La Cañada resident and working mom Joan Oppenheimer places a high value on being able to give back to her community in her spare time.
The only problem is, as an environmental chemist employed by a global consulting firm that designs and constructs water facilities all over the world, her spare time is just that — spare.
So in 2004, when Oppenheimer learned about the Assistance League of Flintridge’s Cañada Auxiliary of Professionals (CAP), an organization that lets female professionals meet and volunteer on weekends and evenings, she signed up.
“This seemed like a perfect fit,” said Oppenheimer, who now serves as the auxiliary’s 2015-16 chair. “Most organizations meet during the day and have a time commitment that is overwhelming given my work schedule. The auxiliary is targeted for working women who want to give back but might have time constraints and might not be able to participate in other organizations.”
Part of the La Cañada chapter of the National Assistance League, CAP was recently recognized by Mayor Dave Spence for its 25 years of service to the community. Through the program, members volunteer for Saturday shifts and toy-sorting duty at the league’s Bargain Box Thrift Shop and participate in one of several philanthropic efforts.
Some might assemble CAPPY bears, distributed to patients at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, or CAP care packs for Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena. Others might participate in SPROUTS, an early intervention program for preschoolers with learning disabilities and/or language delays, or help coordinate scholarships for community college students.
CAP also partners with the Assistance League of Flintridge in support of Operation School Bell, a program that gives school clothes to children in need, and the Retired Service Volunteers, in which seniors provide collating, labeling, folding and envelope-stuffing services for nonprofit organizations in La Cañada Flintridge and beyond.
Jeanne Broberg, ALF’ president for 2015-16, said it took some coordinating with the National Assistance League to create an auxiliary to the local chapter. But she called the end result a win-win that allowed not only for the inclusion of working women, but expansion of the group’s philanthropic reach.
“Even though we’re daytime and (they’re) nighttime, we’ve become friends,” Broberg said.
Longtime Assistance League member Rosalind Hilton recalled helping recruit new members for the auxiliary back in 1990.
“Twenty-five years ago, mothers were going back to work. (And) they all missed volunteering,” Hilton said. “They still wanted to reach out, and it attracted them that they’d have their own group.”
Since then, the group has taken off and now comprises about 70 to 80 active members. Oppenheimer attributes that, in part, to the social opportunities CAP provides.
“You really make some lifelong friendships and connections,” she said. “As a working professional in the community, it’s not that easy to meet people. This has been a wonderful way to do that.”
Sara Cardine, firstname.lastname@example.org