Our Mission, Ourselves

By Helene Seifer

The Ebell’s Mission Statement asserts, “I Will Find a Way or Make One – I Serve.” Our members live that credo every day – nearly every one of us is involved in nonprofit organizations, and many have a particular affinity for serving youth.

Marnie Bodek embodies that giving spirit. She has always been involved with nonprofits, both as a volunteer and professionally, for such places as The National Registry of Historic Places, the Coro Foundation and as the Assistant Director of Development in the School of Architecture at UCLA.

When Marnie retired five years ago, she began mentoring under-served high school students who attended the free afterschool enrichment program Hearts of Los Angeles (HOLA). She guided two students a year, meeting with each of them at least once a week to help them with the college application process. “It was a lot of work,” Marnie admits, “but incredibly rewarding.” So rewarding, in fact, that she now attends classes at UCLA to receive her certificate in College Counseling to better help deserving teens with limited resources.

Currently she volunteers with a scholarship program run by Jewish Vocational Service, which distributes $450,000 annually to roughly 130 students. “I feel lucky that I can help kids and I’m passionate about it,” she states. “You have to have a good education today.”

Wendy Abshez, too, has a passion for education. After she retired as a speech therapist for LAUSD, Wendy wanted to find a volunteer opportunity that would help school-age children. One day when she was on the L.A. County Museum of Art website, she noticed that they were accepting applications for docents and even though she had no background in art history, she applied. After a year’s training, she now leads school groups through the museum’s extensive collection. Her current topic is “Gods and Heroes: Mythology in Art.” She guides Middle and High School students through exemplary pieces from Southeast Asia, Egypt, Ancient Rome, and Europe. Wendy needs to be ready to meet the student’s needs, wherever they are, whether AP Art History seniors or neophyte 7th graders.

“Many have no experience in museums. They’re awed by the experience,” Wendy explains. “They’ll ask if something is really that old, if it’s really painted by the artist and not just a poster. It’s exciting to be part of their learning.”
Many Ebell members are concerned about the needs of teens, including Gabrielle Burkhard. She worked for 20 years with Cal-Learn, a program to teach pregnant teens about parenting and healthy eating, and to provide means and encouragement to finish their schooling so they would “not get stuck in poverty.” It became part of a successful statewide program which maintained a high rate of graduations. Gabrielle recollects, “I was very exhilarated by the huge amount of difference we made in the lives of teens. I’m very proud of that.”

Today Gabrielle is a Program Officer for the S. Mark Taper Foundation where she reviews grant applications to fund a wide array of nonprofits. Last year approximately $4 million was distributed to 90 or so deserving non-profits. “The way I’ve stayed connected to my passion for the needs of teen parents is through grant support for child development centers.”

Our membership’s passionate commitment to giving is captured by Mother Teresa’s words, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”


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