“My children were young when my husband died. They struggled terribly after his death. Being on the RSF Foundation Board revealed so many good people and ways of ‘giving back’ to our community. My visit to New Haven in Vista, California, a home and campus for challenged boys, was a magical moment. In their eyes I saw my own fatherless son, in missing positive role models. I knew then I could help and it’s been one of my greatest joys.”
Helping the boys at New Haven Youth and Family Services is personal for Gigi Fenley. When they needed a DJ, she found one – but not for the school dance. Her contact at New Haven told her that one of the boys really wants to be a DJ, and did she know any DJ’s to mentor him? She remembers thinking, “I don’t really know any DJ’s.” But the story didn’t end there.
Seeking a DJ who would be a positive influence on this boy, she called the principal of Santa Fe Christian School, where her children had attended school. She found out the name of the DJ the school uses for their dances, and Gigi emailed the young man “out of the blue.” She explains, “I said I’m just trying to help with something wholesome for at-risk youth, and you were recommended.”
The DJ and the boy-who-wants-to-be-a-DJ are now in an ongoing mentoring relationship. The mentor is getting as much out of it as his protégé. Gigi remembers him telling her, “I’ve never done this before, but when I got your email I thought there was divine intervention; I even called my wife at work and told her about it. We have our own young kids, but I’ve always wanted to do mentoring like this.”
Gigi sees a “vacuum” that needs to be filled for the New Haven boys. “Every boy needs some kind of male role model or mentor, so every time there’s an event I try to get those kids there,” she said. They attended the Village Viewpoints presentation by Louis Zamperini and the CSUSM event for The Patriots Initiative with featured speaker, Major General Anthony Jackson. The boys can also be spotted at Padres games, thanks to Gigi.
Volunteering and philanthropy are a way of life for Gigi and her family. Both of her children now have donor advised funds at the RSF Foundation. Mom and kids jointly, from their three funds, made a donation for a journalism scholarship at her husband’s alma mater to honor one of his beloved teachers.
“When my husband was alive,” said Gigi, “we would ask his doctor, ‘Who can’t pay their bill?’” One patient was a 26-year-old with testicular cancer and no insurance, another was a 30-year-old mother. The doctor would make the connection and tell the patients that an anonymous donor was helping them. “Then these amazing thank you notes would come.”
And the thank you notes are still coming – now they are from the New Haven boys.