fund philanthropist and close personal friend

And about her textbook lesson started at San Marcos High School all those years ago, it’s really quite simple: Do good things quietly to help others and do them for all the right reasons.

Her smile ignited warm memories of serving on the SMHS Business Council and the wonderful things we all accomplished together for the students, including developing one of the best on-campus career fairs ever at that time.

From that very first time we met, I just remember thinking to myself: “If I could ever ‘do community,’ I would try to do it just like Meredith. That’s the model.”

Meredith Scott is a true, selfless and unassuming champion for the rights of others — especially children and families.

Safe to say that she was my best teacher at San Marcos ...

And as my career evolved in a more community-focused direction over the years since, it’s been rewarding, both personally and professionally, to help those many quality programs — most recently, Mock City — with which she is deeply involved.

“Meredith just gives and gives and gives freely of herself. She is truly amazing!”
— Stina Hans, Women’s Fund philanthropist and close personal friend

And my heart goes out to her now as she confronts a devastating medical diagnosis of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. (Click here to read a related article, Living My New Life on My Terms, Meredith Scott’s very personal journey over the last year.)

Scott will forever be an inspiration for her compassionate leadership in making a positive difference without letting any barrier stand in her way.

She truly is a Santa Barbara treasure ...

“Meredith is one of the most caring, most giving and kindest human beings whom I have ever met. She is a great friend to so many people and such a role model — especially in leading groups of volunteers in such a kind way and to do it so selflessly. And the strength and courage she has to be sharing her story is truly amazing.”
— Shirley Waxman, one of Scott’s best friends

And so ...

Like seeing Scott at the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Santa Barbara Man & Woman of the Year Luncheon at the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club; her smile flashed a community bond for the ages.

And if there ever were a truly Lifetime Achievement Award given here at this celebratory event, it would be my dream to present it to my awesome friend, revered teacher and quiet community mentor, Meredith Scott, with much love and appreciation for the profound, positive impact she’s had on my life, as well as many others whom she has touched over the years.

Got a feeling she’s not quite done yet here ...

                                                                  •        •        •

Click here to read a related article, Living My New Life on My Terms, Meredith Scott’s very personal journey over the last year.

— Randy Weiss is local freelance writer and longtime Noozhawk contributing writer. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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