Like mother, like daughter.
We all know what a powerful role model a mother is for a daughter, but for Jeanette O’Toole, it is like grandmother, like mother, like daughter. There are three generations committed to philanthropy.
When O’Toole was a young girl living in Irvine, her mother taught her to have empathy for the less fortunate and help when she could. Together they joined the National Charity League, a nonprofit committed to community service, leadership development and cultural experiences.
The mother-daughter team served the homeless, stocked food pantries, worked at the library and assisted patients in the hospital.
“Those experiences taught me the importance of giving back,” Jeanette said. “That philanthropic spirit led me to pursue more volunteer opportunities in my adult life.”
Even when Jeanette was getting established in her career, she made the time and volunteered with the Junior League of Orange County, working with young children at the Boys and Girls Club and also as an advocate for the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). CASA is an agency that supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy, so every child who has experienced abuse or neglect can be safe, have a permanent home, and the opportunity to thrive.
In 2012 Jeanette and her husband, Ryan, moved to Palos Verdes Estates. Today they’re the proud parents of Audrey, Alec and Sean.
And when Audrey was in the seventh grade, mother and daughter joined the Palos Verdes chapter of NCL Jeanette wanted to gift her daughter the legacy her mother had given her—social consciousness and compassion.
Three years ago, the mother-daughter team volunteered at the Toberman Neighborhood Center in San Pedro. Toberman’s mission is to assist families with life-changing services that empower families to become self-sufficient and live healthy and purposeful lives. They have three core service programs; Family Source Center, Children, Youth and Family Services, and Gang Intervention and Prevention.
Two years ago, Jeanette became a liaison at Toberman. She works closely with Sandra Rascon, the Assistant Program Manager, in Children, Youth, and Family Services. This program provides afterschool care for Kindergarten through 8th grade. The children participate in enrichment activities, which include music, athletics, and arts and crafts. They also have a summer program that is all day for six-weeks, which provides community-based experiences and learning through trips, projects, and community service.
The NCL members stock Toberman’s snack food pantry for the summer program, they manage a booth where the children decorate pumpkins at the fall festival. During the holiday season, they adopt families, providing them with gifts and other necessities.
NCL members fix meals in their own kitchens for the children once a month on Mondays and Wednesdays and deliver them to Toberman. Jeanette laughed and said, “We make sure that our dinners are healthy and kid-friendly, lasagna, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, and sliders, accompanied by side dishes of salads, fruits, and bread.”
On the days they bring the food, more than 40 happy, hungry children eagerly line up, help themselves, and hurry over to eat at the long tables covered with brightly colored tablecloths.
Daughter, Audrey, likes that the best. “My favorite part about volunteering at Toberman is seeing all the happy kids when we serve the food,” she said. “They always greet me with a smile.”
“Last year we did something new,” Jeanette said. “We prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for the families. The Monday and Wednesday night dinners are just for the kids, but because of the Thanksgiving holiday, we decided to do something so everyone could celebrate together.”
The NCL moms and daughters worked with Rascon to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for more than one hundred people. They filled the room with festive decorations, sat families together at round tables, and served them a turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.
Jeanette said volunteering with daughter Audrey has been rewarding and reminds her of the times she spent with her own mother.
"Working to serve others alongside my mom fostered a closer relationship with her during my high school years," Jeanette said. "She taught me about how simple acts of kindness could make a difference.
"It was empowering. I feel so grateful to be able to share this with my daughter."