There is a clear sense of momentum tumbling through Foothill Family, which is a positive sign as the organization celebrates 90 years of service to the community.
Never was that sense of esprit de corps more evident than the March 12 “Diamonds and Pearls” benefit at the California Club, Foothill Family’s largest fundraiser of the year.
“It was great,” said Foothill Family CEO Steve Allen. “We had a great crowd and a wonderful turnout.”
A crowd estimated at 300 showed up for the gala and witnessed more than one emotion-packed moment that crystallized the organization’s mission.
“We had a couple who had adopted a 7-year-old girl who was abandoned at age 3 and gone through the foster care system,” Allen explained. “They reached out to Foothill Family. We provided weekly therapy for six months. They inherited a lot of issues.”
Allen explained how the girl has since become a member of a swim team, joined the Girl Scouts and even qualified for her school’s GATE, an acronym for gifted and talented education.
The parents, Ross and Natalie, attended the gala as guests and received a standing ovation from members of the audience when acknowledged.
“They were received very well,” said Allen, still affected by the moment several days later. “Having them there, seeing that reaction, was incredible.”
Allen came to Foothill Family 2-1/2 years ago after three years at the Red Cross and 16 at the Salvation Army. He seems honored to be on board for the group’s 90th anniversary.
“This is a significant milestone,” said Allen. “It provides an opportunity to pause and thank the many people who have helped us out. We have several events planned to commemorate the milestone. An event at The Huntington in the fall, a 5K walk and run later in the year. We are looking forward to them all.”
Allen also pointed out that Harriett Huntington Doerr, noted author and granddaughter of Henry Huntington, was the first president of Foothill Family Services, connecting The Huntington event and the two organizations.
Foothill Family serves 23,000 families per year at seven locations; two family centers and a main office in Pasadena; two family centers in El Monte and individual family centers in Duarte and West Covina. All of them will host events and tours in honor of the organization’s 90th anniversary.
“We have some fun things planned,” said Allen. “Each individual center will have their own celebrations which will involve their own community partners. There will be a lot of things happening throughout the year.”
With a “very passionate staff” (in Allen’s words) of 300, Foothill also services 170 different schools in 15 districts.
Allen called Friends of Foothill, the philanthropic group responsible for organizing the gala that was established in 2000 by Lori Samuels and Shannon Williamson, “an extraordinary organization.”
“They are putting value to what we do here,” Allen said. “They put the entire gala together. It was very well done. Hats off to the event chairs, Melissa Morrison-Reyes and Lily Lee.”
Allen referenced another landmark moment at the gala.
“We did a toast to start off the 90th anniversary celebration,” he explained “We had [board chair] Rob Tolleson representing the executive board, Lily Lee representing Friends of Foothill, Sheila Staunton representing the staff and Natalie and Ross representing all of the families. It was very neat how we had all of those different elements together at once. I said ‘let’s raise a glass in honor of the deep roots of our past, in gratitude of the impact we can make today, and in the promise in making a difference for a better tomorrow.”
“We keep moving forward,” Allen said, summarizing the organization’s remarkable commitment to the future and the people it serves.