It’s not often you can visit four European cities in a single night, but for an organization that raises money to help women find a path to prosperity, supporters on Saturday got a chance to visit the next best thing at Park Estates in Long Beach.
“It was a new twist on a very old theme,” said Erin Wilson, Director of Friends of Pathways at Pathways to Independence, a 25-year-old nonprofit that is headquartered in Huntington Beach.
She said the group’s member includes members from Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Long Beach and other areas.
This year’s theme was “Passport to Pathways: European Adventures,” she said, as the group had to deviate from its traditional “Annual Party in the Park” because of the pandemic.
“Due to health and safety precautions, it was a smaller affair this year, divided into four simultaneous parties,” she said. Wilson said this was the organization’s 25th Anniversary, so though it scaled down, “it was very successful,” said Wilson, raising more than $750,000 for our mission.”
To make it work, they decorated homes and yards in the neighborhood as four European cities; Paris, Athens, Rome and Seville, she said. “Each outdoor party offered specialty drinks and food from that region, giving restaurants that normally donate food a chance to participate within this year’s format,” said Wilson.
“We have great restaurants that are so willing to help,” she noted.
For party goers, there was a mini-Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a flamenco dancer in Seville, Greek food in Athens and of course, impeccable wine in Rome.
Wilson said the organization even created a temporary television network, with monitors in the backyards of each “city” to create a virtual community when the auction began.
In addition, Wilson said “clients” of the organization spoke in the various locations, each giving the assembled supporters a personal account of what the organization had done for them.
For instance, Ashley, who spoke at the Seville gathering, recounted how when she had lost her way and was no longer able to depend on her parents, ended up on the streets when the grandmother who raised her passed away.
The young lady was filled with emotion as she told those attending of her amazement at having been assisted by Pathways.
Now, said Ashley, she has her own apartment, her own car, and is enrolled in college, expected to become the first in her family ever to obtain a university degree.
“Pathways to Independence is a non-profit that provides wrap around services including: education, housing, therapy, health care and much more for young women lifting themselves out of poverty. Its clients are single young women ages 18-35 with no dependents who have faced trauma, poverty, and other adverse situations, but show a desire and commitment to attend college and gain financial independence,” said Wilson.
She said Pathways derives 50% of its annual funding from this annual event. The all-volunteer committee Friends of Pathways, who organizes the annual event, created the smaller, multi-party event allowing for the important Pathways fundraiser to continue in a safe way, said Wilson.
“Passport to Pathways was an unexpected delight,” said longtime supporter Clare Elser, of Long Beach. “It was a perfect theme, describing exactly our mission to support women on their journey to success,” she said.
Diana Hill, a member of the Los Alamitos Unified School District, attended the event with her husband Randy and her mom and other friends. She has been a member for years and now serves on the organization’s Board of Directors.
“Our clients in Pathways break cycles of abuse, poverty, and unhealthy relationships just to name a few issues. We are here as a support system to help them do that important work in their lives,” she said.
“I was raised by a single mom who was simply extraordinary – she was not conventional, but she made me believe I could be whatever I set my mind to even with learning disabilities. I raised my two amazing sons with that same mindset. When I learned about Pathways and its mission, I wanted to pass that legacy on to these young women,” she said.
“Many of our Pathways clients didn’t experience support or a belief in themselves growing up, but deep inside them they knew they were powerful. Pathways became a mission for me. I’ve had the honor of mentoring two graduates. I love and adore these amazing women; it makes me proud and hopeful to see them live full healthy lives. I know Pathways made a difference in their journey. And for me, mentoring them changed me forever.”
Editor’s note: Donations can still be made at Pathwaysgives.com.