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My Financial Calendar: 12 Months of Money-Saving Tips

03/11/10 | Hollis Page Harman | 2 Comments

Get your finances in tip-top shape within the next 12 months by following this financial calendar:

 

JANUARY

 Increase savings.

  • Match your 401k contribution to your annual raise.
  • Add an auto investing program with monthly withdrawals from checking or savings.

FEBRUARY

 Fund your last year's IRA.

  • April 15th is the deadline for last year's contribution.
  • For 2009, the deductible limit is $5,000.
  • Over 50? Add $1,000 extra to catch-up.

 

MARCH

 Organize your tax prep.

  • Watch for W-2s and 1099s by the end of the month.
  • Call each employer and investment firm if you miss their form.
  • Expect a two-week turnaround for these requests.

APRIL

 File your tax return or six
 month extension
 electronically.

  • Get quicker refunds and fewer mistakes.
  • Use direct deposit for even faster receipt.

MAY

 Pay down debt with tax
 refund.

  • Average individual refund in '08 was approx. $2.3k; pay down debt.
  • Add to savings.
  • Add to 401K.

JUNE

 Service your car.

  • Save on gas when prices are higher in the summer.
  • A clean air filter can boost fuel economy by 10%.

JULY

 Do a credit check; improve
 your score.

  • Free from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
  • Via web, mail or phone.
  • Use debit v credit.

 

AUGUST

 Prepare/review your will/
 estate plan.

  • Do it yourself with WillMaker.
  • Consult an estate attorney for advice.
  • Review annually as your life changes.

SEPTEMBER

 Plan for your kid's education.

  • Invest in a Coverdell
  • Invest in a 529.
  • Non-deductible payments grow tax free.
  • Withdrawals are tax free for qual costs.

OCTOBER

 Prepare your home for winter
 with an energy audit.

  • Find out what your costs should be.
  • Can you adjust and save both energy and cost?
  • Some audits are free.

NOVEMBER

  Watch for holiday sales.

  • Avoid the rush.
  • Buy great gifts/great prices.
  • Budget with more pay periods.

DECEMBER

 Make smart tax payments by
 12.31.

  • Need deductions?
  • Donate to charity.
  • Make early property tax payments.
  • Make early mortgage payments.

 

 

© All Rights Reserved. 2010.  Hollis Page Harman is a Registered Representative with and offers securities through LPL Financial.
Member FINRA/SIPC. CA Insurance Lic # 0E22834.  hollis.harman@lpl.com. T 310 551 6079
LPL Financial, 1925 Century Park East  #400, Los Angeles, CA 90067

 

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The Great February Giveaway Winner

  • Family and Friend

03/4/10 | The Women's Conference | 5 Comments

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Announcing The Great February Giveaway Winner

Over the last month, more than 1000 members of The Women’s Conference community responded to The Great February Giveaway question “Who would you most like to have over for brunch?” The Women’s Conference team was struck by the breadth of creativity, wisdom and humor of the responses. The intended guests ranged from “myself when I was 20 years younger,” to religious and historical figures, favorite authors, beloved mothers, fathers and grandparents both living and deceased, artists and celebrities. The responses came from women across generations. Who knew brunch could be so interesting and informative? Choosing our finalist and six honorable mentions was no easy task.

Below is the winning response. We selected it because her story demonstrates courage, confidence and commitment to creating positive change in the world. Her response is joined by those we selected for honorable mentions. We invite you to read them. We think you’ll find them as inspiring as we do.

The Great February Giveaway winning response:


“TMS”, 42 years old

I would invite my birth mother to brunch. My mother and father lost their lives trying to protect my brother, my baby sister, and myself during a bombing raid on our village in Vietnam. My parents and baby sister were killed, and I wound up in an orphanage. I was adopted by an incredible family in America. I have lived, been educated, worked, married, and now have two amazing children of my own. I run a domestic violence shelter agency, and every day, I see amazing stories of survival and hope. I would like to tell my birth mother that I MADE IT, and that the sacrifice of her life made mine possible. I am who I am because she and my father loved me.

 

Honorable mentions:


Jackie Greer, 26 years old

Maya Angelo, Mother Teresa, Maria Shriver, Oprah…these remarkable women cannot answer the questions I have as an insecure, hesitant 26-year-old, who is constantly worried and unsure of which direction her life is going to take. I would instead invite my future self to brunch. My self twenty years from now, successful in her career, happily married, and surrounded by loving family and friends, would reassure apprehensive 26-year-old me that a positive attitude and hard work will inevitably lead to success in all facets of my life. My older self will warn me of hardships I will face and tell me everything’s going to be OK. She will let me know which career path I chose, and she will tell me that I have made a difference in the world. She will urge me to embrace the fear of the unknown because I will persevere.

Realistically though, none of us can invite our future selves to describe to us how our lives will unfold over eggs Benedict and cantaloupe. I would alternately invite Jillian Michaels to brunch, who would give me this advice and reassurance, as well as a lecture for eating eggs Benedict instead of healthy oatmeal.

Brandi Tocci, 23 years old
I would love the opportunity to sit down with my older sister Lauren, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. On April 20, 1999, Eric and Dylan invaded my high school and opened fire against their peers, killing 13 people during the worst school shooting in history. I’m fortunate Lauren can call herself a survivor, but some of our friends and classmates weren’t as lucky. I would ask them all the questions my sister has wanted answers to for years. If they could see the pain they caused not only the Columbine High School students, but their friends, family and community, why would they want to hurt people? Why would they open fire at my sister and friends? The community has ‘researched answers’ and questioned their parents, but no one would ever know the reasons behind their rage unless they were asked directly. So, ‘brunch’ might turn into shots of tequila with this intense, yet civilized conversation, but I’d still like to know their side of the story. Women exemplify power, and I’d like to hear their side, while telling them that they may have hurt my family, myself and thousands others, but they didn’t take the power from the school like they hoped. We will always be Rebels and “WE ARE COLUMBINE”…

Betsy, 52 years old
I think I will jump into fantasyland to answer this question. I have a 16-year-old beautiful daughter named Rachael. There are 36 years between us, and I think for my fantasy brunch date I would want to be with my daughter 36 years in the future, putting her at the age I am today -- 52. In my fantasy we are both the same age. I would love to hear about all the cool things she has seen and done with her life during those years. To be the same age and learn from her how her life at 52 is different from my life at 52. What technology is she using-how has the world changed-what dreams has she accomplished- how have I impacted her life as a woman-mother-wife? I know the future rests with our children. My daughter has a strong sense of herself and how important family and friends are. I would love to see what she has done with her life as I am now versus being 88 years old when she is 52. That would be a wonderful fantasy brunch.

Mia Ogletree, 45 years old
The first day the question was posted, I read each one, at the time 132 by early morning. Oh, what brilliant people that others wanted to have brunch with, I was a bit overwhelmed at the idea of narrowing my choices. I put the task aside, as I had to go to my son's kindergarten class for my weekly volunteering. It was during this next two hours, that I found the one person that I wanted to have brunch with, a five-year-old boy name "C."

This child had problems all year. He was always in trouble for one thing or the next. But this week, due to a substitute teacher, I took him aside to work with him. In the hours I spent with him, I found out he had never met his father. He longed for a home to call his own. He drew the same perfect house in every picture he has ever been asked to draw. His mother was "away" for a while and he was terrified. This is a person I want to have brunch with on a Sunday afternoon. This child, though not filled with experience, years of service or exciting adventures in politics or world peace, is the perfect person for me to engage with over a meal. I would love to talk to him about his dreams, his hopes and his fears. It would be my pleasure and joy to be with him and show him that the world is on his side and is rooting for him to succeed. I want him to enjoy an afternoon filled with great food, conversation and a feeling of safety and love. All children should have this opportunity.

Alissa Grinenko, 28 years old
The group that I would like to have over for brunch would be my online buddy group (we call ourselves The K Krew). We're a group of women that met online over two years ago, with common interests and have continued to form an online friendship as we continue to make our journeys. There are eight of us, all from different parts of the US, each with our own experiences that continue to share our daily ups and downs with each other.

One of the members is part of the Love 146 task group, a group devoted to ending child sex slavery and exploitation. In the eight of us, we have teachers, students, mentors, professionals, mothers, soon-to-be mothers, and those working towards being a mother, each making a difference in her own community. We all met through a common interest, but I feel so blessed to be among such a group of women.

Though we have chatted, online only, I have not met any of these women. Originally we didn't know each other's real name. Now that we know each other's actual names, two of us went to the same elementary school (a few years apart). We go from talking daily, to monthly, to weekly, supporting each other in moments of joy and moments of hardship. It would be a wonderful experience to meet these women that have journeyed with me these past two years. It would be an amazing brunch, and amazing to finally connect in person. Though we're "average" women, not famous for anything, its an amazing group where we have all taken steps in our own lives to make this world, and the future of this world, a better place.

Lydia Leeds, 55 years old
I would invite every hungry person on the planet, feed them and ask them how I could help – no one should be hungry but a lot of people are. I’d want to invite every lonely person on the planet and wrap them in warmth and kindness and ask them how I could help. I’d also invite Anne Frank because she deserves to be there, Nelson Mandela because of his smile and the sparkle in his eyes, Wanda Sykes because she's the funniest woman alive, my mother because she'd love it and she'd kill me if I didn't, my maternal grandmother because she was a pioneer, my paternal grandmother because I never met her and my two brilliant, beautiful nieces because they are the very best of our future. I’d ask Anne and Nelson to solve world hunger, I’d ask my mother if they were right - my grandmothers to cook and coddle, I’d ask Wanda to make the world laugh. I’d ask my nieces to never let anyone forget. And I’d ask myself how much more can we do right now to help our friends, neighbors, strangers and each other…

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5 Ways to Talk Money with Your Partner

02/15/10 | The Women's Conference | 3 Comments

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If you're having trouble discussing finances with your partner, you're not alone. Money is a loaded topic -- even for couples. But without proper communication, you expose yourself to financial risks, as well as to marital problems. Financial stress is the leading cause of divorce.

So how can you become more informed about the finances you and your partner share?

  1. Don’t just sign, but actually review the tax return you and your partner file.
  2. If you're having trouble broaching the topic, consider asking your partner questions like -- "Can we retire when our time comes, or will we need to continue working until all loans and credit cards are paid off?" This may serve as an entrée into the money discussion.
  3. Set aside time each month to go over your joint finances.
  4. If you haven't yet married your partner, learn what you should discuss before tieing the knot.
  5. Need more advice? Watch this video to get some pointers on how to discuss finances with your spouse.

For more context on couples and finances read Marion Sandler's post on What You Should Know About Your Family Finances.

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Human Trafficking Awareness Day

01/11/10 | The Women's Conference | 3 Comments

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Slavery persists in the United States today, almost 150 years after the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed it. Modern day slavery, or human trafficking, takes many forms. From forced prostitution to forced domestic labor, the majority of people trafficked are women and children.

In 2007 the U.S. Senate designated January 11th as a National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness in an effort to raise consciousness about the problem. As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who proclaimed that January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day in California, remarks, “Our own vigilance is crucial to rescuing those held captive.”

The facts:

  • 50,000 people are trafficked across the U.S. borders annually, according to CIA estimates. 
  • The U.S., Japan and Australia are the three countries that receive the most victims of human trafficking.  In the U.S., California is one of the most common destinations for those victims.
  • Easy access to international borders, numerous ports and airports and large immigrant populations make California, Florida, New York, Nevada and Ohio prime destinations for trafficked persons.
  • Los Angeles is one of the top three entry points into the U.S. for human trafficking because of its diverse communities and extensive geography, which make it easy to hide and move victims of human trafficking. In Los Angeles alone 10,000 women are in forced prostitution, according to immigration agents.

What you can do

Grow your awareness throughout this month. On January 4, 2010 President Barack Obama proclaimed that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

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10 Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

  • Architects of Change

11/30/09 | The Women's Conference Team | 1 Comments

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1. VOLUNTEER – Is it something you think about, but rarely get around to doing?  Many organizations need special help over the holidays – from soup kitchens and domestic violence hotlines to senior citizen homes & children’s hospitals.  Find out what’s available in your own community. You can do it alone or recruit friends & family to share the experience.

2. DONATE – The holidays are a great time to purge your home & clean out your closets, drawers & kitchen cabinets.  What do you own but never use? Bring these items to a local shelter, Goodwill or Salvation Army, particularly winter clothes & coats.  And if you happen to have a box of old presents that you were planning to re-gift, consider giving them to someone who really needs them.

3. THE GIFT OF GIVING – Instead of buying yet another gift that a friend or family member doesn’t really need, make a donation in his or her name to a favorite charity or cause.

4. SHOP WITH A PURPOSE – Take a moment & give some thought to where & how you shop. Patronize stores and retail websites that sell handmade gifts, support small businesses & women entrepreneurs or donate a portion of their profits to charities.  You’ll be helping other people while supporting businesses that do the right thing.

5. FEED THE HUNGRY – Donate canned goods to your local food banks and pantries. And if you’re organizing or attending office parties or holiday gatherings, anticipate whether you might have leftovers. If so, arrange ahead of time to deliver the excess food to local shelters.

6. MAKE A CHILD SMILE – Buy, collect & deliver toys to local charities or firehouses.  There are collections every holiday season in every city & town.

7. CHANGE A LIFE - Join The Women’s Conference “Team Maria” & make a loan to support a women entrepreneur.

8. CREATE YOUR OWN GIFTS - The most thoughtful & cherished gifts can be those that you make yourself. Even if you’re not an artist, you can buy a frame & fill it with a montage of family photos or create a scrapbook of mementos.

9. GREEN YOUR HOLIDAY – Reduce, reuse and recycle, and discover new ways to become more environmentally responsible in your gift giving, entertaining, dining, travel, recreation & decorating. 

10. REACH BEYOND THE HOLIDAY SEASON – Commit to giving back in the New Year. Make it more than a resolution.  Make it a reality.  WWW.WOMENSCONFERENCE.ORG will be bringing you tips & tools on how to be an architect of change and pass it on throughout 2010. Be sure to check in daily for our latest blogs, features, interviews and videos.

Do you know additional ways to give back over the holidays & beyond? Share them with us in the comments!

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Women Helping Women in Afghanistan

  • Architects of Change

11/16/09 | Gayle Tzemach Lemmon | 2 Comments

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Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Author

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes about how women are helping women in Afghanistan: Midwives are reducing infant and maternal mortalities in a country strapped for cash and medical services.

Afghanistan is home to the world’s second-highest maternal mortality rate.  And Badakshan, a stunningly beautiful province in the country’s north, has the worst maternal mortality figures ever reported anywhere in the globe.  But with the help of international donors and a growing legion of committed midwives which grows larger each year, better health care is reaching expectant mothers in provinces all across the country.  Once a maternal health basket case, Afghanistan is now a role model for other poor nations struggling to quickly scale up their efforts to save pregnant women’s lives.

Midwives are at the center of this progress.  Each morning women in nearly every province in Afghanistan go door to door in teams of two visiting homes and spreading their message about the importance of protecting an expectant mother’s health.  Using a picture book and a sterile birthing kit to illustrate the importance of hand washing, proper nutrition, and post-natal care, the women take their teachings to the nation’s most impoverished households.  Often their visit is the only professional healthcare the women they see each day will receive. 

The challenge of providing better maternal care in Afghanistan are formidable and deep-rooted.  As I wrote in a recent story for The Christian Science Monitor:

In 2002, 60 percent of Afghans had no access to basic health services, according to a study led by Linda Bartlett, then of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Furthermore, two-thirds of the country's districts had neither maternal nor child health services, with only 10 percent of Afghanistan's hospitals equipped for caesarean deliveries. Nearly 80 percent of the maternal deaths examined in Dr. Bartlett's study were judged preventable.

But today, these numbers are beginning to turn around. From fewer than 500 midwives with no standard training, Afghanistan now has more than 2,400 nationally accredited midwives who have graduated from the country’s standardized, two-year midwifery education program.  Skilled birth attendants can now be found nationwide, with Johns Hopkins University research showing that even in the country’s hard-to-reach rural regions, midwife use jumped from 6 percent in 2003 to 19 percent in 2006.  In fact, so much progress appears to have been made that the nation’s Ministry of Public Health is now launching a follow-up survey to assess the impact of recent maternal health efforts, just seven years after the last round of research began. And it is not just in Afghanistan that the impact of their work is being felt: In December, Afghan midwives will join colleagues from Pakistan and India in offering to help the nations of Bhutan and Nepal to establish their own midwifery associations and accreditation programs. International health professionals say that they are evaluating Afghanistan's success in rapidly scaling up emergency interventions to help them develop health strategies for women in other least-developed nations.
 
While Afghanistan’s grave maternal mortality problems will take time and investment to fully reverse, it is clear the country is on its way to addressing some of the most pressing issues facing women’s health. With the help of midwives, the word is spreading that small measures can save women’s lives -- and help them bring healthier babies into the world.   

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a former ABC News producer who began writing about women's entrepreneurship during her second year of MBA study at Harvard. She currently is working on a book to be published by HarperCollins in 2010 about a young entrepreneur who supported her family and her community during the Taliban years.

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Make Time for Change: A Guide for Busy 20-Somethings

  • Architects of Change

11/10/09 | Corynne Steindler | 6 Comments

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Corynne Steindler, Journalist

We're all looking for that mysterious, elusive thing – more time. And it turns out, we just may have it – if we're savvy about how we schedule it.

Time is especially precious for women (like me) in their twenties. We're the first into the office in the morning, and the last to leave at night.  Not a career woman? You may be swamped with grad school classes, or you may be the friend constantly saddled with planning engagement parties and bridal showers. But where to find time, and how can we use it to start giving back to our communities? Time -- or the lack thereof -- is keeping many women from becoming Architects of Change. 
 
To find the answer, I decided to pull together a list of "personal time" activities I regularly take part in.  Surprisingly, I discovered that there are at least 10 hours in my week devoted to mindless activities, which could be used for bettering my community. I don't suggest completely giving up your downtime, but by eliminating the time (and money) spent on unnecessary activities, you can create a little wiggle room in your schedule to create time for change.

Here's how you might start incorporating time for change into your schedule:

Mindless Activity

Community-Minded Alternative

Go to dinner with your friends
(3 hours)

Recruit friends to serve dinner with
you at a local soup kitchen

Spend the afternoon shoe shopping
(2 hours)

Put on old sneakers and deliver meals
for an organization like Meals on Wheels

Watch yet another episode of "Real
Housewives" (1 hour)

Use your brain to tutor students at a
local high school

Perfect the art of your Wii Tennis serve
(1.5 hours)

Lead an arts & crafts session at your
local senior center

Talk trash about your ex boyfriend (4 hours)

Pick up trash in your neighborhood park

Hit the bars to flirt
(2 hours)

Hit the gym to train for a charity run. 
(Or spend an afternoon walking with
March of Dimes or doing the
Avon Walk for Breast Cancer)

Get your nails painted (1 hour)

Help repaint your community center

Go to a rock concert
(5 hours)

Register voters with Declare Yourself,
Head Count or Rock the Vote

Read every single gossip tabloid (2 hours)

Read books to children in your area hospital


How to get started:

  • Make a list of your weekly activities.  If anything on the list is negative or energy-draining, cut it and replace it with a service-focused activity.
  • Find a buddy.  It is so much more fun to paint, walk, or clean when you have a friend.
  • Multitask.  If you work out every Saturday, devote one Saturday a month to a fitness-focused service project.
  • When it's your turn to host girls’ night, ask everyone to bring books to donate to a struggling school district.
  • Find something you love.  Whether you are passionate about animals or you are a health freak, there are volunteer opportunities for everyone.  CaliforniaVolunteers.org's matching program pairs organizations in need with volunteers who are passionate about the cause.
  • Expand your dating pool. Would you rather meet someone drinking at a bar, or someone who is helping clean up his/her community? Or, if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, plan your next date night at a homeless shelter or food bank.

Time is not as elusive as we make it out to be – it’s just a matter of looking for it in the right places. 
 
Corynne Steindler is a senior reporter at HollywoodLife.com.  Previously, she worked as a reporter for the Page Six column of the New York Post, and was the editor of media and celebrity gossip blog Jossip.com.  Corynne is a native of the Chicago suburbs, and she moved to New York in 2001 to study Journalism and Gender Studies, and spent time traveling to Spain and Russia during her college years. When not covering the party circuit, Corynne can be found glued to reality TV programs on E! and Bravo, or preferably, spinning at SoulCycle. She lives in Manhattan.

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Shakira: "Education Is a Right"

  • Architects of Change

11/3/09 | Shakira | 2 Comments

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Shakira, Recording Artist & Founder, Barefoot Foundation

As a young girl in Colombia, I promised myself that, someday, I would help change the lives of the barefoot, desperate children living in the parks around my home.  I had the audacity of youth: I remember thinking that every child deserved the opportunity to learn.  I also had the clarity of youth: I knew that all children deserved an equal chance.

When I was eighteen, I took the first steps toward keeping my promise.  I started the Pies Descalzos ("Bare Feet") Foundation in honor of the barefoot children who inspired me.  The Foundation’s mission is to ensure that all children can exercise their right to a quality education and a chance to fulfill their true potential.  We provide nutritious meals, quality education and psychological support to more than five thousand students and their families across Colombia. 

Education is a right, not a privilege, and we need to treat it that way.  Far too often, children who are born poor die poor, trapping too many children in a cycle of despair.  Education is the most powerful way to break the cycle.  Education affects every aspect of development.  Research has shown that access to education increases wages, lowers the risk of disease and decreases the likelihood a child will turn to a destructive violent life.  A single year of primary education can increase a girl’s wages by 10 to 20 percent later in life.  We cannot possibly hope to thrive as a global community if we continue to turn our backs on the potential and talents of millions of children.  

It’s difficult to believe that, in today’s world, 72 million kids don’t have access to any kind of education, and 226 million adolescents don’t attend secondary school. Hundreds of millions who do attend school can’t learn because of inadequate teachers, lack of supplies or empty stomachs.

Our schools in Colombia are proving each and every day that no matter where a child is from, no matter how poor they are, they can thrive if given the chance.  The best part of my work is watching students blossom and make something of their lives.  Last year, a student from a Pies Descalzos school placed 14th out of the whole country in Colombia’s national exams.  He came from extreme poverty and suffered from malnutrition as a child.  Today, he’s in college and working to use his education to give back to his community.  We have seen that every child has a contribution to share.

Now, we are bringing our model to the U.S. and the rest of the world.  Education for every child is within our reach.  Let’s make a commitment to the children of the world.  Let us tell them -- today -- that we see their value, no matter where they happen to have been born or how difficult their circumstances.  Let’s make clear that we believe in them and that through hard work they can improve their lives.  Let’s commit to giving them the tools they need to build our future.

 

Shakira with the students of the Barefoot Foundation


Photo by Tobias Kaeufer
Photo by Tobias Kaeufer

 

Photo by Tobias Kaeufer
Photo by Tobias Kaeufer

 

Photo by Tobias Kaeufer

 

Internationally acclaimed recording artist Shakira is a leading advocate for universal education. Her Pies Descalzos foundation has helped over 28,000 of Colombia’s children access education. Her US-based Barefoot Foundation is expanding her work internationally.  Shakira is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and honorary chair of the Global Campaign for Education.  She is the 6th highest selling artist of all time and the winner of two Grammys, eight Latin Grammys and countless awards worldwide.

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Direct from The Women's Conference

  • Architects of Change

10/29/09 | Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns | 4 Comments

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Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns, Chair, The Judy Fund

After a two day journey to the center of the new women’s movement, packaged and delivered with style by Maria Shriver, First Lady, activist, global everywoman, I have returned to my life, stimulated, motivated, changed.

I left Long Beach, California, with 25,000 women (and a few token men) feeling the need for a cup of tea, a good, long nap and time to process what I had experienced -- speakers from around the globe sharing stories so personal they felt familiar.  Brand name stars shed the cloaks of their celebrity and made us feel like they had come for an intimate chat, right there, with us. Platforms shared by power women -- one with the ability to shift the world’s economic freefall; the other a survivor of a childhood sold to the sex trade of Cambodia -- both having a lot to say about the state of women in this world and leading the kind of exemplary lives that will make a difference to so many more beyond themselves.

The deep well of loss, grief, healing and resilience was another topic illuminated on the Arena stage, as Maria poignantly shared her own difficult journey through grief in the days following the death of her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.  Her words resonated powerfully with so many women who have experienced loss in its many forms.

I am one of those women, a daughter of a parent whose mind has been lost to Alzheimer’s disease.  I am bound together with millions of other daughters around the globe.  Our shared responsibility, as Architects of Change, is to advocate and motivate our national legislators to fund the research path that will lead to Alzheimer’s survivorship. We have role models: other great women standing in front of devastating diseases (breast cancer, AIDS, heart disease) and getting the job done.

Come be a part of this change we are creating in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. For those of you who live in or near Los Angeles, we invite you to join ‘Maria’s A-team’ at the LA Memory Walk on Sunday morning, November 1 in downtown Los Angeles. For additional information, please go to www.alz.org/mariasateam

Change is in each of us, every day.

As Chair of The Judy Fund, Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns works to ignite public awareness and involvement in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. To date, The Judy Fund, created in memory of Elizabeth’s mother Judy Gelfand, has raised and granted close to $4 million dollars to support Alzheimer’s research and advocacy in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association. A former Sr. Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Universal Pictures, Elizabeth Gelfand left her post in April, 2004 to manage The Judy Fund.

Join Maria’s A-Team at the LA Memory Walk in downtown Los Angeles this Sunday, November 1, 2009. Sign up or make a donation at www.alz.org/mariasateam

Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns was a speaker at A Day of Transformation.

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LIVE FROM THE CONFERENCE: Blogger, Louise Tutelian

10/27/09 | Louise Tutelian | 5 Comments

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Louise Tutelian, Blogger

Coming to you live from The Women's Conference 2009 where an unprecedented 25,000 are gathering for two days of inspiration and transformation.

Change is Sweet

Sabrina Vegnone’s colleagues were in love with her cookies. For years, she had brought them to the mutual fund company where she worked, these spectacularly hand-iced and decorated treats. And for years, her colleagues told her to go into business with them. So when Vegnone was laid off in July, she saw an opportunity. Today, just three months later, she is on the exhibition floor here at The Women's Conference with a banner touting Sabrina’s Sweetery (www.SabrinasSweetery.com) hung behind her.

“It was hard when I got laid off but it gave me the chance to try this out,” said Vergone, whose business is based in North Hollywood, CA. “I’m not sure I would have quit my job to do this and I have no idea where it’s going, but it’s been really busy and great,” she said. How busy? “I rent a kitchen and bake twice a week, about 20 dozen cookies, but sometimes as many as 500 for a single occasion,” she explained. Claiming the benefits of a very steady hand, Vergone decorates every single one, down to the last sugar pearl. In her booth today are bikini cookies, surfboard cookies, bride and groom cookies, and baby onesies cookies.  Sabrina’s Sweetery claims ownership of 500 cookie cutters, including basketballs, sailboats, even lobsters and seahorses. If a client can’t find the perfect shape, Vegnone will design one.

Visitors to the booth inquire about corporate catering, local delivery, cookie and icing choices. It’s clear that Vegnone is reveling in her new career.  “I loved my job,” she said. “But I loved cookies more.”

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The Big Picture

Picture this: One creative woman and her two equally talented sisters team up to develop a totally new (patent-pending!) photographic product called Pic-A-Pak (www.pic-a-pak.com) and show it off at The Women’s Conference, their first visit here.  Allene del Rosario Michel, Pic-A-Pak’s creative director, chattered nonstop with visitors to her exhibition booth as they handled the sample triangular 3-D packets.  “Clients supply an image and we customize it, “ said Michel, of Arcadia, CA. Filled with anything from jelly beans to Jordan almonds to tiny pots of lip gloss, the packets can be used as party favors or keepsakes for any personal or corporate event. They come in two sizes, are affordable and can be studded with rhinestones and other decorative elements.

Jennifer Taylor, Pic-A-Pak’s managing principal, explained why the conference is a particularly potent venue in which to meet potential clients. “We’ve had women planning their own weddings, their daughter’s weddings, their daughter’s quinceanos parties,” she said. “Grandmoms love these.” The sisters had heard about the conference last year but couldn’t get tickets. “When we heard about the opportunity to present here this year, we jumped at it,” she added. “We knew the exposure would be great.”

The conference really has been a terrific networking opportunity for women entrepreneurs.  For Taylor personally, the highlight has been seeing the range of other services, crafts and entrepreneurial businesses on the exhibition floor, including businesses in her area with whom she will keep in touch. “From H & R Block to adorable high-end baby aprons, there is so much here,” she said.  But it wasn’t all about work, either, she added. “The book-signing event, with “Caroline (Kennedy), Maria (Shriver), Paula (Zahn), and Valerie (Bertinelli) was like an adult Disneyland.”

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Tea Party Angels Take Flight

Cheryl Beck stands in her booth on the vast exhibition floor here, explaining how she intends to change the world, one tea party at a time. Beck’s concept is a non-profit initiative called “Tea Party Angels” (www.teapartyangels.org) in which mothers and their 7 to 12-year-old daughters host tea parties across the country. They raise money for girls in need of education—and get a lesson in social responsibility themselves. For $40, the hostess receives a tea set for six, T-shirts to decorate, handmade beaded “Angel” bracelets, and an educational DVD. Party attendees contribute donations earned from performing chores at home and as a group choose a charity from an approved list, including Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute.

 “I was inspired by ‘Three Cups of Tea’ by Greg Mortenson,” said Beck, “and the difference one person could make.”  So it was no coincidence that Beck chose this year’s Women’s Conference, which Mortenson is also attending, to make her debut. She feels as if she is among friends.  “There’s such a diverse crowd here. It’s a gracious group of people and they are receptive to this concept,” said Beck, who traveled from New York to be here.  The theme of the conference is also particularly appropriate, she says--It’s never too early to teach young girls to be Architects of Change.

 

Louise Tutelian is an experienced journalist who has written for over two dozen national and regional publications and websites, including The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Parenting and Working Mother, where she wrote the "Learning Curve" column. Her work can be found at www.louisetutelian.com

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