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Adventures in Philanthropy

Janet with her husband Paul, Dr. Barnard and Kathy Freston

By: Janet Mocker

I have always been health conscious, at least for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, meals were balanced and portions were reasonable, but the menu was limited to traditional American food. As a young adult, I was introduced to ethnic foods and was open to trying everything, even octopus, menudo and escargot.

I noticed that a balanced American diet seemed to feature a big piece of meat that took up half of the plate along with a side of frequently soggy, overcooked vegetables, while other cultures offered bright yellow, orange, red and green vegetables in curries, soups and sauces, which seemed much more appetizing, interesting and fun. I started to eat more vegetarian food and soon noticed that when I ate meat my body felt heavy, but when I ate vegetables I felt light and energetic.

I started making regular annual, then monthly, donations to Dr. Barnard’s organization, the Physicians Committee. I felt happy that my modest donation, along with others’ donations, was changing the world for good, and I felt appreciated. From the beginning to this day, I receive thank you letters and annual tax statements, as few or as many email updates as I choose, a quarterly magazine, an annual report, and suggested goals for the upcoming year with a request for my input on how they should be prioritized.

I never expected to actually meet Dr. Barnard or any other celebrities. Then, a few years ago, the Physicians Committee launched an annual Leadership Summit in L.A. and I was invited to attend! The first year, the speakers were Kathy Freston, author of The Veganist, and Marco Antonio Regil, host of the Spanish version of Family Feud. Last year we heard from Moby.

This year actress Marilu Henner, who is gifted with superior autobiographical memory, shared with us the exact date and time at which she ate her last bite of cheese. The Physicians Committee also invited me to a rare acoustical performance by Moby and his friends at the home of documentary film maker James Costa. As I was enjoying a lovely outdoor vegan brunch in Hollywood Hills, I met one person after another who belonged to a Santa Barbara vegan meetup group. All of these adventures in philanthropy were fun, yet profoundly meaningful, and just as philanthropy had led me to these amazing people and events, it also brought me home again.

In 2015, the Physicians Committee honored the Santa Barbara Unified School District with a golden carrot award for its veggie meals, acknowledging Nancy Weiss, who runs the food service program, and Paul Cronshaw, who provides plant-based lessons to his biology, science, physical education, and health students. In 2016, French Professor Renan Larue started a vegan studies class at UCSB, and in May of this year, Dr. Barnard and Kathy Freston were guest speakers and my husband Paul and I had our photo taken with them. Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones, was there, too.

My most recent adventure in philanthropy happened today as I signed a grant check to the Physicians Committee from one of Santa Barbara Foundation’s donor advised funds. It is more money than I could afford to give, so I am grateful to the fund holders for requesting that this grant be made, and I am delighted that we are all connected through the Physicians Committee.

Janet Mocker is the Senior Director of Finance at the Santa Barbara Foundation.
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