As a part of National Philanthropy Day, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Santa Barbara/Ventura Counties Chapter (AFP-SBV) honored eight individuals who have made a difference in innovative ways to change the world through their gifts of time, talent and treasure.
AFP-SBV recognized the following honorees: Philanthropists of the Year, Ventura County: Loretta and Mike Merewether; Philanthropists of the Year, Santa Barbara County: Judy and Jack Stapelmann; Volunteer of the Year, Ventura County: Heidi Whitcomb; Volunteer of the Year, Santa Barbara County: Peter Schuyler; Youth Philanthropist of the Year: Wilson Sherman; and Professional Fundraiser of the Year: Carrie Hughes.
“We are so fortunate to have as many active members of the nonprofit community as we do,” said Molly Kemper, National Philanthropy Day event chair and chapter board member. “Celebrating our victories and our sector reminds us of that. National Philanthropy Day is a fabulous opportunity to spotlight some of the great work being done.”
The celebration and awards luncheon took place Nov. 15 at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach. Led by masters of ceremonies and KEYT news anchors Kelsey Gerckens and Joey Buttitta, the event attracted more than 200 guests who were welcomed by AFP chapter president Steve Willmont.
“Remember how much better the community is because of philanthropy,” Willmont said.
Top sponsors included Casa Pacifica, Montecito Bank & Trust, Planned Parenthood California Central Coast, SDI, the Ventura County Community Foundation, NPW, the SBCC Foundation, Keets and Hugh Cassar, and many others.
About the Honorees
Philanthropists of the Year, Santa Barbara County — Judy and Jack Stapelmann
Jack Stapelmann accepted the award as his wife, Judy, was committed at another nonprofit event. The Stapelmanns share a lifelong love of nature, the sea and the outdoors. They also share a deep concern for environmental issues.
That passion has led to their involvement with Planned Parenthood, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the Wildling Museum of Art & Nature and the Sedgwick Reserve in the Santa Ynez Valley. A belief in the importance of education has inspired their support of UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College and CSU Channel Islands.
Jack Stapelmann has been involved with boat building and sailing in Santa Barbara for decades and has served on the Channelkeeper board of directors almost since its founding in Santa Barbara. Judy Stapelmann is a trustee emerita of the Santa Barbara Foundation and has served as a trustee of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation since 2006. She recently returned to the Planned Parenthood board to continue her service that began in the 1970s.
Philanthropist of the Year, Ventura County — Loretta and Mike Merewether
Mike and Loretta Merewether met in Spokane, Wash., during their high school world history class. Married in Seattle while Mike Merewether finished school at the University of Washington, they soon started their family of four children, which now has grown to include eight grandchildren, all of whom live and work in Ventura County.
The Merewethers have been active supporters of the YMCA, Cabrillo Cooperative Housing, the Ventura Education Partnership, the Channel Islands Chamber Orchestra and the Ventura College Foundation, as well as the Rubicon Theatre Company and Ventura Botanical Gardens, where Mike Merewether has held leadership positions. He has served on the board of directors for Downtown Ventura Partners, while Loretta Merewether has served in leadership roles with both the local 4-H club and the Downtown Community Council.
They were especially lauded for their sponsorship of the new Welcome Center at the Ventura Botanical Gardens by presenter Joseph Cahill, Ph.D., executive director of the gardens.
Volunteer of the Year, Ventura County — Heidi Whitcomb
Heidi Whitcomb is the second-generation owner and CEO of Ventura Rental Party & Events, where she has designed and coordinated countless corporate and nonprofit events.
Whitcomb has been recognized by her peers with awards such as the National Association for Catering and Events Event Professional of the Year, Inspirational Member of the Year and the coveted President’s Award. Most recently, she was recognized as the National Association of Women Business Owners Ventura County's 2017 Woman Business Owner of the Year.
During her acceptance remarks, Whitcomb said, “When I make a gift, I get a gift of feeling good, really good.”
She volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and at Casa Pacifica, mentors mothers through her work with The City Center in Ventura, and seeks opportunities that assist in the betterment of children and families. She sits on the Community Memorial Healthcare Foundation board and the Casa Pacifica executive board.
Volunteer of the Year, Santa Barbara County — Peter Schuyler
Peter Schuyler was born and raised in Santa Barbara County and received a bachelor of arts degree in geography with an emphasis in botany from UCSB and a master’s degree in conservation biology from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
During the 1980s, he served as The Nature Conservancy’s first on-site preserve manager on Santa Cruz Island and spent many years working for the state of Hawai’i and the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Returning to Santa Barbara in 2004, Schuyler worked on diverse Channel Islands issues, including the recovery of the island fox. He served for 10 years on the board of the Environmental Defense Center and served as its chairman. He is currently on Midland School’s board of trustees and is finishing a seven-year term on the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s board, including two years as chairman
In addition to board service, Schuyler has served on advisory groups for the Sedgwick Reserve in the Santa Ynez Valley, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara Middle School, the Wilderness Youth Project and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
Youth Philanthropist of the Year — Wilson Sherman
Wilson Sherman’s award was accepted by his father as Wilson was away studying. Sherman attends UC Berkeley, majoring in conservation and resource studies.
He is passionate about wildlife conservation, sustainability, service, education and media arts, and aspires to work protecting wild animals and teaching people to love the natural world.
Starting his activism in sixth grade with a campaign to ban single-use bags, Sherman completed more than 1,000 hours of community service with a variety of nonprofit groups and has developed a diverse set of skills in animal care, education, leadership and media arts.
Sherman is involved with the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute, Help One Walk International, the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary and the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. He collaborates with young conservation leaders from across the country as part of the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council.
Professional Fundraiser of the Year — Carrie Hughes
Carrie Hughes is the director of development and public relations for Casa Pacifica. A UCSB graduate, she was hired at Casa Pacifica in 1999, five years after it opened its doors to foster and at-risk children.
During her 19-year career in fundraising, she and her development team have collaboratively raised more than $60 million.
She has grown the Casa Pacifica Wine, Food & Brew Festival into one of the premiere wine and food events on the Central Coast. Hughes has served on the board of directors of the AFP-SBV chapter for 10 years, serving as president in 2015. She also is a member of the Rotary Club of Camarillo, the Nonprofit Leadership Council and a graduate of the Ventura County Leadership Academy.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals represents more than 30,000 fundraisers in 230 chapters throughout the world, working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs. It fosters the development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession. The AFP-SBV represents more than 100 charitable fundraisers in the region.
Click here for more information about the association.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.