The Power of Community: $200,000 Raised in 3 hours

I have been shocked and disappointed with what I’ve witnessed on social media and news coverage from both sides, Republicans and Democrats. What has been festering under the surface is now fully exposed, and it scares me.

It makes me want to be more active in and beyond my community to create change for the better. I want more than this for my kids. I want more than this for me.

Let’s do good.

The Power of Community

A few weeks ago, I was asked by an event planner for Joyful Giving to be a photographer at their fundraiser to benefit School on Wheels, an organization that provides tutoring and education support for homeless kids in Los Angeles. There are 88,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District who are homeless. This number is staggering. I had no idea.

Through this opportunity to help in the event, I learned about this wonderful group of women at Joyful Giving.

Small Group, Big Impact – Joyful Giving

Joyful Giving was started by Manhattan Beach, CA residents, Ellen Padnos and Anne Hellie over a dinner conversation 2 years ago.

They both wanted to do more to give back, but weren’t sure how to go about it.

They recognized the South Bay community is filled with empathetic people who don’t take their privilege for granted. But there wasn’t an efficient process to find out about causes they could get behind. They saw a gap in the community for a reliable, central source to get information about ways to support and give back.

Ellen and Anne decided to form a group to meet once a month and talk about potential charity opportunities. They would have a guest speaker from a charity organization attend their meeting to explain their mission. The group would then plan an event for the month through a fundraiser, volunteering event, or other form of giving to support the cause.

Learning about this group came at a perfect time for me. I think it’s a perfect time for all of us to witness the power of community, no matter the size.

Benefit for School on Wheels

This past weekend, I had the privilege of being a part of this group’s biggest fundraiser of the year. It was coordinated by a 10 woman committee from this 70 member South Bay organization.

In 3 hours, they raised $200,000 from donations, silent and live auction sales and ticket proceeds by 300 attendees.

Think about that. $200,000 raised in one night, coordinated by 10 volunteers and supported by a community of giving sponsors and donors.

Imagine the number of homeless kids this money will help to provide tutoring, scholarships, school supplies and a host of other benefits.

The following are some pictures from the event:


Event was held at Shade Redondo Beach, a sponsor of the event


“Hangover Cure” goodie bags for the 300 attendees.



Co-founder of Joyful Giving, Anne Hellie


Co-founder of Joyful Giving, Ellen Padnos, center.


Volunteers of School on Wheels checking in guests.


Silent auction items (restaurant certificates, vacation homes, yacht cruises, retail goods and more) all donated by sponsors.


Silent auction – Art


Each attendee picked up a token wine glass to refill throughout the evening.


Seats and stage ready for speeches and live auction.


Jessica Butler and Mariko Ostboe, two of the event organizers on left and right.


All eyes on speakers.


Ready for guests – margaritas


Sponsored by Sausal


Bourbon by Manhattan House


St. Germaine wine spritzer by Craft Shack



Lauren Blake, event organizer (2nd from right).


Event Organizer on left, Tiffany Mesko (owner of Manhattan Denim)

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Imagine if more groups of 10 chaired an event for a cause. We have the power. These women and this community proved it.

I challenge you to think about what matters to you and get involved to better society.

Imagine if each of us did just a little more than what we do now. Imagine what the conversation could be?

I am inspired. I want to do better. Thank you, Joyful Giving. Thank you, School on Wheels. You’re doing good. You’re changing the world!

To read more about our Manhattan Beach Community, read my post on A Weekend in the Life of a Manhattan Beach Local.

Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.