Seniors Celebrate Charity Work

Kate Ginley, Staff Writer

Lamorinda senior girls celebrated their charity work at a debutante ball at the Claremont Hotel in Oakland on Sunday, March 7, as a culmination of their memberships in the National Charity League (NCL).

“NCL is the National Charity League where mothers and daughters do charity work with each other. We do a lot of charity for other organizations,” said senior Lindsey Ringlee.

NCL allows girls to help the community. “It’s fun giving back to your community and it’s an easy way to do it, through NCL,” senior Emily Holbrook added.

The debutante ball is a celebration of the work the young women have done over the course of their membership. Senior Kelsey Raftis, a NCL member, explained, “When you’re a senior, you have an NCL Presents, which is all the money you get from fundraising. It’s this big debutante ball at the Claremont Hotel and we all have white dresses and flowers. And we all give speeches reflecting on our experiences. And you dance with your dad for a little father-daughter dance, and there’s some dancing, and that’s pretty much it.”

“I think it’s 8 girls from every town in Lamorinda (Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda) and we all started in seventh grade. We all have to do 40 hours a year of philanthropic work, charities – like working at a soup kitchen. Sometimes it’s shifts at the library and just volunteer work. We have monthly meetings that are instructional. As you grow up, it’s a different subject matter each meeting. We had a college one when we were in junior year and when we were in seventh grade, we had one on make-up,” said Raftis.

There is also an Acalanes chapter, in which 10 girls from Campolindo participate.

Ringlee said,”It gives us a good background. Knowing that, even in our own communities, every place needs help and it’s nice to do charity work around the area. And build a special bond with your mom that you probably wouldn’t have in high school.”

It’s humbling yourself and knowing we are so lucky to be living in Moraga and all the opportunities going to help people who don’t get those opportunities. Just gaining a new perspective,” said Raftis.

NCL also strengthens mother-daughter bonds. “We do it for six years. Mothers and daughters get to bond the whole time so its a nice way to spend time your mom and help the community,” Ringlee added.

“The ceremony was fun. It was kind of like a graduation for us. It was nice way to end NCL. It’s sad that it’s over so it’s nice that we can move on,” Ringlee said.

Holbrook said, “It was really fun and long. It was something we prepared for, for a awhile. Like practice and stuff. But is was kind of fun to celebrate the end. That was fun to dress up and celebrate.”

Raftis added, “It was fun to get all dressed up, it was like getting into Prom or something, we got to get our hair done and makeup done if people wanted to do that. It was cool to have a special night for yourself and to be with all your girlfriends that were all grown up and graduating now. It was definitely a big senior moment where it’s all coming to an end, so it was really special.”

Working with the NCL has opened the soon-to-be high school graduates’ eyes.

Senior Anne Doyle said, “Without NCL, I wouldn’t know that help is needed so close. I usually think Oh, go to the other side of the hill, go to Oakland, go to SF, go to another country, go to Mexico over spring break;’ I would never think that there is (sic) people in Concord, like ten minutes away on the freeway who are in need. I think it is a very eye-opening experience. It makes you step out of your comfort zone so that you are socializing with other girls that you probably wouldn’t socialize with if it wasn’t for NCL. And you’re also outside your comfort zone like what Kelsey said, when you are volunteering in places where you’d never think you’d volunteer.”

Emily Holbrook’s freshman sister, Ashley Holbrook, whose is also in NCL, added, “It shows you that you don’t have to go that far away from home to help people.”

The girls share their favorite experiences with charity work. Ringlee said, “Smiley Dog-it’s an organization where these two women took dogs in from the pound and try to get them adopted. So we’d spend a day with the dogs and try to get them adopted.”

“I really liked Loaves and Fishes and that’s a soup kitchen. It’s in Martinez or Pittsburg. It’s just really cool because you go at 8am, 8-1 and we get all the food ready and we serve it to the people. It doesn’t open until 11 but people line up outside waiting. There’s a huge line right when you get there. It’s just very humbling to see that. That people are that hungry and in need and that’s just their one thing for the day for a meal. It’s cool to talk to people who come through and a lot of them have really interesting stories,” said Raftis.

Doyle added, “I like the Monument Crisis Center-it’s a center that host different camps. They collect food-it’s out in concord. Loaves and Fishes is good because it is out in Martinez and Pittsburgh but Concord also needs help as well. I like the summer camps for the kids because a lot of times parents can’t care for them. They don’t have money to afford caretakers while they are at work and so that’s our job, so we go there for summer camps and we provide them with meals everyday with clothes. And I love working during Christmas time because we donate all their presents and so the parents talk to us and say ‘oh my gosh. Thank you so much. If it wasn’t for you, my child wouldn’t have their only present.’ I just love working with children and help fostering their youth.”

Most of the members have a favorite charity with which they have worked. “Mine was the Resbite Center. It was an old folks home and you go there for the day and you play games with people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s and serve them lunch and its fun and play little games like memory games,” said Ashley Holbrook.

Attaining membership in the NCL is not easy.  It is an excluding club for those looking to add it to a resume. Ringlee said, “You have to be sponsored by someone who was in NCL.”

“It’s a raffle, so you put your name in and a lot of people apply to be in it and they draw names. Or if there’s legacy – for example, I was Legacy because of my sister, she had her name drawn in seventh grade – so when I got to seventh grade I was automatically in it,” said Raftis.

Doyle said, “I think it looks good because people look for commitments like NCL, and that’s a six year commitment [40 hours a year] and it’s pretty long. But as opposed to getting involved with the community, just going on mission trips and helping out on your own will probably do just the same because with NCL comes a lot of social and a lot of fancy events.”