The organization 44 Women of Orangewood has spent the last several years raising scholarship money for youths who have aged out of the foster care system but still need support from the community. The 14th annual scholarship luncheon was held at Fashion Island Hotel. Founder and activist, Susan Samueli, co-chaired the event with Jeanne Boyce and Yvette McCarthy. About 300 men and women were in attendance this year.

Speaker Steve Pemberton gave a touching account of his life as a child in foster care after being abandoned by his biological parents. He relayed how much support kids in care need but don’t necessarily get. Speakers Orlando Roybal and Desiree Luna gave upbeat tales of hope. Some of the more prominent guests included (even committee members) Carey Clawson, Karen Goldhirsh, Judy Nicholls, and Shahrzad Bina.

The organization has come a long way since its inception. Samueli recognized a need in the community in 1999. She saw the lack of resources helping young people transition to adulthood when aging out of foster care. She held the first luncheon at her home with all of her closest friends. The occasion was simple. There was no glitz or glam, just a direct message wrought with purpose.

The number of youths always exceeded the funding, but they have always taken great care in choosing those who need the scholarships the most. What was once named 44 Women for Children is now known as 44 Women of Orangewood. The annual luncheon now requires a large venue to house those involved.

Their mission is clear, “44 Women for Orangewood contributes to Orangewood Foundation by nurturing, supporting, and inspiring teens who are required to leave the foster care system on their 18th birthdays.”

Visit their website to learn more and find ways to donate and volunteer.