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A Foundation of friends

Vine 2 Wine to benefit BFF will be held April 5 at Bridgeport Clubhouse

Posted: March 29, 2009 12:11 a.m.
Updated: March 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Guests to the 2008 Vine 2 Wine event at Bridgeport Clubhouse in Valencia enjoy a glass of wine poured by Shari Frazier of Vino 100 Guests to the 2008 Vine 2 Wine event at Bridgeport Clubhouse in Valencia enjoy a glass of wine poured by Shari Frazier of Vino 100
Guests to the 2008 Vine 2 Wine event at Bridgeport Clubhouse in Valencia enjoy a glass of wine poured by Shari Frazier of Vino 100

The Betty Ferguson Foundation will bring together fine wine, gourmet food and good friends when they host their eighth annual Vine 2 Wine event at the Bridgeport Lake Clubhouse from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 5. All proceeds will benefit the foundation's programs for women and youth.

"It's a great event that everyone enjoys," said Executive Director, Jane Bettencourt-Soto. "It's a way for people to get involved in their community, and connect with others for something very positive."

For the past 10 years, the foundation has been dedicated to supporting and promoting personal and professional growth among women and youth, with their mission to train, develop and empower women to be a vital force in society.

The upcoming "friend-raiser" as the foundation calls the event, will benefit the many programs in place to help strengthen and support women in the community.

"We want to instill a sense of self worth in each individual who walks through our doors," said Marjanne Priest, co-founder and corporate secretary of the organization. "Through connecting with others, they can connect with themselves and carry this inner strength with them through the rest of their lives."

Priest started the non-profit organization in 1997 along with co-founder Judy Cox, in response to an increase in women's needs in the community.

"We started a support group for women out of my living room," Priest said. "But the numbers of women in need got larger, so we did, too."

By 2001 the foundation outgrew Priest's living room and moved to a larger commercial location in the Santa Clarita Valley to accommodate the growing numbers of women seeking help.

The foundation was inspired by - and named after - Cox's late mother, Betty Ferguson who despite living a meager lifestyle gave money to support women and youth organizations throughout most of her life.

"This is a woman who barely had any money at all," said Priest. "But she gave what little she did have to those in need."

As word spread fast about this warm and welcoming network of women, so did the foundation's programs to foster and encourage personal growth among their members. With the continued support given by members of the community, the foundation has established many beneficial programs.

"We notice how far one act of love and support really goes," said Bettencourt-Soto. "I am constantly inspired and filled with pride when I see the positive effects of our programs every day."

The positive effects stretch way beyond the rooms of the foundation's headquarters.

Bettencourt-Soto's daughter was one of the young women to join the foundation's youth group, Youth with A Voice for girls 12 to 17.
Bettencourt-Soto said through the YWAV youth group and an active affiliation with the foundation, her daughter learned critical leadership skills as well as the value of community service.

"She ended up being awarded a competitive scholarship for her abundance of community service work and extra curricular activities that she was given through work with the organization," Bettencourt-Soto said.

The YWAV program holds monthly meetings with after school and evening programs. The YWAV program emphasizes opportunities for volunteering for community service, mentoring and training in life skills.

"During some of the most important years of adolescence, the youth in our community get surrounded by empowered and enlightened women," Bettencourt-Soto said. "We hope what they gain here are priceless tools of self awareness."

Giving a solid foundation and a positive outlook on life to women of all ages is always a goal for the staff of the foundation, said Bettencourt-Soto. Through the years, women have benefited from mentorship and counseling as well as a variety of group activities offered by the organization.

In addition to weekly group sessions, equipped with professional and volunteer staff to conduct the activities, programs designed to inspire specific age groups were created.

Among these programs are such notables as Mes Amis, designed to connect women to each other and their community through luncheons with successful guest speakers.

"This is the heart of our foundation," Priest said of the Mes Amis program. "It's so great to see how impacted our members are after each group. We really believe it's important to have strong women to look up to, and connect with through their successes and their struggles."

The foundation also hosts an annual Woman of Honor Dinner, which highlights one woman a year who has taken an active role in community outreach and exemplifies the kind of strength and dedication the foundation wishes to instill in their members.

"The women we choose to honor are all independent, strong women who have made a difference," Priest said. "They are great role models for our girls and everyone in society. They embody everything our organization stands for."

In addition to the other programs the Betty Ferguson Foundation Scholarship has been established at College of the Canyons for women who seek higher education.

"These women may feel like they have no way to go back to school and they don't have a chance," Bettencourt-Soto said. "We want to make sure they know that it's possible and that education is an option they have."

In addition to the scholarship, the foundation also works in conjunction with the Child and Family Center and the Santa Clarita Career College to help give women of all ages the chance to expand their job opportunities and obtain a degree in a specific field.

"The foundation will continue to open doors to help enhance and expand lives and I love being a part of it," said Dr. Alan Barbakow, a member of the foundation's board of directors. "It is awe-inspiring to watch what can be accomplished when a woman believes in herself."

Vine 2 Wine will have a few new additions to the affair this year as United Agencies Incorporated designed special wine glasses for the event, given to guests as free gifts for attending the afternoon fundraiser.

Exclusive posters designed especially for the event by artist, Judy Bumstead will be on sale for $20, with proceeds to benefit the foundation's programs.

Vine 2 Wine 2009 hosts will be Jim and Elaine Wilson. Food will be sponsored by such local venues as Salt Creek Grille Catering, Bella Cucina Ristorante Italiano and Nardone's Gourmet Italian Deli and Catering as well as services from College of the Canyons Culinary Arts and Elite Dining and Catering. Wine will be sponsored by TGIC Importers, Vino 100, Vinter's Cellar and Graveyard Vineyard.

"We all love this event," Bettencourt-Soto said. "It brings people together in a fun way, connecting them to this great cause that gets stronger with each passing year."

Tickets are $50 each. To order tickets to Vine 2 Wine or for information on programs call (661) 702-8712.


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