Behind the Scenes – Making the Video

The Bella Vista League kicks off the program each year with a video. This video includes interviews with representatives from each of the non-profits supported by BVL and personal stories told by people helped by the non-profit organizations.

As the video plays, more often than not, throats become dry, eyes begin to water, and hearts feel heavy as the attendees listen to the families relate the crises they faced. Everyone is transfixed by the dejected tone in their voices and the pain they suffered. But then, they move onto how that non-profit offered their help. Strangers that only knew their faces and their need. There is wonder. There is gratitude.

And through their journey to get back on their feet, they learn their own strength. With the guiding presence of the non-profit, they learn to stand on their own.

And the tears fall. Not a single dry eye in the audience. And this is why we are all here.

The making of this video is a challenge to keeping one’s composure for our BVL members that create it. Oftentimes, they could feel their own eyes water as the personal stories are told. They want to stop, hug them, and cheer them on. But they have an interview to complete and a video to produce. A piece that truly is a work of love.

At Operation Freedom Paws facility…

Visiting Heritage Home

A stop at Family Supportive Housing

[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 27th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose. Purchase your tickets now and join us!]

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight on Family Supportive Housing

A helping hand. A supportive group. A constant, guiding presence. BVL is looking forward to providing Family Supportive Housing with additional funds from the proceeds from our annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction for the essential work they continue to do in our community.

FamilySupportiveHousingFamily Supportive Housing (FSH) is unique in San Jose, in that it assists single- and two-parent whole families in crisis. From meeting the basic needs of food and shelter, to helping families get on their feet and on the path to a sustainable future, FSH supports families from the moment they are taken into temporary housing to the point when they move to permanent housing with complete self-sufficiency. Following is one success story about Maria shared by FSH:

“Maria” is a single mother of 3 children who came to stay with Family Supportive Housing’s San Jose Family Shelter in October 2016. Maria was working part-time at a local grocery chain when she and her family became homeless after the increased rents in the area precluded her from finding sustainable housing. Maria and her family bounced around with family members for short periods of time and eventually ended up in a camp on the streets before being called for a room with FSH.

During her stay at SJFS, Maria, with the help of her Case Manager, focused on employment goals that would increase the family’s income. Maria completed her background check for a full-time position as a driver for a local transportation company which included an increase in pay during training.  During her time at the Shelter, she was able to increase her income and she showed both the drive and the pending financial stability so was able to transition into the FSH AfterCare Program. Maria was being case managed by both her Shelter Case Manager who worked on stabilizing her employment goals, as well as an AfterCare Case Manager who worked on finding housing.

In March of 2017, Maria and her family were able to move into a 2-bdrm apartment in San Jose. Maria was also able to complete the legal paperwork to retain custody of her niece who was living with friends at the time. Maria retained permanent full-time employment with the transportation company and after working for a few months, was able to pay off all the debt she had accumulated from borrowing money from friends/family while she had been homeless.

At this time, Maria is saving money and working with a credit repair program to work on her credit score/report issues. Maria has a lead on a low-income apartment in San Jose that she can transition into once her credit score increases. Maria is continuing to live in the same unit that she was housed in by FSH case managers, and she is sufficiently employed to remain living in that same unit once the rental subsidy program ends. Maria is on a strong path to full self-sufficiency just 1 year after arriving at Family Supportive Housing’s doors, and takes with her all the confidence and knowledge built by having engaged and informed case managers from FSH behind her every step of the way.

[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 27th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose. Purchase your tickets now and join us!]

 

Spotlight on CityTeam Heritage Home

CityTeam_HeritageHomeWe are delighted to include Heritage Home in the set of non-profits we are supporting this year through the Wonderful Witchy Women luncheon and silent auction. Heritage Home was one of the first charities we reached out to for philanthropy years ago. The many women and children they’ve helped over the years has grown tremendously and we are humbled by the work they continue to do.

Here is a video introducing Heritage Home and some touching personal stories from a few of their graduates: https://youtu.be/p-FSV8t7qME

SJ_HH_06.22.17_013small-768x512Each graduate in the video is in a good place right now, though their futures seemed bleak when they sought out support from Heritage Home years ago. Christina was addicted to meth and alcohol for 12 years when she first arrived. She felt alone and scared. Karen was an addict, pregnant, and homeless. Alisa Rose was addicted to drugs and alcohol for years. The warm, concerned welcomes they received when they arrived at Heritage Home was unexpected. All knew that they needed to change to be able to give their babies a good life.

Heritage Home not only gave these women shelter, they showed them how to care for SJ_09.29.16_014-Editsmall-768x512their babies. They provided classes so that they could get jobs and create a life of their own. Christina is now a supervisor at a call center with a leading healthcare organization. Karen is an accounts receivable specialist. Alisa Rose is giving back to her community as a certified drug and alcohol counselor at House of Grace. All are deeply grateful to Heritage Home for the bonds they created with the other women and the staff that saw them through the lowest points in their lives to where they are today.

[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 27th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose. Purchase your tickets now and join us!]

Spotlight On Operation Freedom Paws

OperationFreedomPawsOperation Freedom Paws (OFP) is a local non-profit supported by this year’s “Wonderful Witchy Women with a Cause” luncheon fundraiser. Since 2010, OFP has matched rescue dogs with veterans and others who have Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Complex-Post Traumatic Stress (CPTS) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) symptoms, or other physical, neurological, psychological or mobility needs. The organization trains the individuals to train their own dogs and certifies them as service dog teams during a 48-week program. This is different from most traditional service dog programs, and has several advantages: it cuts down the multi-year wait for a service dog, it allows the individual and dog to bond from the beginning, and it gives the individuals a sense of purpose.774A0988

I recently got the opportunity to do a site visit to witness a two-hour training session at Operation Freedom Paws. Located in San Martin, a 25-minute drive south of San Jose, the facility is located in the country and has multiple indoor and outdoor areas to train and kennel the service dogs as well as dogs from the surrounding community. Janet King, Vice President of OFP and a former client herself, took me around the facility and told me more about the organization. OFP helps veterans and other people with disabilities who can’t wait for a traditional service dog or who can’t afford the hefty price of a pre-trained service dog. The organization was started by President Mary Cortani, a former Marine, when she saw a need for a better approach to get service dogs to disabled veterans. Using her extensive dog training experience, she started training veterans how to train their own dogs.

The beginning training class I visited was a group of about 10 individuals and their dogs who were veterans and people from the community. The class was taught by Jeff, a veteran and former client, who is now a trainer for OFP. I was amazed to see so many different breeds of dogs represented such as a Dachshund, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, and even a Great Dane. Jeff skillfully led the class through many exercises that emphasized attention, consistency, and appropriate correction.

Once fully trained, the dogs are unbelievably talented and are a perfect match for every veteran’s specific need. For example, Janet has a severe peanut allergy and her dog is specifically trained to smell peanuts and to alert Janet by bowing and barking. I was amazed that her dog could smell the peanut butter I ate two days earlier! She said that other dogs have been trained to sense blood sugar levels for people who have diabetes and other people who suffer from severe pain – alerting them before they can sense it themselves.

After class, the veterans convened inside with their dogs for “puppy yoga.” Led by an instructor, the veterans and their dogs were given relaxation exercises to participate in together. This was a great opportunity for them to bond with their dogs and to seek camaraderie from their peers and instructors.

People come to Operation Freedom Paws from all over the West Coast and even sometimes as far away as the Midwest. Individuals with disabilities must have a letter from a doctor recommending a service dog, and after an extensive interview process they are carefully paired with a rescue dog that fits the temperament and specific needs of the person. After this pairing, individuals must train with their dogs at OFP twice a week for about a year. Along with training their dog, they are also provided with individual counseling, group therapy, and a community. One of the most amazing things about OFP is that this process is provided to veterans and other people with disabilities at no cost. Usually, the cost of a reputable service dog is upwards of $10,000.

I was extremely impressed with how Operation Freedom Paws empowers veterans and other people with disabilities, is inclusive to the community, and finds homes for rescue dogs. Janet says, “It doesn’t matter what your issues are. Whether you’re there to obedience-train your dog or you’re there with your service dog, there’s a tremendous amount of support from everybody.” Thank you, Operation Freedom Paws, for the warm welcome, the opportunity to witness your awe-inspiring community firsthand, and the work you continue to do to support local veterans and families in need.

[This is an original post by BVL member, Ellie H., to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 27th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose. Purchase your tickets now and join us!]

 

Open Your Hearts and Join Us!

CoverFinalEach year, the Bella Vista League works hard to top its goals for raising money to support local non-profits that are helping those in need. This will be the 12th year of the Wonderful Witchy Women luncheon and silent auction. Tickets are on sale now right here.

Casting Spells of Kindness” underlies the uniquely designed centerpieces, the event program, the pre-event flyers, the little gifts for every attendee, and more. While the theme changes every year, the purpose remains the same – fundraising to support women, children, and families in need through selected non-profit organizations. This year, we’re excited to help Family Supportive Housing, Operation Freedom Paws, and Heritage Home.

In case  you’re new to this annual October event, you’ll find an elegant event with touches of fun throughout that stays true to its purpose of supporting local people in need. Check out a few photos from last year.  Won’t you open your hearts and join us?

[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 27th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose. Purchase your tickets now and join us!]

“Casting Spells of Kindness” 2017

SAVE the DATE ==>  October 27, 2017 – Fairmont Hotel, San Jose

The ladies of Bella Vista League are revving up again to create another spectacular event to support this year’s well-deserved non-profits. After much consideration, we are pleased to announce that this year, the following non-profit organizations will benefit from our Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause efforts:

FamilySupportiveHousingFamily Supportive Housing (www.familysupportivehousing.org): For 30 years, Family Supportive Housing has guided families from crisis to self sufficiency. While keeping families intact, Family Supportive Housing focuses on single or two-parent families to address their needs for food, shelter, employment, and education.

OperationFreedomPawsOperation Freedom Paws (www.operationfreedompaws.org): Operation Freedom Paws empowers veterans and others, such as family members, with disabilities like Post Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injury to restore their own independence. Encouraging a special therapeutic canine-human relationship between veteran and rescue dog through training for several weeks enables these individuals to feel safe, secure, and able to manage their everyday lives. As one veteran’s daughter said, “The day you gave us our service dog was the day you gave us our father back.”

CityTeam_HeritageHomeHeritage Home (www.cityteam.org): Cityteam’s Heritage Home is a residential program to help pregnant women successfully overcome homelessness, addiction, and other hardships to become loving mothers to their newborn babies.

The work that all of these organizations do to help local people in need is extraordinary and we are looking forward to doing everything we can to help. Please join us in helping these non-profits to continue their work by coming to the 2017 Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction on October 27, 2017, at 10:30a.m., at the beautiful Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose.

[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 27th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose.]

Spotlight on CASSY

cassy-logoCASSY, Counseling and Support Services for Youth, is another charity supported by this year’s WWW luncheon fundraiser and has played an important role in ensuring the emotional and social well-being of many students at Bay Area schools. CASSY partners with local schools to provide therapists that offer counseling, crisis intervention, and proactive mental health education. One such student needed someone to lean on when he lost his mother at only 9 years old. Here is Luis’ story.

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Megan, CASSY Therapist, received word from the principal of the school she works in: one of their students had lost his mother.

When Luis was nine, he and his mother, Camilla, visited his brother in college. While visiting, Luis expressed feeling sad to his mother, missing his friends and his dad. Camilla wanted Luis to be happy and decided to end their trip early. Tragically, Camilla had an undiagnosed heart condition and died suddenly on the trip home.

“When I met Luis, he asked, Why did this have to happen?He was questioning and felt it was very unfair that he had lost his mom. He had also lost his home due to the change in family income. He didn’t want to talk to anyone about what happened,” said Megan.

Megan met weekly with Luis, where they did art while talking. Luis shared that he felt guilty; if he hadn’t wanted to come home so badly, maybe his mom wouldn’t have died. He shared that he did not have a photo of his mom to look at when he missed her. Megan got to work and helped him find a photo, which is now displayed where Luis can always see it. Luis also used this time to write a letter tofather-son his mom, telling her how much he missed her.

Luis’ dad, Marco, also met with Megan and shared that he works three jobs to make ends meet, making school based counseling services the only option for Luis, and was concerned that Luis expressed that he wanted to die. Megan worked with Marco and Luis around communicating and talking about mom, and how Luis felt scared to get close to his dad, worrying that he would lose him too.

“This year, Luis is focused on school, more at peace, and spends time with his friends. He’s engaged and smiles a lot more,” Megan tells us. She continues to see him weekly, where they make paper airplanes and talk about how difficult holidays are without his mom.

Luis is one of the 33,000 students within the CASSY mental health safety net in communities around the Bay Area

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[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 28th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose.]