They say a daughter is a little girl who grows up to be your best friend.
But before that happens, little girls pass through, as moms know best, what might be called some “trying moments.”
In search of ways to connect as they navigate that path, particularly in the all-consuming, fast-paced digital age facing families now, some mothers and daughters choose the National Charity League. Founded in 1988, the Pasadena Area Chapter of NCL is part of a national organization that aims to foster the mother-daughter experience through philanthropy, in an organization committed to community service, leadership development and cultural awareness.
With nearly 450 mother-daughter members, the Pasadena NCL has become a venerable force in the city’s nonprofit sphere, shepherding 17 different philanthropies with 19,000 hours of service last year.
“It’s such an appealing opportunity to be part of something as large as NCL, to work together as mothers and daughters. As children get older, it becomes more and more difficult to spend time with them, so this has been a great opportunity for my daughter and me to communicate and talk about something in common,” said Susan Blaisdell, incoming NCL president. “We look for opportunities that are really hands on for moms and daughters.”
NCL’s organizational structure could be compared to that of a mini-Congress. The moms are called Patronesses, while daughters are Ticktockers. Together they embark on a six-year NCL “experience,” beginning in 6th grade and ending as graduated high school seniors. Each year, there are monthly meetings for both moms and daughters and class-elected leaders, with girls together choosing and organizing their own events and activities as they grow, with help and guidance from mom “advisers” during meetings. The exercise develops leadership and confidence, according to multiple mothers in the program.
“When they are just beginning, it’s like crickets in a meeting, but as they grow they really get it,” said NCL mom Megan Foker, who is also incoming president-elect. “They get how to raise a hand and make a motion and pass that motion so that everyone can have a voice and an opinion.”
This also helps prepare them for college and then the professional world. “When they’re older, they can take that into the board room with them,” Foker said.
Blaisdell, Foker and current NCL President Nancy Hornberger gathered recently over coffee to share the experience they’ve been on with their high school-age daughters.
The moms assist in coordinating meetings, activities and the philanthropic participation through the monthly meetings to develop the chapter’s business. A website — a vital part of the group’s efficiency — lets members sign up for events as their schedules permit.
Although flexibility is a key component, running the organization is, at times, almost a full-time job, the women admitted. The work, however, is fun and pays off in full.
“Our girls just love it. They love the families they work with, and we do a lot of really fun things. A common thing that everyone seems to say is that they get so much more back than they give,” said Hornberger, who has another “full-time job” and is also the mother of triplets.
The local chapter considers Pasadena’s community needs and reviews them on a yearly basis, finding a fit that works for everyone. With the sponsored organizations as varied as those helping foster children, cancer patients, homeless prevention and public schools, there is sure to be a good choice for all the girls and mothers. And for animal lovers, how does fostering kittens sound?
For Ticktocker Quincy Foster, one of her favorite experiences has been working with families from Club 21. As one of the activities, the NCL offers babysitting, playtime and activities to the children at the nonprofit, a support group for families who have a child with Down syndrome. The babysitting allows the parents for some downtime.
“I’ve loved Club 21. It is really so much fun. I just love to interact with the kids,” said Foster, a 17-year-old Westridge student. “The children are so cute and so happy to see you, and you know you’re doing a really good thing, giving the parents some alone time.”
Another favorite has been Meals on Wheels, she said, also giving a laugh at “spending so many hours in the car” with her mom, which really did bring them closer, she said. “It just feels good to do something like delivering a meal. The people you meet are so thankful and kind…. It really made me realize how doing something so simple, so easy, can make such a difference to somebody else,” Foster said.
The girls have a lot ahead of them in the next few weeks, including graduation from high school, preparation for college and their highlight of the NCL experience and final event as Ticktockers: the June 16 Debutante Ball.
Yet even as the girls move on to college, and the mother-daughter duos say their temporary, bittersweet goodbyes, the volunteer work that has touched so many in the community will always remain. As will, of course, the mother-daughter bond.
Elizabeth Dever, director of the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House, said the work the NCL has done for the nonprofit is irreplaceable. NCL, for the past five years, has provided Sunday dinners for the organization, which helps families of children with cancer or other illnesses. Called Meals of Love, the chapter buys the food and cooks homemade dishes for the families — sometimes for up to nearly 40 people — to share.
“Knowing that the families can count on those meals for Sunday dinners is an amazing thing,” Dever said. “That service is so much more than giving food — it’s giving families, who often are going through a very difficult time, the ability to sit down and enjoy each other’s company.”
The group is also wonderful with the families, Dever said, adding that knowing that the NCL is in charge is completely stress-free.
“They coordinate and just take care of everything to make it happen. We know they are in good hands. We love the NCL girls!”