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Meet Vembra Holnagel of Shades of Pink Foundation California in Encinitas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vembra Holnagel.

Kappa Kappa Gamma alumnae and friends Christina Fulcher and Kianne Farmer were inspired to start Shades of Pink Foundation California in 2013 after a fundraiser for the Michigan-based Shades of Pink Foundation. Then they invited their mothers, Vembra Holnagel and Sonya Fulcher to join since they had learned the importance of community service growing up at their sides. Their friend Bridget Garwitz joined soon after to round out the founding board of directors.

They are roll-up-our-sleeves, in-the-trenches kinds of gals. The five founding board members collectively have over 50 years of charitable work under their belts. The National Charity League, Meals on Wheels, Rotary International, the Junior League, the HALO Foundation for Autism, the Treasures Ministry, the Parkinson’s Association, and the Philanthropy arm of Kappa Kappa Gamma are just some of the organizations where they have volunteered their time, talents and leadership.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Starting a brand new charity is a daunting task. There are many documents that have to be written, submitted, and paid for in order to submit an application to the Federal and State governments for non-profit status. Once those are submitted you have to wait about a year before you get word that you have non-profit status. That is only one aspect, maybe the most important, but only the first of many business decisions we needed to make in order to operate our foundation. Fundraising, insurance, board governing laws, marketing, and accounting all had to be discussed and determined early in order to set up the business. We launched Shades of Pink Foundation California in 2013.

Gaining trust from family and friends first to help us launch was not a struggle since most everyone has been touched by the disease of breast cancer, either sisters, mothers, daughters, neighbors or even themselves. Our original asks were well received. However, once we had seed money we had to figure out how to get it into the hands of the women we were to serve. We reached out to other charities serving similar populations for help in developing applications and the process by which would govern our grant committee overseeing and reviewing applications to make sure they met our mission. Once we got started, we have been blessed with great support and good board members dedicated to making sure we are on a mission and doing our due diligence. In June 2014, we made our first grant to a much deserving woman going through treatment for her breast cancer and unable to work to pay for her basic living expenses without help. Today, we have given more than $100,000.00 to women in San Diego County to help support them during treatment and recovery of breast cancer.

Shades of Pink Foundation California – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Problem We Address: Loss of or severely reduced income during breast cancer treatment.

How our foundation is uniquely positioned to address this problem? We currently have relationships with trusted referral healthcare professionals from all over the county. We are the only organization currently serving this specific population in San Diego County

What are we most proud of as a company? We continue to build our work to build a stable base of funds in order to continue to serve. Also, our first grants were $500 each. Today, we are able to provide up to $2000 per qualified applicant. These increased funds provide several months of help while the patients are working through their treatment of chemo, radiation, surgery, and recovery and provides a brief respite to their worrying about how they will feed their families, get to treatment or pay for electricity to keep the heat and lights on.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I am most proud that my daughter was a part of starting this foundation at such a young age and wanted me to join her in this work. Beyond that, I feel gratefulness with each donation whether it is $5 or $5000 or more. I am always deeply touched that we such great supporters in the community and friends who believe in us.

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