Local Organizations Honored at Shalimar Learning Center Dinner

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A trio of Newport Beach-based organizations were honored at Shalimar Learning Center’s 25th anniversary dinner held on Nov. 6 at The Harper in Costa Mesa.

Greg Reber, Senior Vice President and Chief Distribution Officer for Pacific Life Insurance Company, accepts the Innovator Award on behalf of Pacific Life Foundation during Shalimar Learning Center’s 25th anniversary event on Nov. 6.
— Photo by Andre Niesing ©

According to information from a recent press release, the event celebrated Shalimar’s quarter-century of impact and community transformation by providing quality education to more than 5,000 neighborhood children positioning them for success in college and career.

The event helped raise more than $120,000, including a generous lead gift, to support future plans for Shalimar Learning Center, which consists of a permanent community center.

The 2019 Signature Award recipients recognized during the event included three based in Newport Beach: Pacific Life Foundation, the O’Donnell Family, and National Charity League, Inc. Newport Chapter.

During the night of recognition and appreciation, Shalimar’s 150 supporters gathered to enjoy a welcome reception with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, a three-course gourmet dinner, special guest speakers, awards ceremony and a special statement of vision toward the next 25 years.

“Without the aid of the community, we would not be able to provide educational equity for all kids, fundamentally improving the future for years to come,” Randy Barth, founder and CEO of Think Together, the statewide educational nonprofit that emerged from Shalimar, said in a prepared statement. “We are beyond grateful to our dedicated supporters whose significant gifts and steady engagement have helped Shalimar students and graduates go on to achieve great things.”

Lillian Chung and Erin Barnes accept the Partner Award on behalf of NCL’s Newport Chapter during Shalimar Learning Center’s 25th anniversary event on Nov. 6.
— Photo by Andre Niesing ©

Shalimar presented the first-ever Legacy Award to Trish O’Donnell in honor of her late husband John’s generosity during the critical early days of Shalimar Learning Center. He made a significant financial investment in the program, prompting other local leaders to follow his example. From humble beginnings, John became a successful real estate developer who formed The O’Donnell Group — a pillar in Southern California’s commercial real estate industry. The award was presented by Sam and Susan Anderson, who have served as volunteer tutors, board members, donors and champions of Shalimar since its inception. Susan currently serves on the Friends of Shalimar Committee.

Think Together also honored Pacific Life Foundation with the Innovator Award. Since 2004, Pacific Life Foundation has invested over $200,000 in Shalimar’s programs that help students prepare for college and career. Pacific Life’s strategic support has allowed hundreds of students to graduate high school and continue their education and career pursuits. This spring, Pacific Life employees participated in a major volunteer event to sort and clean over 3,000 donated books for distribution to Orange County kids, including those at Shalimar.

The evening’s Partner Award went to NCL’s Newport Chapter, which has been a longtime partner of Think Together’s Shalimar programs. Their financial and volunteer support has provided everything from take-home Thanksgiving meals, to seasonal parties for younger students and college scholarships for graduating seniors.

This year NCL made its largest gift to date to any one organization in a single year; two-thirds of their $30K contribution was used to implement a new strategic program entitled “Coding For All” to economically empower students for success in the digital workforce.

The proceeds raised from the event will be used to add programs and resources to the Shalimar Learning Center. This includes plans for a permanent community center in the neighborhood, and expansion of the program to increase access to more students, magnifying the opportunity to change the odds for kids.

When Shalimar opened in 1994, students began to understand that higher education is indeed accessible if they worked for it. Since then, hundreds of Shalimar students have gone to college. Today alumni include doctors, an architect, engineers, a news producer, teachers, business professionals and engaged citizens.

What began at Shalimar became Think Together, a statewide education nonprofit committed to helping all students to succeed in their journey toward college and career. Today, Think Together operates programs in nearly 50 school districts, serving over 150,000 kids a year.

For more information, visit thinktogether.org.

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