Diana Gilbert made the most of her 16 Active years in JLSJ, in varied roles such as project co-chair for both WITI (Women in Technology International) and Bill Wilson Safe Place Center, Rummage Sale Co-chair, and SPAC for three years, including co-chairing the statewide committee of California Junior Leagues. She served several terms on our Board of Directors, and is known for her passion, intelligent and thoughtful leadership, and mentoring of other members.
Diana says that JLSJ is the reason she got involved in the community as a Sustainer. She discovered Grail Family Services when she was VP Projects and helping to develop project proposals. GFS is working to stop the cycle of poverty. They help families to help their children be reading at grade level before third grade and to gain the language and parenting skills to be successful in our community. They serve a largely immigrant and low-income population in the Mayfair Neighborhood of East San Jose. Diana watched her nieces and nephews be raised by low-income single mothers who had also been raised by low-income single mothers. She saw how much they struggled. There was never any question about the mothers wanting the best for their children, they just didn’t have the skills or experience to provide the same nurturing environment that most of us experienced in our childhood. She believes the best way to help these families is to provide parents the skills to be more successful, not just as parents but also as members of a community.
Diana’s passion for this cause moved her to engage with GFS beyond her League involvement, beginning a long and impactful relationship. She acts as a de facto CFO leveraging on her professional skills. She has helped them to successfully manage growth from a $350,000 annual budget, when she joined the Board, to over $1 million this year. When the Executive Director briefly left the agency, she oversaw the transition, due diligence for a potential merger, and new hire – bridging the leadership gap. She also helped to develop new approaches to fundraising from individuals, including establishing an annual fundraising event. She also mentors both the Executive Director and fellow Board Members, drawing on her Junior League training and experience.
Drawing off her SPAC experience in government, Diana also serves on the City of Sunnyvale’s Housing and Human Services Commission, which advises the City Council on policies, issues, and funding to meet the basic needs of Sunnyvale residents, including affordable housing, prevention of homelessness, emergency shelter, food, job training, youth intervention, mental health and other supportive services for seniors, disabled persons, and low-income families.
One of Diana’s most heartwarming memories from her volunteer work is watching a GFS client describe to a donor how much her GFS experience had impacted her family. She spoke in Spanish. Diana didn’t understand a word, but the light in the client’s eyes and expression on her face told Diana everything she needed to know.
Diana inspires JLSJ members to “Follow your heart. Be confident. Recognize that your contribution to our community has just started in JLSJ. You are a treasure to any organization you choose to support.” Diana truly lives by her own words of wisdom.
Stephanie Bielanski-Fehr used her 8 Active years in the Junior League of San Jose to prepare for the adventures to come.
Stephanie’s League experience covered philanthropy, leadership and fundraising. Her favorite project was working on MACSA Las Hermanitas, where she mentored two at-risk middle school girls. She exposed them to activities that weren’t available to them on a daily basis: ice skating, fun restaurants, or bowling. By spending time with them, she was able to make a difference in their lives.
For Stephanie, it was an honor to Co-Chair Fashion Show 2006, “La Dolce Vita” with Tracy Nees. This show was the first time the League did not have support from a major clothing store,. The Chairs and the team had to find a way to make it happen and still be profitable. The show was a huge success. Stephanie also Co-Chaired VRL in 2005 with Maria D’Avolio. She was grateful to be part of the celebration that honors amazing volunteers in our community.
As a Sustainer, Stephanie has contributed to the community in many ways. Her inspiration, she says, is her family, and especially her daughters. As part of the St. Christopher community, she chaired the Art Enrichment program, and enjoyed the fruits of her labor at the Annual Art Show. The students’ works were mounted and displayed, transforming the gym into a beautiful art gallery. She served as Costume Designer for CMT’s “Once Upon a Mattress”. Again, she was able to celebrate the effort that everyone gave to create an amazing production. Her proudest achievement is helping found our area’s newest NCL chapter, Willow Rose. As their first President, Stephanie guided her Board of Directors and the chapter through a trying, yet successful first year. Now fully chartered, the Willow Rose Chapter will allow mothers and daughters to come together every year and serve the community.
Stephanie is a proud Sustainer of the Junior League of San Jose. Because of her years with JLSJ, she was able to learn and practice all the skills needed to become an effective volunteer and a positive influence in the community. She encourages all Sustainers to find their passion and act on it. “Choose something that is near and dear to your heart. It’s hardly volunteer work at all.. it’s just fun!”