Our Holiday Reception on December 4th brought together our donors and volunteers, board, staff and girls to celebrate 2017 and the impact Friendship Club has had on all of us. While our formal mission is to engage, educate, and empower girls at risk, I can tell you that the impact we have had on everyone involved in The Friendship Club is inspiring. There is just something so genuine about the spirit of family and community that The Friendship Club has created, it truly is my favorite event of the year. At the reception we honored some very special individuals who have made important and lasting contributions to The Friendship Club. First, we honored Dr. Sean Rockwell and wife Tiana and their incredible team at the Dental Wellness Center for their generous and continuous support of our girls and their dental health. Their generosity, averaging $20,000 in dental services annually has absolutely made the difference for many of our girls. Some of them had never seen a dentist before they walked in the door at the Dental Wellness Center. Still others, facing anxiety were calmed by their Rockwell’s sweet dog who has since passed. In honor of the Rockwells and their late dog, Alex we say thank you for their support, attention to our local girls and theirgenerosity. Next, we thanked outgoing President Marty Lombardi. I met Marty about four years ago and he has been involved with The Friendship Club ever since. For those of you who know Marty, you know how important this community is to him. Since moving here from Ukiah he has immersed himself as a servant leader. He has shown great leadership as our board President over the last two years. Marty’s passion lies in helping children succeed and whether it is girls at The Friendship Club or students at Nevada Union, Marty can always be counted on to show up, support and be a role model for generosity. We also honored Associate Director, Dena Valin for nearly five years of service to The Friendship Club. Six years ago, I was faced with a personal reality that made me re-think the leadership needs at The Friendship Club. There is something about having some distance from your work that suddenly things become quite clear. Especially when you are on maternity leave with twins. I knew that for The Friendship Club to continue to thrive that I needed help. And I knew just the person I needed. Almost five years ago, Dena Valin Malakian joined The Friendship Club as our Associate Director (although at the time, she was still Dena Valin, but that’s another story!) She brought program management, evaluation, and leadership experience that we needed and I can say that since that time the organization has only grown stronger. Dena also brings a dedication and love for our girls that inspires me. She has served as a great emotional support to our staff, our girls and their families, and to me. I am grateful every day to have her on this journey with me and I thank you Dena for your commitment to our girls. Seven years ago, we welcomed our first graduate, Jessica Reiter back as an administrative assistant. No matter the challenge Jessica exemplifies grace. Life has not dealt her the easiest of hands, but she continues to inspire me with her steadfastness. I have indeed, watched her grow up, meeting her at the age of ten. It has been an honor to be her boss for the last seven years.
It has been a tremendous 2017 and next year will bring a host of new opportunities, challenges and adventures! Stay tuned for more on our plans for 2018!