A new charitable group aims to raise awareness for local causes while benefiting businesses impacted by COVID-19.
By Ashley Breeding
Evelyn Best always aspired to her grandfather’s charitable ways. “He was a businessman and devout philanthropist who self-piloted over 50 trips to El Salvador to bring medical supplies for children,” says the Laguna Beach wife and mother of two. “When he passed away at 82, he had actually just completed a [delivery] route for Meals On Wheels.”
In her grandfather Heintzelman’s honor, Best began hosting an annual charity tea, where she and her guests would support a charity of her choosing. As a securities litigator, she worked for a firm known for its volunteerism and served on several boards. Eager to “come together as a bigger community with a greater impact,” Best started an online group called Sisterhood, Heart, Altruism, Reach & Empathy, or SHARE, which gained traction through Facebook but left Best with more to be desired.
Then, three years ago, Newport Beach resident Laurel Tippett reached out. Tippett is a fellow mom and lawyer—working in different legal positions for the Orange County government since 2006—who’s passionate about bringing mothers and kids together to raise awareness about needs within their local community. “My husband and I both grew up in Newport Beach and it has always been a priority to me to give back to my community,” Tippett says. “I feel beyond thankful to be able to raise our two kids here, surrounded by both of our families. It is important for me to raise my kids with perspective, and I try and model that in my own life choices.”
Unaware of SHARE, Tippett sent Best a text suggesting the two meet to discuss collaborating on a charitable venture.
“It was kismet,” Best says.
The Giving Tree
Best and Tippett officially launched SHARE’s Newport Beach-Laguna Beach chapter in 2019, with a mission to “bring women together who have the heart and ability to ‘share’ their resources to help their local communities,” Best says. Tippett likens their gatherings to “Ladies night out—where instead of just dinner and drinks, we elevate the conversation and talk about local causes,” she says. Ultimately, the duo would like to see chapters open in cities across the country, but for now, they are focusing locally because they are both raising families here.
First, SHARE’s founders recruited like-minded friends; soon, friends of friends followed and, to date, the chapter has attracted 85 women who pay a membership fee to attend three annual events—in January, February and March—that aims to raise awareness and funds for a particular cause while also supporting local businesses.
“In the fall, we decide which causes and charities we’ll support the following year,” Tippett says, adding that they pick organizations and issues that are timely and relevant to the local community and SHARE’s members.
With 55 members in its inaugural year, SHARE helped support a local friend and artist, sponsored a child for a year with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) OC and funded the revitalization of one of the gardens at the Environmental Nature Center; for the latter endeavor, members were accompanied by their children for a planting day at the ENC’s garden.
In early 2020, two events—a chic gathering with wine and shoes at Argaux’s flagship office and event venue in Costa Mesa and the inaugural Sweetheart Tea—benefited Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and Kure It Cancer Research, respectively.
Second Harvest aims to end hunger by distributing resources through area nonprofits, as well as by building awareness and advocacy. At the wine and shoes event in January, beek footwear owners Birgit Klett and Kenna Florie, who have long supported the nonprofit through their Newport business’ give-back model, spoke to members about their personal connection to the cause and offered a percentage of shoe sales to Second Harvest. In addition to Argaux’s contribution from wine sales, the soiree raised enough money to feed more than 90 families.
A month later, members gathered over tea and hors d’oeuvres to learn about underfunded cancers and help raise about $4,700 for much-needed research. “Kure It Cancer Research was founded after Newport Beach resident Barry Hoeven was diagnosed with kidney cancer,” explains Jackie Kurtz, the Irvine-based organization’s director of development and outreach. “Its mission is to provide direct funding to support the brightest minds in research for underfunded cancers—kidney, liver, lung and prostate, to name a few—at the nation’s top comprehensive cancer centers.
“Nearly 90 percent of cancers are underfunded,” Kurtz continues, “and we believe that by funding research, we are saving lives. To date, we’ve raised over $10 million, supporting 34 projects at 13 different cancer centers.”
As with all events, SHARE’s contributions are made directly to the cause. Opting not to file for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, Best notes, “We didn’t want the fiduciary responsibility, only to help—so all monies raised are paid directly to the charities we support, without going through our hands.”
These first two events were “wildly successful,” Best says. And then, just in time for their final event of the year, the pandemic put things on hold.
A March fundraising event for Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Studio D: Arts School for All (formerly called the School of Dance and Music for Children with Disabilities), hosted by A’maree’s clothing boutique in Newport, was delayed until mid-October; Best and Tippett were forced to get creative in order to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
“It actually worked out for the better,” says Best, noting that in addition to moving the event to the store’s outdoor space, the new setup allowed them to offer guests something extra special. “The retail staff brought groups of five at a time inside for private stylings and to shop.” Since A’maree’s agreed to donate 20% of sales from the event, the opportunity to encourage more shopping was a bonus for both parties.
“We consider it a privilege to be able to engage children and young adults of all abilities, but especially with physical and cognitive disabilities, with the world of the arts,” says Jason Holland, Segerstrom Center’s vice president of community engagement. “In these classes, we see the almost magical power of the arts transforming their lives and discovering their physical and creative potential through dance, music and self-expression.”
Funds raised by SHARE and A’maree’s will benefit Studio D To-Go kits for each student. “They include props, sensory tools and instruments that they will use during their classes,” Holland says. “These simple items also help students to remain connected to their lessons and experiences outside of class time. I can’t overstate what a gift those supporting this event are making to these children and young people.”
Branches to Chances
“We want to make the upcoming year more relevant to what we’ve all gone through with COVID-19 and in quarantine,” Tippett says.
Hot topics include human trafficking, education and local businesses impacted by the pandemic.
“We felt like there was a lot of coverage about human trafficking and a lot of interest in our community,” she continues. “This seems like a good place to put our energy—to put the facts out there about a topic that concerns so many.”
With an ever-changing landscape throughout the public health crisis, SHARE is still working out the details for its three events in 2021, but guests can expect to do a lot of socializing outdoors. Right now, Best and Tippett envision a bohemian-themed fireside chat at The Beachcomber Cafe where law enforcement and local activists will address human trafficking; a Sweetheart Tea to benefit Project Hope Alliance, a Costa Mesa nonprofit that aims to end homelessness in the region, especially as it affects children; and a marketplace that draws attention to local businesses that need extra support right now.
“SHARE has allowed me an amazing creative outlet,” Tippett adds, “as I love thinking through ways our events can better serve our community and raise awareness about all the good going on here. I recently completed the Distinguished Citizen Program in Newport Beach, which taught me more about local government and additional ways I can serve.”
Mother members also seize the opportunity to “share” these experiences with their kids and bring them to a follow-up event, like planting a garden at the ENC or participating in a food drive, Tippett says.
“One of my passions through SHARE has been to organize events for our children where they get to learn about the same charities and organizations that our SHARE members have learned about, in an age-appropriate way,” Tippett says. “It is never too young to start thinking of others and how to be a leader within our community.”
For Kure It, moms toured a University of California, Irvine lab to see what their money had specifically funded for cancer research while their kids got to see strawberry DNA under a microscope.
“They wore lab coats and had a taste of what it is like to be a scientist,” Tippett says. “The entire event was run by women in different stages of their careers—some still students—so it was very impactful for all of us.
“SHARE creates the space where we can come together to create, think and make an impact,” she continues. “The beauty of SHARE is not just in our ability to raise financial support for local businesses and charities, but also that it creates relationships between our members and the organizations we highlight. What makes our group unique is our members who are interesting women who want to continue to learn and remain interested in our communities.”
For more information, visit SHARE’s Instagram page @sharenewportlaguna or email firstname.lastname@example.org.