Circle of Life Breakfast 2019 | Tania Bhattacharyya Honors our Roots

Good morning. Ann, thank you for being kind and Margo, thank you for your beautiful remarks. This morning’s Breakfast is dedicated to Faith Strong. Does anybody recognize where this photo was taken? It’s on our campus, and Faith made these butterfly gardens possible. I think it’s no coincidence that the massive migration of painted ladies and monarchs passing by on their way to Canada showed up just as Faith transitioned. The butterflies are a constant reminder that transformation is always within reach. Our centerpieces are inspired by the beautiful landscaping that Faith and Roberto Martinez made possible at NDFW, creating a sanctuary where women can heal from the devastating effects of addiction.

I was so lucky to spend time with Faith at her home, and being a fly on the wall when she gave interviews about her life to publications like OC Weekly, which she graced the cover of

She was the most giving person I’ve ever met, and she believed in giving in all sorts of ways. Giving in the way we listen to people, by for-giving others, and helping others from addiction into recovery. She stretched others in their giving. She knew she was blessed to be able to invest what she did, but also knew that everybody could contribute something. As Margo shared, she gave by making a “no matter what” commitment.

Faith commitment of bringing Alcoholics Anonymous to Russia began as a vision that came to her, which she sat on for two years. It was this little nagging at the back of her neck, she described. Until, one day, when she publicly announced, ‘I am making a commitment to create the first Alcoholics Anonymous in the Soviet Union with government approval and I’m gonna get it off the ground.’ And she said it just like that.

You heard our ladies, with Matt from Rock to Recovery, sing “Our Roots Grow Deeper”. As the lyrics go, “I had my dreams and big ideas / but reality was grounding … They say from up high, what a waste of time. I won’t let that lie define me.”

Faith would get dozens of anonymous phone calls from up high, saying “Why are you going over there to help the enemy?’ And she said, “I had to let all of it just blow over me because I had this commitment.”

Faith told me the philosopher Goethe says “At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.” Everything comes together. People come to you that you’ve never met, or even heard of before. And that’s what happened. It showed Faith, and continues to show us, the power of a “no matter what” commitment that’s totally bigger than we are individually.

New Directions for Women has deep roots, because of the “no matter what” commitment of our founders, Pamela Wilder, Muriel Zink, and Marion Schoen. They were not alone. Pam Wilder asked Faith Strong to join the founding committee, and Faith’s signature is on our incorporation papers from 1977. Lyn Wilder, Pam’s husband, continued to be deeply involved for 40+ years until his passing, exactly one year to the day prior to Faith’s passing. Again, there are truly no coincidences. Sally Frei, is another angel who planted our roots, quite literally. Until she passed in July last year, she lent her expertise to New Directions as a Master Gardener. She was an alumna, and showed up in love and service for decades by teaching our patients how to garden as a therapeutic skill. The fresh herbs, vegetables, and flowers she helped grow were symbolic of our patient’s own blossomings. You all received a gift of wildflower seeds this morning. Plant them, and think of us as the flowers bloom.

“A society grows great when men and women plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” That proverb describes not only our Founders, but those who are in the Amethyst Society, an incredible group of people who have sustained New Directions for Women with their time, talent, and treasure consecutively for five years or longer. Their “no matter what” commitment is to help underserved women with substance use disorders, who didn’t have anywhere else to go, who suffered in silence and in shame, who experienced a multitude of barriers to getting well. These men and women are tending to the roots our Founders planted, by helping to create a place where women can recover from addiction with dignity and grace.

First of all, I’d like to ask everybody who has been honored at one of our previous ten Breakfasts as a part of the Amethyst Society to just wave their hands, and be recognized. I see you, and adore you all so much. What I would like to do is to ask each person to come up and receive their acknowledgement, and then we will fully acknowledge the group as a whole.

Today I’d like to invite up Shannon Eustace, our Clinical Support Manager, and definitely a “no matter what” gal, to come up and get her amethyst pin. She just celebrated 5 years of working at NDFW. She is an advocate, a role model, and true example of showing up in love and service. Her boss Gina calls her the “Back Bone” of New Directions, and I agree.

I’d like to invite Rev. Dr. Charles Dorsey up to get his amethyst pin. He has volunteered as a NDFW, Inc board member continuously for five years and skillfully introduced us to allies, shared his spiritual gifts with our women, and just always showed up as a friend and cheerleader during both exciting and difficult times.

Next, I’d like to honor, with an amethyst geode, one amazing company and one amazing woman who have contributed their treasure – $5,000 or more for several years, building their way up to five consecutive years.

Stacy Forstall, please join me up on the stage. Stacy represents Brown Forman, a distributor of spirits, and they are here in full force this morning. They are fully committed to social responsibility, being educated about addiction and being part of the solution, eliminating stigma, and increasing access to treatment by supporting resources in their communities. They’ve shown up with their time, talent, and treasure, helping more women and children receive partial scholarships.

Diana Brookes-Sammis, please join me as well. Diana contributes in memory of her mother, Joan Howard Sammis, who served on many boards, including New Directions for Women, the Junior League, and the Decorative Arts Society. Diana follows in her mother’s footsteps with her own generosity of spirit, and continues their family legacy of philanthropy and volunteerism, helping us sustain over the decades.

Now, I would like to honor three more individuals who have given sustaining treasure – $5,000 or more – for over ten years.

While she is not here in person, I know she is certainly here in spirit. I’d like to thank from afar, Becky Flood who I know has personally mentored and inspired many of us in this room. She certainly walks the talk, and with her own blood, sweat, many tears, and personal contributions, brought New Directions into the place it is today. Her philanthropy continues even as she’s moved to the East Coast to be the CEO of Ashley Treatment Center, one of our sponsors.

Now, I would like to bring up Devon and Kevin Martin. This power couple is as humble, down to earth, and kind as anyone can be. Yet, their giving power both personally and through the Balboa Bay Club and Newport Beach Country Club helps us do more, be better, and magnify our ability to help others. They are also amazing parents, helping to tend the next generation. Please join me in recognizing these amazing folks.

Those that laid the groundwork for New Directions for Women will not know every family they impacted, and share in the shade of their recovery journey, but they did it anyway. Even today, our Board, our employees, our Volunteers, and those in the Amethyst Society won’t know the full impact of their gifts, and, how can they? Their impact funnels down, into generations from now. It is absolutely proven in the research that a longer someone stays in treatment, the better the likelihood for sustained sobriety over a lifetime. This Breakfast is held to raise money for the Pamela Wilder Scholarship Fund, which impacts 90% of the women and families we serve and helps them stay in treatment for the clinically recommended length of time, the treatment duration needed to get the miracle of recovery.

The grandchildren of the women we serve will have a very different life, because their grandmother got the care she needed to attain sustained recovery today, and break the hereditary cycle of addiction for herself, for her children, and generations to come.

On your tables, there’s a couple of photos of some really cute children. These kids lived at New Directions for Women at that age. Their Moms did not have to choose between recovery, and family.

Here is Izzy, who was just a baby when he lived at New Directions with his mom Elisha. And here he is today, in his school picture! He loves soccer, football, school, and his friends, and watching scary movies at about 3am.

Lily came to NDFW with her mom when she was 2. She just turned 7, and marked this occasion by performing in her first stand up comedy set. Yes, really. She says the thing she likes most about herself is that she’s loving.

As you can see, the women courageously asking for help at New Directions get to provide sweet shade that their children, and their children’s children, can rest underneath. Help us plant more roots, and transform the lives of women and children we have yet to meet.

There are so many ways to participate. Just last year, David and Maxine were first introduced to our Circle of Life Breakfast. Moved to do something, on the blank line that asks us how we want to participate, they wrote “bring our therapy dog Lola in to volunteer.” One year later, hundreds of people have been touched by Lola, the love dog. She joins us on Saturdays, with her dad David, and shares her love with patients, visiting family members, and children. She helps build bonds between Moms and their kids, healing together for the first time. She was even featured in the American Kennel Club and the Daily Pilot, as a healing helper.

You can be a healing helper too. Maybe you have a feeling in the back of your neck right now, encouraging you to take some action. Make some commitment. Help others, that are struggling, that need a new direction. You absolutely have that ability. Join our village. Become one of our new shoots.

Next year we enter a new decade. I’m personally inviting all of you, our old friends and our new friends, to come alongside us for what’s next. Be our village. Come in, take a tour, and tell us how you want to get involved.

The Master Gardener of our organization is Sue Bright. She is the Executive Director of New Directions for Women, Inc. Last year at our Breakfast, we met her as she was one month into her new role. In the last twelve months, she herself has created roots in Southern California as she took the helm of NDFW and helped us move forward into our destiny. I am so glad she’s here. Join me in welcoming her, as she shares our vision for the future.

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