Donna Ford was stunned when she received the call informing her that she was to be among the 13 “Women of the Year” honored by Congressman Adam Schiff at a luncheon last week.
As is his annual tradition, Schiff identified inspiring women from the communities in the 28th Congressional District, which includes La Cañada Flintridge and extends from West Hollywood into the Angeles National Forest.
Ford was selected this year, Schiff said in a statement, to pay tribute to the LCF resident’s contributions as a volunteer and board member of several nonprofit organizations, including Hillsides and the Cottage Guild at Rosemary Children’s Services.
“Believing that all children have tremendous potential regardless of their background or circumstances, Donna is a passionate advocate for young people and is committed to enriching the lives of children and adolescents,” Schiff said.
Ford has served for 12 years on the board of directors at Hillsides, an organization dedicated to creating a stable, healthy environment for at-risk children and their families by offering services that include treatment, education, counseling and adoption assistance.
“Hillsides is a great place for services for kids who are having a hard time, and whose parents aren’t able to take care of them,” said Ford, who currently chairs the Hillsides Board of Directors. “It offers a whole range of services.”
Ford, who was a civil litigator for several years in New York and Pennsylvania before moving to LCF about 12 years ago, said she began advocating for kids with special needs when she was in law school.
“I just think that we’re responsible for each other,” said Ford, who is married to Dr. Henri Ford, with whom she has two children. “If we’re fortunate enough to have what we have, we have to give back.”
Ford encouraged others to find a way to volunteer, too.
“People think it requires a lot of time to volunteer, but if you have half an hour or an hour, there’s someone you can help out there,” she said. “The question is how can you serve? How can you help? There’s always someone willing to accept it and make use of it.”
Ford also mentors African American girls at Muir High School in Pasadena and for the past decade has served as a board member of the Institute for Educational Advancement, a Pasadena organization assisting gifted children.
In addition, she volunteers for USC’s Medical Faculty Family and Friends, which raises scholarship funds for medical students, and has served on the Pasadena Playhouse’s diversity committee.
She certainly doesn’t contribute to any of the causes she does in search of recognition, Ford said, but her family was pleased to learn she was being recognized by Schiff.
“They wanted to tweet about it and I said, ‘No!’ even though I appreciate the honor,” Ford said.
She said she enjoyed the luncheon, held on April 5 at a restaurant in Echo Park, because she was introduced to so many other impressive women. She said she also appreciated spending time with Schiff.
“I see him on television and I admire the type of work he’s been doing in Congress,” she said. “He’s a gentleman; he’s very soft-spoken. And he was very encouraging of the work we were doing. The fact that he takes time for this, to recognize what his constituents are doing on the ground, says a lot about him as someone who cares about his community.”
The other women who were honored were Atwater Village’s Claudette Nicole Saba; Burbank’s Vicky Marachelian; Echo Park’s Isa-Kae Meksin; Elysian Valley’s Emily Gleicher; Glendale’s Lori Hartwell; Hollywood Hills’ Anastasia Mann; La Crescenta’s Kiljoo Lee Kurumada; Los Feliz’s Brenda Levin; Pasadena’s Patricia Anne Kinaga; Silver Lake Nina Sorkin; Kagel Canyon’s Kelly Erin Decker; Sunland’s Medea Kalognomos and West Hollywood’s Ivy Bottini.